Rejecting the city’s plans to relocate them from the Stabroek Market square, dozens of vendors yesterday staged a protest outside of the Ministry of the Presidency in hopes of getting a stay.
Angry and frustrated, the vendors became even more furious when they were denied an engagement with President David Granger.
During a meeting on Thursday, with hundreds of vendors at City Hall, Town Clerk Royston King had announced that they would be temporarily removed for four months to a vacant lot, south of the Public Buildings, to facilitate resurfacing, cleaning and reorganising of the bus and car parks and vending spots. The spot, at Hadfield and Lombard streets, previously housed a Royal Castle outlet.
Works have already started to ready the area, where the City Council would be providing lighting, 24-hours security and sanitary facilities.
Stall holders with structures were asked to remove their structures by 3.30 am on Sunday morning. A clean-up is scheduled for the square on Sunday.
No one objected to the plans at the meeting.
“They are bullying us that is what they are doing… the previous administration did the same thing and now they are doing the same thing,” one of the vendors outside the Ministry said yesterday.
The vendors, who numbered no more than 50, explained that they have no problem with the clean-up but they did not agree to being relocated temporarily. Many vendors said that the move would cost them their earnings, since they currently operate in a central hub for commercial activity.
Although the relocation is slated to be temporary, they also fear a moving is underway to permanently remove them.
The vendors also stated they were not given any time to inform their customers of the move.
Pamela, one of the vendors, said she has been at the square for almost twenty years and she is not willing to accept the move. She stated that they were once moved to “Donkey City,” which is located at the back of the Ministry of Social Protection building.
She added that when Guyana hosted Carifesta and the World Cup Cricket, the then opposition had told them not to move but now under the leadership of some of the same persons in government, they are being told to move.
According to the vocal woman, crime is on the rise and moving the vendors would only create a worse situation as many vendors would not be able to make a living if they move.
She believed the intervention of the president would aid the situation.
Another vendor, Dion Moore, said the spot selected is unsuitable for them to sell during the rainy season. He explained that the condition of the ground becomes deplorable when it rains and he didn’t think that it would attract customers.
“When [Carol] Sooba (former Town Clerk) was giving King problems, he came to us and we back him. Now he in the office he treating us like dogs,” a vendor shouted.
During the picketing exercise, vendors help placards with the statements, “Move the Chinese not the Guyanese. We are single parents!” and, “No vending! No jubilee! No Royston King!”
After the crowd became furious, ranks guarding the Ministry had to request that they remove or calm down. The vendors eventually moved off.
Following the announcement on Thursday, vendors were split on the outcome of the meeting. Few agreed with the relocation while others believed the Council should have given them more notice and consulted with them before the plan was put in place.
During the meeting, King told the vendors that he was dissatisfied with the condition in which they have kept the market square. “Two days ago, I walked the Stabroek square and I was very displeased with what is going on in that particular square. I saw people gambling, I saw people loitering, it had an obnoxious smell where apparently people have been using the area as their personal toilet… the entire Stabroek square is completely disorganised,” King said.
He also said that many stall holders are behaving greedy as he pointed out that they want to occupy the stalls inside of the markets and also ply their trade on the pavements. King called on those vendors who have stalls in the municipal markets to return and occupy those stalls as failure to do so will result in their repossession.
Deputy Mayor Sherod Duncan, who was at the meeting, called on the vendors to partner with the city council in their plans for the jubilee and beyond the jubilee celebrations to restore the city. He announced that he would also be joining Sunday’s clean-up.
“I am going to be there with the Town Clerk on Sunday morning and onward rolling up my sleeves helping to restore the square to what it once was… from 1881 to now, count how many years we have had that market with us. We want to refurbish the market starting with this (clean up),”Duncan declared.
Mario Joseph, an unsatisfied vendor, said the area one of is a central hubs for hundreds of people and relocating to another location would take a toll on the level of commercial activity. He added that the council should have consulted with vendors earlier and given them a heads up on the new plan. He said that some vendors would find it difficult to move at this time, especially since it was an abrupt decision made by the council.
Another vendor, Conway Douglas, said it was unfair to vendors. He pointed out that City Council seemed to have just sat down and made a decision without any consultations with the vendors. He was also of the opinion that the space identified cannot accommodate all of the vendors who sell at the Stabroek Market square.
A group of female vendors, who asked not to be named, said they believe the new arrangements should be permanent. They explained that with vendors being able to vend on the spot permanently, it would ease traffic congestion within the Stabroek square. They added that they are in agreement with the plans and would give their full cooperation to the clean-up campaign.
Meanwhile, a statement from City Hall yesterday said that no minibus, taxi service or vending of any type will therefore be permitted during Sunday’s clean-up. “Operators are asked to remove any coverings that may have been placed over drains and other outflows,” it said, while adding that vendors are also asked to remove all unauthorised makeshift stalls or stands since these will be dismantled and discarded during the exercise.
City Hall said it intends to reshape not just the scenery, but also the ambience of the area, while consideration has already been given to the relocation of street side vendors, and minibus and taxi parks.