Vendors protest eviction from Stabroek Market Square

Kaieteur News
March 7, 2007

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Scores of vendors who once operated outside the Stabroek Market moved to City Hall yesterday to stage a protest against eviction from their place of business.

During the session, protestors continuously chanted “No vending no cricket, No vending no cricket”, and had placards on display, some of which read, “Yah want cricket, leave us alone,” “Town Clerk happy while we hungry,” “Vending is we living,” “Stop punishing our children,” “A vendor is a citizen too.”

The hawkers contended that two weeks ago, an inspector at the city constabulary outpost located at the northern end of the Stabroek Market asked them not to sell over the weekend so that the roads could be refurbished.

The vendors said that they complied; however when they returned, they were informed that they could not conduct business there anymore.

This newspaper understands that during an emergency meeting on February 20, Town Clerk Beulah Williams brought forth a motion to have the vendors removed.

This motion was defeated by a unanimous vote by the councillors, thus paving the way for the return of the vendors.

The vendors contended that the eviction was instigated solely by Williams and instituted without the knowledge of Council.

During the meeting, Councillors contended that Williams had no right to institute the act against the vendors.

One vendor indicated that on February 22, Town Clerk Williams held a meeting with the vendors and told them that she did not want them selling there, but the council voted otherwise.

Williams subsequently advised the vendors to return to the area and continue trade, minus the infrastructure, until the rehabilitation works to the roads were completed.

Williams also advised the vendors present that she would instruct the constabulary not to harass them since they were there lawfully.

One of the merchants related to this newspaper that the council had requested that they build regularised booths at a cost of $35,000 and $21,000.

They said that they complied in order to carry on with their trade.

The vendors also indicated that as part of their regularisation they had prepared uniforms with the emblem of the national flag.

The vendors argued that sources inside the constabulary have revealed that on March 3, a memo was circulated inside the constabulary to impede any vending activities from yesterday, an order reportedly adhered to by constables. This prompted the protest at City Hall.

The protestors stated that they would return to City Hall today and every day after, until they are lawfully returned to their places of business.

Minister of Local Government, Kellawan Lall, had previously indicated that the eviction of the vendors was part of a wider initiative undertaken by the government to restore the image of the capital city.

Lall had also debunked reports that the government was being selective in its approach.

This position was also shared by Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon, and Works and Hydraulics Minister, Robeson Benn.

Lall also said that the Stabroek Market area will be cleared.

“It is going to remain (cleared) and we are going to preserve that historical site and make it a major tourist attraction …that is our long-term plan.

“All buildings and all vendors are going to be removed.”

Efforts to contact the Town Clerk, Deputy Town Clerk, Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Georgetown proved futile.