Stabroek vendors must move say council misled them By Heppilena Ferguson
Stabroek News
February 20, 2007

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The Mayor and City Council (M&CC) has given vendors in front of the Stabroek Market and surrounding area notice to move, but vendors say the council has misled them and now they have up to tomorrow to decide what their next move would be.

Town Clerk Beulah Williams called a press briefing yesterday to make public the council's decision to permanently prohibit vending outside the market and announced other steps the council intended to take as part of the city beautification efforts for the Cricket World Cup, just weeks away.

The M&CC in the past had worked relentlessly to move vendors from this area and had even worked out a system where the vendors were able to set up mobile stalls and were permitted to sell in the area from 6 am to 6 pm and were responsible for keeping the area clean after the close of sales each day.

However, Williams said yesterday that the M&CC was working with the Ministry of Public Works and Communication to bring order to the area. This, she said, would also entail relocating the minibuses that clog the areas alongside the market.

"I think the vending outside the market has for too long, hidden the beauty of the Stabroek Market and so we're also likely to remove those structures around the market also," Williams asserted.

She said the vendors were issued with seven-day notices informing them of the council's decision.

Williams insisted that the council had to ensure that the area was clean for the visitors expected here during the CWC games.

"The upgrading of the aesthetics of the market is long over due and in relation to works currently underway there too we have to move the vendors to reorganize that area," she added.

The continuation of Water Street alongside the market is currently being asphalted and so vendors were advised that they could not vend on Sunday, when the works began.

"We cannot continue to block the whole eastern view of the market, it's a heritage site and so the entire area needs to be cleared once and for all because it's hiding the beauty of the market," Williams said.

Asked, "Why only now?'

Williams responded: "Well I think it's better late than never. In the past there were many factors that prevented us from making the decision and we're now seizing the opportunity to do this just because of Cricket World Cup, I just feel that the time is right now," Williams replied.

She said it was not the council's responsibility to relocate the vendors; it was to the markets and the public and in her estimation the vendors were given enough notice, a verbal one initially and then a written seven-day notice.

Additionally she said that the council had some resources and their plans for tidying up the place are moving apace and they were assured of public co-operation in this decision.

But almost three weeks ago, at a press conference, Mayor Hamilton Greene had said that the vendors, particularly fruit vendors, were given an ultimatum to clean up their acts and would have been given permission to vend during the CWC. A clean and well painted stall, clean uniforms and surroundings were part of the measures they were to meet.

However both City Engineer Beverly Johnson and Town Clerk Beulah Williams yesterday disassociated themselves from that position, saying it was not an official position and that they did not know about it.

When Stabroek News visited the market yesterday, Pamela Anderson, a clothes vendor, said she has been vending outside the market for over 20 years. She claimed that she received no notice from the council but learnt that the road was being repaired and so she could not vend on Sunday but turned up yesterday morning to ply her trade.

Supported by other vendors who circled to relate their stories which were similar, she claimed that about two months ago they were approached by the council with a pattern of an iron stall and told that it was a requirement for vending during CWC. "We had to pay $ 20,000 for the stall and they told us that we must paint it in the same colour of the market and we paid another $8,000 for a cover for the top of the stall and another $5,000 for a curtain," she said.

Anderson, who was very emotional, said while there were rumours around that they would be asked to leave the site permanently, she had hoped they were not true.

"So this morning [yesterday] when I come fuh sell I hearing that we can't sell here no more and that they coming to bulldoze and stall that still standing here," she said adding that the vendors were being taken advantage of and tricked by the council.

Another vendor, who preferred to remain anonymous, had receipts, which she claimed proved that she had paid for the iron stall. One of the receipts was for the sum of $ 22,000 and another was for $8000 but the signature was illegible and the receipts bore no revenue stamps.

Another vendor, James Davidson who had established his own shop at the market square told this newspaper that while he had received notice from the council regarding its position, he felt the council was contradicting itself. "First they told us to upgrade our place and get it looking good and so I expended a whole set of money and tile my place and get it looking clean and tidy and now they want us to move," he said. "I am here nearly 30 years and al of sudden things changing."

The vendors agreed that while the city needed to look respectable for the CWC games, vending on the streets was a Caribbean feature and visitors should understand that it was part of Guyana's culture as well.

Meanwhile, Johnson said the council was moving ahead with other preparatory works with much assistance from the Public Works Ministry.

She said sections of Princes and Drysdale streets, and other areas in Charlestown were being repaired and holes patched. She said the council has also sought the assistance of Guyana Water Incorporated to fix ruptured pipelines in several parts of Water Street.

She said other preparatory work was being done on the roads frequently traversed on Mash day including Croal, Church, and Irving streets, Brickdam and South Road.

The council said too that it continues to conduct rehabilitative works on the Mayor's Office, City Hall and Constabulary Head Office, but the amount of work done depends on its cash flow.