City says Water Street vendors deal settled
TPL appeals judge’s decision By Nigel Williams and Patrick Denny
July 30, 2003
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Deputy Mayor Robert Williams says vendors’ occupation of Toolsie Persaud Limited’s (TPL) Water Street land was legitimate and they should not be fearful but questions persisted yesterday after the company appealed the judge’s decision awarding it $260M.
Williams said the reason why the vendors were hastily sent onto the land was to prevent any injunction being granted to stop their occupation
He has assured vendors that the issue was settled in Parliament earlier this year and that the only issue at stake now was the compensation.
He told them that this was a matter for the government which had already agreed to pay the $260M to Toolsie Persaud Ltd. as ordered by the court.
But many vendors are nervous and some of them, who were allocated spots, are yet to take them up.
“We hear that the matter is not finish yet and we ain’t want to deh in trouble. Like dey want set we up,” one of them told Stabroek News as four others expressed similar sentiments.
TPL yesterday moved to have the Court of Appeal set aside the High Court decision. Last Friday, Justice BS Roy ruled that the compulsory acquisition was valid and that $260M was the compensation TPL should receive. TPL argued in the High Court for a payment of $457M based on what it says is the market value of the site.
The company has also applied for a stay of execution of the court order but a date is yet to be set for the application to be heard.
TPL also has an order of prohibition issued by Justice Dawn Gregory-Barnes and made absolute on November 14, 2002, prohibiting Mayor Hamilton Green “from granting permission or licences to street vendors or allocating stalls for vending or carrying on any commercial activities” on the Water Street site.
In its approach to the Court of Appeal, TPL among other things challenges the trial judge’s interpretation of the Acquisition of Land for Public Purposes Act Chapter 62:05. It contends that the judge erred when he overruled its counsel’s submission that “the land shall vest in the State, subject to the payment of the purchase money or any compensation as hereinafter provided” and said that it is vested in the State before the assessment or payment of any compensation by the State to the owner. It contends too that as a consequence he erred in law when he rejected submissions that it is a condition precedent to the vesting of the acquired land in the State, for the Attorney- General to institute proceedings to ascertain the value of the land and the amount to be paid to the land owner in accordance with the provisions of Sections 13 and 14 of the Act. No such proceedings were instituted.
It contends too that the judge also erred in law when he held that the said compulsory acquisition of its land was required for a public purpose as well as when he failed to consider properly, or at all, the effect of the failure of the State to comply with the provisions of Section 9 of the Act to vote the sum necessary for the payment of the acquisition. It contends that the National Assembly approved no such money to pay for the acquisition.
TPL also argues that the judge misdirected himself and/or failed to consider the effects of Sections 18 and 19 of the Act as amended by Act No 23 of 1990 relating to the assessment or calculation of compensation for land compulsorily acquired. Also it contends that the judge failed properly, or at all, to consider and evaluate fairly the evidence as it relates to the market value of the land compulsorily acquired which made his decision thereon unreasonable and which cannot be supported having regard to the evidence.
At the city’s press conference Williams said the council was working to make the site more habitable and noted that business on the site was underway. He said it had been agreed long in advance that once the land was acquired the government would develop it and the council would be responsible for the vendors. According to Williams, in earlier arrangements the Ministry of Public Works had agreed to resurface the tarmac, to construct sanitary blocks and to install electricity. He said work had started on the site but was halted when TPL moved to the courts. Williams pointed out that now that the matter was settled he expected the ministry to restart work.
He said not all the 536 vendors on a list could fit on the land. As a result alternative spots would be provided for those who were not given allocations. He said the Water Street land was not the only area identified for vending, noting that the abandoned Stelling View Market would soon be repaired by a foreign investor and spaces would open up there.
He said after consultations with the vendors they have agreed on the types of structures which should be used and also on a management committee for the mall.
Acting Town Clerk, Andrew Garnett said the relocation of the vendors to the site was phase one of the plan of action by the Council to establish the new vendors mall. He contended that there was no confusion as claimed by some vendors during the verification process, adding that at all times the process was transparent. He said persons were allocated spots after pulling a number from a bag. So far 347 of the 408 spots have been allocated. Clerk of Markets, Schulder Griffith reported that there were 11 grocery stalls, 280 dry goods stalls, 31 fruits and greens, 19 watch stands and six snackettes.
Meanwhile, Marlyn Converty, the secretary of the Vendors Committee, who also shared the press conference, said most of the vendors were concerned about security. She said the wire mesh fence was inadequate. The vendors also want all occupants to build proper structures and there must be no cardboard, old wood or tarpaulin used as sheds. They are also working on a plan for the vendors to provide the internal security and for the City Constabulary to take care of overall security. They also want possession of a building which is on the land.
When asked how the council would treat vendors whose names were not on the list but had been selling on the street over the years, Williams said, “If their names are not on the list it means that they did not get there correctly.”
He told the media that since 1999 there had been no application by vendors to use the street even though during that period a large number of persons had taken up spots. Williams said two years ago the council had warned those vendors who did not register that whenever the Council was ready to regulate the area they would be evicted. He said that time was now.
An appeal commission has been set up for vendors who felt wronged and those who were not given lots to state their cases.
Williams remarked that the $260M for the land was an investment by the citizens of Guyana to assist the vendors. He said the vendors would therefore be required to pay a fee every month which would go towards paying for maintenance. He said a fee would also be collected for the use of the sanitary facilities. Asked to comment on allegations that some persons were given two or three stalls, Williams said there were no such cases. He explained that there were instances where some might have been selling with others over the years and as such when the allocation was made both persons would have been given separate stalls.
Yesterday business on the site began and a few customers were seen there. However there was still a large number of stalls yet to be erected.
Williams declared that as of now no one was allowed to sell outside of land between the area from Guyana Stores Limited to KFC on Water Street. He said the vendors could do business on the new land as long as they wanted, since they would not be regulated by the 7 am - 6 pm court order.