By Erica Williams
Members of the Kitty Market Action Group yesterday demanded that urgent steps be taken to rehabilitate the market and Deputy-Mayor Patricia Chase-Green has disclosed that the market will be closed soon once vendors are relocated.
The market has been due for repairs for the past 15 years, member of the market action group Tacuma Ogunseye told reporters yesterday. He said that numerous attempts have been made to have the Mayor and City Council and Central Government rehabilitate the historic, wooden structure. “The present state of the market is not a result of natural disasters, but due to the willful neglect by the council and government,” Ogunseye said.
He recalled instances when during election campaigns, presidential candidates visited the market and promised to have it repaired after they were elected but after they won the elections, they seem to forget their promises.
Ogunseye said that there were occasions when the city council budgeted for market repairs but little or no money was spent and after enduring this situation for a number of years, the council eventually stopped including monies for repairing the market in its budgetary estimates.
He said that in 2004, Kitty Market stall-holders solicited the support of Professor Dr. Clive Thomas and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) of the University of Guyana to produce a plan for the development of the market. He recounted that the IDS raised funds for the project, and working with stall holders and residents of the community, produced a comprehensive development plan for the market.
This, he said, was handed over to the Georgetown Mayor and Council but to date nothing has been done in relation to the plan provided. Ogunseye also cited several other proposals that were made via letters to the mayor and former President Bharrat Jadgeo and President Donald Ramotar in relation to the rehabilitation of the market.
Minister within the Ministry of Local Government Norman Whitaker, in response to claims by the action committee that proposals have been submitted, said that within the past four months they were asked to come up with proposals for rehabilitation works and to meet with the Town Clerk. He added that the rehabilitation of the market is the responsibility of the City Council since revenues from the market are collected by the council.
Ogunseye, however, said that they strongly believe that both the city council and central government have a moral obligation to rehabilitate the market. He said that the committee felt that central government has a greater responsibility and accused central government of using monies provided by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in 2007 to facilitate the rehabilitation of the Kitty Market under Phase Two of the Georgetown Rehabilitation Project, for other purposes.
When asked about this, Whittaker said that he cannot comment on the committee’s claim regarding the IDB funds.
Meantime, Chase-Green in an invited comment described the state of the Kitty Market as “shameful and disgraceful.” She said that next week Guyana will celebrate World Heritage Day and they are ashamed of having a heritage building – the market- in its present condition.
“A letter has been dispatched to the government and private sector asking for assistance and it has been three weeks since and we have not received a response. The next step is for us to draw up a tender, so very soon we will have to advertise for tenders for persons interested in developing the market but in the mean time, we will have to seek the relocation of the vendors,” she said.
“We will have to ensure that when vendors are relocated, they are comfortable. The building according to the fire service is a danger to life and limb and we are doing our utmost.
As soon as we can get vendors relocated, which should be between the end of this month to next month, the market will be closed. A location is being sought at Shell Road, Kitty, we will look into those who are selling fruits and meats, we cannot bundle everyone together,” Chase-Green said.
Vendors of the market yesterday also complained of the deplorable state of the market. They said that it is very difficult to conduct business since persons are scared to enter due to the fear of being injured by a falling window. They said that the market is the livelihood of the Kitty community and that residents rely on the market to purchase fresh meat and vegetables. They also said that persons from neighbouring communities shop at the market but the number of shoppers has drastically reduced because of the condition of the market.
Chandrashekar Persaud, another member of the market action group said that although the market may seem not to be filled with vendors, all of the stalls are owned. They are forced to operate elsewhere to fulfill their financial needs and also to continue paying rental fees for market stalls, he said.
“We pay our stall rents, and once the council receives revenue, they should repair and upkeep the market. If we don’t pay our rental fees for one month we have to pay interest and if we fail to do so, our stall will get repossessed,” one vendor said. “It does save time and money to shop here, before you go all the way to town, you can just come here and shop,” another vendor said. Members of the Kitty Market Committee demanded that urgent steps be taken by the Mayor and City Council and the Central Government to save the historic market.