Parika roadside vendors yesterday vowed to “put up a fight” against their removal from the area, as plans for a major expansion of the ferry stelling begin to take shape.
More than 20 vendors, whose stalls were dismantled on Monday afternoon, said yesterday that the manner in which the Works Ministry has handled the situation has left many persons in the area angry, particularly since their removal threatens their livelihoods.
While efforts to reach Minister Robeson Benn on the issue in the past two days have been unsuccessful, this newspaper understands that the Works Ministry team is in the process of clearing the entire beach west of the stelling as well as the left and right hand sides of the roadway approaching the stelling.
The works are being undertaken to facilitate the anticipated operations of the roll-on, roll-off vessels built by the Chinese and which are expected here shortly, a Works Ministry official at Parika noted yesterday.
The need for the unhindered movement of heavy-duty vehicles was cited as the reason for of the demolition of the vendors’ stalls, this newspaper was told.
According to Egerton Maxwell, he was told in August this year that there were plans by the government to remove his stalls, which he operates close to the beach at the stelling area, in order to facilitate construction works. As a result, he said that a group of vendors approached the Works Ministry as well as the Local Government Ministry on the issue. The latter, he explained, had been addressing the concerns of the vendors and there were standing arrangements “in black and white” in this regard. He said that it was agreed that the vendors would be allowed to sell their goods at the stelling, until a more viable solution could be found.
Maxwell said that he was shocked on Monday afternoon “late when the business hours almost reach an end” when the Works Ministry team showed up at the area and “just said they were sent to do a job and start dismantling people stalls.” He asked: “Is that how a government who cares operates? That because you as a minister feel you can do anything without considering people?”
He added that Benn visited the area early on Tuesday morning and “he told us bluntly that they will do what they have to do first, then find an alternative.” He said that the statement was “most inconsiderate”. According to him, no one was questioning the reasons for the removal of the vendors, but alternative should have been worked out prior to the works being undertaken.
Maxwell’s business, Mingo’s Enterprise, was reduced to a few boards lying on the beach area while several fruit, ground provision and beverage stalls were also demolished by the Works Ministry team. At the same time, the vendors who operate along the roadsides close to the stelling noted that they were frustrated about the situation, with most saying that the reasons provided by the authorities were not logical.
According to Bejai Neban he and a few other vendors met with the Local Government Ministry to “sort out” the matter, which he noted was back and forth for a number of years since 2004.
Neban vends perishable goods as well as dry goods in the area—a trade he has been plying for more than two decades—and he noted that many persons had loans to off-set, including mortgages as well as small business loans. “Some people owe IPED and some awe got we family to take care of, what they want us to do at a time like this, when Christmas is right round the corner?” the elderly man asked.
Yesterday, Chairman of the Mora/Parika Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) Khrishna Samlall met with the vendors and he told them that there was not much he could have done, and one of the vendors told this newspaper that the chairman “had he hands tie.”
“Is that Minister (Benn) who we can’t understand, he send people here with this bully-ish attitude… with no regard for people and they welfare,” an angry Annie Baird noted. Flanked by more than a dozen female vendors, she told Stabroek News that the issue needed to be addressed in an amicable manner.
She said that the Works Ministry appeared to have been compromising efforts by the Local Government Ministry to allow vending to continue “in a legal way at Parika.”
Nevertheless, the vendors said that they will continue to operate along the roadsides until an alternative is found. “This is the wrong time for them to do this… we have Christmas coming up and with elections ’round the corner, this government really trying people,” a vendor, who is a single-parent, noted bluntly.
Meanwhile, speed boat operators were concerned about the imminent relocation of the speed boats, which normally moor on the western side of the stelling along the beach. Albert Smith, who operates his boat between Parika and Supenaam, said that the authorities had informed the boatmen that they would have to relocate to the eastern side of the stelling, in order to facilitate construction works. He said that “there is no pre-planning” on the part of the authorities, noting that western side of the stelling could not accommodate the speedboats. He said that another alternative put to the boat operators was for them to load/off-load passengers further west of the stelling, in the vicinity of the Shiraz filling station, which the business was willing to accommodate. “Is nuff boats, out here got more than at Vreed-en-Hoop, so I really don’ know how this confusion gun sort out,” a concerned Smith noted.
A Bartica speed boat operator noted that for the boats to be relocated from the area, a feasibility study should have been undertaken to determine if the area east of the stelling can accommodate the speedboats. He said that there is already a “rough situation” at Parika, where boatmen sometimes are cheated of passengers while loading, and according to him, the impending relocation appeared difficult to comprehend.