Mayor blames poor planning by govt, municipality for vendors turmoil
By Heppilena Ferguson
March 8, 2007
City Mayor Hamilton Green believes that vendors outside the Stabroek Market are victims of the absence of proper planning on the part of Central Government and the municipality, and insists that he will not be part of a 'band-aid operation'.
The mayor yesterday capitalized on the presence of members of the media at City Hall for a press conference which was originally called by Town Clerk Beulah Williams to comment on the protest action there by vendors on Tuesday.
Green said that the occasion of Cricket World Cup should not be used to mask a serious planning problem and to "allow some set of people to micro-manage the city council."
"I will not allow anyone to micro-manage this place, and they are using some (city) officials to do just that. I want this to be made very clear … I was elected by the people and the people would have to remove me by that same process," the mayor insisted.
He said too that he believed that there is an effort to micro-manage the council by using some officials within it, who do not understand the deeper and wider issues.
Mayor Green showed members of the media a report compiled by an official invited by Government in 2002, Professor Akbar Khan of the United Kingdom, who came after recognition by the municipality and central government that the city needed to be looked at.
Khan had prepared a plan for the city and the work that was needed, covering the period from 2001 to 2010. Green said too that the government had invited another consultant who made alterations to the plan.
"So what we see happening here is a failure by central government and this municipality to look at that plan and put in it place," he contended.
Quoting from the plan Green said, "Many shops in the centre have a habit of displaying their goods outside and on the pavements and sometimes even on the roadside… this culture has to be stopped through planning and regulations so that pedestrians have freedom and space to walk and shop in the good environment and the road is clear."
"We failed to put this plan in place… so now we're going to bully the people and harass them against the background of no planning?" Green queried.
He acknowledged that to him it was unsatisfactory to have the Stabroek Market in the state that it was in currently and noted too that the building was a historic one and the council indeed needed to ensure that it was clear.
"We know they can't go back there now because their stalls could damage the asphalt and they have to move away until we are finished, that's non-negotiable, but it's a mess and you know why …it's because we ourselves have not had the discipline to ensure that if we put people there that they stay there and that we put the facilities so that they could stay there," he said further.
"It's not a move them out and kick them down situation ...we have to plan, and what is happening is a consequence of a number of people in high places who seem (alien) to planning and I will not be part of a band-aid operation," he said clearly.
Green argued too that if the government had accepted the plan by Khan and had made the financial investment, by now many things could have been done to deal with the problem. He noted too that the plan also included upgrading the Durban Park area, and it looked at squatting, open spaces not being utilized and also recommended the removal of the fire service which is badly located.
"So we have a 'Mickey Mouse' operation and all I'm demanding, and if I have to be alone, is proper planning and intense approach to do the work in the city," he urged.
"We have a plan and no one wants to invest in it…we want to spend money here and there in a lackadaisical manner and I am not prepared to take the blame for any of this," Green insisted.
Prior to the mayor's remarks, Town Clerk Williams informed the media that while instructions were given by the council to allow the vendors to sell outside the market, it was important that their operations be conducted within the confines of the by-laws.
"The laws are very clear on this and so they cannot place their stalls on the parapets or encumber on the roadways ...this is no discrimination. We are aware that they have to make an honest living but this must be done within the confines of the law," she insisted.
In this regard, the town clerk said too that the constabulary has started working in and around the city to ensure that the vendors were observing the laws. She noted that the campaign would be ongoing even after the Cricket World Cup games have ended.
Regent Street vendors are also part of the law enforcement exercise, Williams said, and added that they too would have to operate without encumbering on the roadways and parapets.
Vendors are not yet being allowed to continue vending outside the Stabroek Market and so some of them have parked vehicles in the parking area outside the market and are selling from the trunks of the vehicles.
However, the constabulary intervened and the vendors proceeded to picket in front of City Hall.
Williams maintained that by doing this the vendors had operated outside the confines of the law since it is illegal for vehicles to be parked in that area for a long time. She noted however that action would have to be taken to ensure that the streets are made clear.
Meanwhile, the town clerk has denied that her action in the past relating to the same issue was as a result of her working with a "political directorate."
"As far as I know my only political directorate is Chapter 28:01 - that may be political because it was approved by parliament and it's not to move vendors but ensure that the streets are not encumbered," she replied.