Illegal vending returns?
July 25, 2004
Despite unbending resistance and several injunctions, City Hall was able to clear Regent and Water Streets of illegal vendors in 2002.
The plan was to place the vendors on a plot of land that previously belonged to Toolsie Persaud to effectively bring a close to the street vending phenomenon once and for all.
The streets remained notably clear for some time but the illegal hawkers are quietly trickling back on to the pavements and parapets of Regent and Water Streets. The familiar makeshift outdoor boutiques are once again evident at certain spots, though not as numerous as before.
Kaieteur News observed that some hawkers had their goods on push trolleys while others occupied alleys or the fences of closed stores. Also, since the school holidays began, there has been an increase in the number of school aged vendors. Kaieteur News spoke to one schoolgirl who said that she is a Form One student of Campbellville Secondary School.
The girl said she has to sell for the holidays to help buy her school necessities.
It was also noticed that several other school aged children are selling genips now that that fruit is in season.
Public Relations Officer at City Hall, Royston King noted that even though the authority continues to have zero tolerance for itinerant vendors using the city’s pavements and parapets to conduct their businesses, limited resources have severely hampered their ability to effectually prevent street vending altogether.
King, in an interview with Kaieteur News, noted that the City Constabulary is ever vigilant against illegal vending. However, as soon as goods are seized from a vendor at one location, another set pops up when the constable would have moved to another site. This, King said, is due to the limited number of constables.
He noted that technical equipment such as communication devices and vehicles that the Constabulary needs to do their work efficiently is inadequate.
Checks made by this newspaper have also revealed that some storeowners are collaborating with hucksters by allowing them to sell outside their business premises.
This was noticed outside some stores on Water, Regent and Longden Streets.
A source from a store revealed that the owner of the business had given the vendors permission to operate in front of the premises.
This issue was raised with King who confirmed that there appears to be what he describes as a “symbiotic relationship” between vendors and legal business owners.
He said City Hall has warned these proprietors in the past that they should not extend their business beyond the legal parameters.
Kaieteur News has observed that some vendors have taken to displaying their goods on the fence of the Bourda Post Office and King said the authority will continue to be vigilant against this practice.
Some hucksters are also using the Bank of Baroda building at Regent Street and Avenue of the Republic to display their merchandise.
Others have erected structures over drains in the vicinity of Longden Street in the Stabroek area and on both the northern and southern corners of Wellington Street just outside the Discount Store.
The Mayor and City Council had in the past been sympathetic towards street vendors, given existing socio-economic conditions.
However, when Mayor Hamilton Green took office, he recognised that street vending could not be ignored.
In his inaugural speech, on September 12, 1994, the Mayor said, “If I ignore this matter, you will call me names, or say I am a coward. The vendor issue is not a simple “move them out,” “charge them rent,” “lick them down’” matter. It is a phenomenon which we should try and understand.”
During his early days in office, the Mayor had undertaken to organise vending activities within the city along with Central Government and assistance from the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation.
In 1994, the Councillors agreed on a “Plan of action to solve the vendors issue.”
A special vendors committee was established and consultations between vendors and City Hall began.
In January 1995, a vendor’s evaluation exercise that involved the registration of vendors was launched.
In April of that year, the Municipal Authority established a special vendors’ station in the Stabroek Market, to manage the operation.
During that same month, the special committee proposed the selection, registration and allocation of street vendors to specific areas, demolition and removal of illegal vending structures as well as the implementation of approved collapsible stalls.
The Council had several consultations with the vendors to discuss the situation.
However, despite the new measures and persistent warnings from the Mayor, vendors continued to ply their trade on the streets.
The Mayor had cautioned the vendors on several occasions that they should keep their surroundings clean and tidy, and conduct their activities in a manner that would enhance the appearance of the city and not detract from its beauty.
In May 2000, a group of vendors moved to the courts against City Hall and were granted an injunction that allowed them to remain on the streets and which blocked City Hall from collecting fees from them.
According to the Council, vendors continue to bold-facedly break the law while hurting the city with their environmentally unfriendly activities.
King revealed a document which stated that during a clean-up exercise, a worker was bitten by a rapacious myriapod and greeted by an army of cockroaches.
While being sympathetic to the vendor’s economic plight, the Council was unprepared to comprise.
Attempts on the part of Council to acquire the Guyana Stores Bond had proven futile, but Government intervened with a proposal to acquire the Toolsie Persaud plot of land at the southwestern junction of Water and Robb Streets for use by the vendors.
After negotiation between Government and Toolsie Persaud fell through, Justice BS Roy ruled on July 25, 2003, that compulsory acquisition of TPL's land by the government was in accordance with the law.
In July of this year, however, the landowner was awarded a judgment by the Court of Appeal that government should pay compensation in the sum of $330M for the acquisition of the company's Water Street property.