President David Granger yesterday said that he supports the efforts of the Mayor and City Council to clean up and restore order to the Stabroek Square but regrets the delay in readying the alternative site for displaced vendors.
“I support the work of the Mayor and City Council to rectify the problems there and to put the vending on a more orderly footing. I deeply regret that there has been some delay between the removal of the vendors and the cleaning up of the square and their resettlement,” he said, moments after the taping of his weekly forum, “the Public Interest” ended.
Last week, dozens of vendors were removed from Stabroek Square to facilitate a clean-up exercise and though told that the move was temporary many felt it was the latest attempt to remove the vendors from the area permanently.
Responding to questions from Stabroek News on this issue, Granger noted that the Stabroek Square is a public place and any citizen or visitor must be given “free access to these public places.”
He said that over the years the use of that public place had degenerated and become very unsanitary. He pointed out too that there was evidence that a lot of unlawful practices were being conducted there.
The President used the opportunity to urge the City Council to “hasten the resettlement and ensure that every legitimate vendor is given a place to conduct his or her business in a lawful and more sanitary manner. That is as much as I can say at present.”
While stressing that the city has to be clean, he said, “When you look at the conditions that existed in what used to be called Jurassic Park… Nobody has said that Stabroek Market did not have to be cleaned up. I have not seen that at all.”
He said that the City Council should work to ensure that the affected vendors are properly accommodated so that they can pursue their economic activities in a legitimate and orderly manner.
Asked if it was not unfair to target only those at Stabroek Square, the President said, “Well, I don’t know about the use of the word unfair. What I know is that Stabroek Square is a public place and I support the efforts of the City Council over the last seven months…to clean up all public squares. The pavements are being dealt with in a sequential manner. Everything cannot be done simultaneously.” Many observers have pointed out that if those vendors are removed, so should those who are selling on the pavements along Water and Regent streets and at various road corners.
Granger told Stabroek News too that he believes that the view held by the public is that the City Council “is doing a job which needs to be done. It’s really a case of cleaning the Augean stables … Georgetown would be a healthier place and a prettier place at the end of the process.” He urged the City Council to pay attention to the humanitarian side of the clean-up campaign and in so doing make sure that the vendors know what is in store for them.
“I am satisfied that prior to the move the vendors were consulted. The only disappointment is that the City Council was not able to deliver the premises which was promised on time but from what I can see they are working towards that,” he stressed.
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 protests outside 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. At the moment work is being done to get the lot ready.
Vendors, many of whom are single mothers and would have been vending at the Square for many years, have argued that the location being prepped is not ideal as it will be out of reach for their customers.