The Mayor and City Council (M&CC) was yesterday scrambling to have works completed on a vacant lot for dozens of vendors removed from Stabroek Square even as two government ministers on Wednesday called for a “humane approach” to the situation.
A massive clean-up of Stabroek Square on Sunday which saw the dismantling of stalls and the removal of carts has enraged vendors and led to a protest outside of City Hall and the Ministry of the Presidency on Tuesday. The city had promised to have a lot at Hadfield and Lombard streets ready for the vendors on Monday but this was not the case and this led to the protest.
Ministers of Communities and Social Protection, Ronald Bulkan and Volda Lawrence, respectively, met with Mayor Patricia Chase-Green, Deputy Mayor Sherod Duncan and Town Clerk Royston King on Wednesday during the session break at the National Assembly at which a “humane” approach was urged to the issue.
“We urged that a humane approach be adopted and that persons who would be dislocated are consulted and engaged and that no precipitate actions are taken…but that arising out of engagements that there is a phased process and that due consideration be given to people’s genuine concerns,” Bulkan said when approached on the matter.
He made it clear, however, it was not an issue of Central Government interfering in the mandate of the local authority. He said that the problem of unregulated vending is not a problem that developed overnight but rather was decades in the making.
“As the Georgetown council acknowledges and concedes, the problem is not vending, the problem is obstruction. So first and foremost our citizens should understand that the council is not against vending, what the council is against is unregulated vending. What it is against is unwholesome and insanitary conditions a lot of which prevailed in the Stabroek Square,” the Minister said.
He added that the council in keeping with its mandate and remit is committed towards urban renewal and restoring the integrity and environmental sanctity of public spaces for the public’s use.
However, the Minister said his statement should not be misconstrued as central government being insensitive towards the persons who have been dislocated and whose actions and activities were condoned over a period of time.
“The central government urges and implores the city council to give due consideration to those persons whose activities would be disturbed as a result of the activities of the council to restore public order and the environmental sanctity of our public spaces.”
He said Wednesday’s meeting was not about dictating or dominating or denying the authority of the council but rather it was “just to try and help to lend the voice of the central government.”
Meanwhile, at the Hadfield and Lombard Sts site, works continued Tuesday following a belated agreement between the owner of the land and the city council.
On a visit to the site, Stabroek News observed that sand was being spread in preparation for the surface to be recapped.
This newspaper, was told by Debra Lewis, Public Relations Officer of the M&CC that the city workers and a private contractor would be working throughout the night to have the works completed in time for today.
She explained that they would be recapping the surface, installing lights, compactors for garbage, collapsible tents, washroom facilities and water for a hundred and seventy-five vendors. She explained that the vendors registered to occupy stalls are those who use to vend on the pavements of Demico, the former Kentucky Fried Chicken building, GNCB and the Stabroek Square.
The city has already fulfilled the promise to have 24-hour security at the site. Stabroek News observed that a guard hut and constables were stationed at the site and was told that two more guard huts would be added to the venue.
On a visit to the site on Wednesday night, it was observed that Cummings Electrical Company had already installed overhead lights and workers were working to have the sand spread out. Lewis explained to Stabroek News that they are trying to create a uniform vending spot at the vacant lot. She added that the vendors would be grouped. “We are going to have all the cap vendors one place, the clothing vendors one place, food vendors one place and so on. We want to see uniformity,” she stated.
This newspaper observed that the collapsible tents had already arrived at the site and were of one colour.
One worker who asked not to be named said, they are going to replace the gates at the different entry points and repair the fence. Mobile washrooms and the garbage compactors were also on site.
Meanwhile, around the market square on Wednesday, there were a few push cart vendors vending and one newspaper vendor.
Newspaper vendor, Nadia Singh, said that she was given permission to vend from 6 am to 12 noon. On the other hand the push cart vendors who were “resting” in front of the Stabroek Square said they are “hustling” to make a dollar. They noted that if the constabulary visited they would have to pick up their carts and walk around the square.
Stabroek News gathered that vendors would not be allowed to return and vend at the Stabroek Square. The City Council is working on plans to keep the area clean and unencumbered.
Deputy Mayor Duncan had said that if all goes well there would be a sweeping change to the Stabroek Market front. He also said that the area would be left as a public space.
Meanwhile, efforts on Wednesday by Stabroek News to get a comment from the Mayor and Town Clerk were futile. Stabroek News waited for approximately one hour at the Mayor’s office but was unable to speak to her. Numerous phone calls to her and the Town Clerk King also went unanswered.