Vendors back on the streets -Chief Constable seeks guidance
City Council Round-Up
By Cecil Griffith
March 1, 2004
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Chief Constable Gail George, who is under constant pressure from the council to enforce the city's by-laws with special attention being paid to vending on the pavements, has appealed to city 'fathers and 'mothers' for guidance in dealing with this phenomenon.
At the last statutory meeting she related how the vendors had moved back onto the pavements on Regent and Robb streets and some connecting streets such as Camp, Wellington and Hinck streets. The constabulary had to be constantly monitoring Water street, while able-bodied men position themselves outside Guyana Stores on Church Street selling mosquito nets and offering their goods in an aggressive manner.
Another worrying sight is the mushrooming of food stalls in the city and those food sellers who are mobile.
Responding to the appeal, PNCR councillor Desmond Moses asked the Chief Constable if her department has a plan for coping with the situation which is getting out of hand. The Town Clerk in reply said that while the city police has been successful in certain areas there have been instances when constables meet with resistance and despite a court order banning vending on the pavement on Regent street, vendors are defying the orders.
Councillors' attention was drawn to the current practice by certain store owners on Regent and Robb streets who display clothing on doors and others parts of their premises facing the streets. One councillor spoke about the vendor on Robb street outside the jewellery store on the Avenue of the Republic who displays his goods from a parked car while at the same time selling CDs from the pavement. Last year a decision was taken by council to remove these obstructions.
During the debate on the constabulary with councillor Pat Chase-Green in the mayoral chair, People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) councillor Rudolph Harris, who has become a strong defender of the constabulary, had to be upbraided for refusing to abide by the ruling of the 'chair.'
The PPP/C councillor said the city police is understaffed and under-equipped and could not perform at its optimum. After making his point and being told to take his seat councillor Harris remained standing and defied the chairperson to prevent him from speaking… "I will go to the High Court.." he shouted. The response from the 'chair' was an appeal for councillors to have some respect for themselves and to stop being aggressive and abusive.
A report submitted by the constabulary to the meeting revealed that the communication systems were not functioning because there were no batteries or chargers. Transportation is also a problem. An arrangement for members of the constabulary to receive training in firearms from the national police is still to get off the ground. Twenty-one thousand dollars must be paid to the police before training begins.
Nationalistic fervour was in evidence around the horseshoe-shaped table at City Hall last Tuesday when councillors held a post-mortem on the recent civic reception for Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez which was held in the Promenade Gardens.
Good and Green Guyana (GGG) councillor Chase-Green took the lead, concentrating on the one-page programme which was distributed to invitees and others attending the event.
She wanted to know why only the Venezuelan flag was displayed on the programme, minus the Guyana flag.
The GGG councillor had just taken her seat among the other city 'fathers' and 'mothers' after presiding at Tuesday's statutory meeting in the absence of Mayor Hamilton Green and Deputy Mayor Robert Williams. The mayor was out of the country and the deputy mayor who had informed the Town Clerk (TC) that he would be delayed arrived to preside at the meeting about an hour later.
She expressed amazement over the omission of the Guyana flag on the programme declaring "I am proud to be Guyanese… this is not good enough…" Table-thumping support came from other councillors… An answer was demanded from the TC. None was forthcoming.
People's National Congress Reform (PNCR) councillor Phyllis Beckles enquired whether the 'chief citizen' and his deputy would be present at the civic reception for the Duke of York.
The TC replied that if neither of them was present she was confident that one of the councillors would be able to rise to the occasion. Both Mayor Hamilton Green and his deputy were present at the city hall reception for the Royal visitor.
What was worthy of note was the attire of the mayor. He was bedecked in a white suit, blue shirt, red tie and black shoes with matching socks. Red, white and blue, the colours of the Union Jack.
The 'chief citizen's' frequent absence from the country was raised by GGG councillor Gwen McGowan. She argued that councillors should be told when the city is left without a mayor… "we are entitled to know..." she added. But the TC told the meeting that she is always informed by the mayor when he departs Guyana.
The role of the international committee, which is chaired by Mayor Green was again called into questioned when councillor Chase-Green, who is chairman of the Social Development Committee, complained of being bypassed when arrangements are made for visitors to the country and inputs are needed from the council.
It happened with both President Chavez and the Duke's short stay in Georgetown. She wondered last Tuesday if there would be a recurrence of the error on the programme for the Duke of York. Unlike the Chavez programme, on the one for the Duke there were two British flags printed side by side of each other… There was no Guyana flag.
Spend, spend, spend
The costs of the civic reception for President Chavez and the Duke of York have been put at roughly $2M. But this estimate by the Town Clerk has been questioned by the deputy mayor who is also chairman of the Finance Committee.
He said the voucher alone which was brought to him for the purchase of an item, called for an expenditure of $400,000. He also pointed out that up to the time of the meeting vouchers for paint which was used to spruce up the concert hall were still to reach his desk.
It is known that the administration had sought help in the form of paint from the business community.
Meanwhile the city engineer's department is going ahead with the construction of a new administration building in the city hall compound. According to the city engineer Cephas James the first phase, which is the foundation, will cost $5M with another $12M earmarked for the second phase.
These figures were presented to councillors shortly after the chairman of the Finance Committee hinted at a cutback in staff because of the perilous state of the city's finances, noting, that even if all the revenue is collected the financial situation still remains precarious… "We must find new sources of revenue…" said the deputy mayor.
What the people say about...
Mash celebrations Last Monday the country celebrated its 34th Republic Anniversary with Mashramani
By Iana Seales (Photos by Jules Gibson)
Kenrick Douglas, self-employed: 'I was part of the revelry in the Ministry of Health Mash Band and every minute was sheer excitement. Mashramani for me is taking to the streets and celebrating with the masses. This year people really came out and supported the festivity and in my opinion that is commendable. Some Guyanese have a perceived notion that Mashramani is for one set of people when in reality it is Guyanese. Celebrations today pale in comparison to those we had long ago. Then the army and the joint services were part of the parade and instead of lining the streets people joined in. Every Guyanese was involved. It was all about linking up back then.'
Golin Rodrigues, carter: 'Things went on without me this year. My son had the flu and I stayed at home with him. Though I was anxious to go out I could not bear to leave my son alone at home so I watched most of the parade on television. And from what I saw this year appeared to have been bigger than the previous year. More people were out and the parade had an increase in participation. I hope to be a part of the celebration next year.'
R. Yhap, self-employed: 'Business kept me in the interior so I was unable to see the happenings this year. I am not a spirited person when it comes to celebrations. My days are usually quiet. Not that I am against Mashramani or anything; I am what you might call low-key. Work rarely permits me to go out celebrating and the truth is I am committed to my work. But I hope to see Mash grow as the years progress and be a national event. When all our peoples are involved celebrations will be like no other.'
Shemeza Hyube, operations worker: 'I must admit Mashramani does not interest me. For years I have passed the day quietly at home. Excluding myself from the celebrations does not make me any less of a Guyanese. I was born here and I will continue to live here but that does not mean I have to partake in everything. I saw some of this year's Mash scenes on the television and in the newspapers. What I saw impressed me and come next year I might go out.'
F. Henry, electrician: 'From what I have seen this time around I look forward to next year with much anticipation. I went out with my family and from the numbers I saw on the road so did countless other people. I was lucky to see both the adult and the children's costume float parade. The children put on quite a show for us and the older folks picked up where they left off. The Carib Mash band in my mind was the most uniform group and the design of their costume struck me as catchy.'
Tina McNeil, domestic: 'Money kept me away from the celebrations this year. Over the years Mash became a part of me and I usually go out and spend the day with my family. However, I send my grandchildren out since they were behind me for sometime time to take them out. I saw the parade on television and Rayon House of Fashion really looked impressive. I have a niece visiting from abroad and she mashed with one of the bands. God spare life I will be at the next Mashramani celebrations.'
Dattnarine Bisnauth, lorry driver: 'A part of me really wanted to be a part of everything that was happening but due to security reasons I stayed at home. I thought everything was back to normal in the country until a few days ago when robberies rose up again on the East Coast. I live in Mahaica and travelling down with my little ones did not seem wise in the circumstances. I am not saying that crime will drive me into seclusion but I have to fear for my boys. The last year we came down for Mash was the year the prisoners escaped from Camp Street prison. Though no harm came to my family I was at risk. Hopefully next year will see the dawn of a new era and I will travel to town once more.'
Gillian David, vendor: 'Mashramani now could never be like before. Times are hard these days, so hard that one has to ponder where the next meal is coming from. Money is not circulating and I cannot take out my children and have them hungry all day. Where is the money to clothe and fed them? I took out my stall at the Mash and business was bad. People came from home with food. I saw most of the parade and all I could say is Mash has lost its true meaning. Vulgarity was at a high level on the streets and very few of the bands had a real message behind them. The scary thing is the days ahead might not be any different.'
Pakar, musician: 'Mash was exciting this year and people turned out to make it that way. With support like that Mash could go a far way. I like the costumes, they were flashy, some were bold and a few were unbelievable. I liked the Carib Mash band, they looked nice and the costumes were saying, Mashramani. I was out with friends and as the years go and come the group gets bigger.'
Sonia Defreitas, student: 'I was at home this year because I could not find company to go out with. It was the first time in many years that I remember missing out on the celebrations. My friends who were there raved about how good the parade was this year and I regret not being there. I did see part of it on television and the Carib group really took me by surprise. Their costumes were nice, they had a carnival taste to them. Next year Mashramani I will be there with or without company.'