Taxi drivers operating within the vicinity of Demico House and the Stabroek Market Square on Thursday protested in front of the Public Buildings for definite word on the city’s plans for their operations.
The protest, staged by approximately 40 taxi drivers, coincided with Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly and sought to highlight their concerns to parliamentarians.
The operators told Stabroek News that the future of their operations is unknown as they have not received any word from the city administration, which recently removed hundreds of vendors from the Stabroek Market Square. They noted that after the massive clean-up was undertaken by the Mayor and City Council two Sundays ago, they have been prevented from parking in front of Demico House due to large garbage skips left on the western side of the complex.
The drivers stood in front of the Public Buildings with placards bearing messages that lashed out at Town Clerk Royston King, who they hold responsible for the uncertainty.
“King’s dream, Stabroek taxi drivers’ nightmare,” “Eviction without notice,” “Stop the bullyism,” “Create jobs, don’t take jobs,” “No jubilee for Stabroek Taxis,” and “After 50 years, Georgetown is now King-doom,” were among the messages written on the placards.
Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo and other opposition Members of Parliament, while making their way to the Public Buildings, engaged with the taxi drivers and listened to their concerns.
Terry (only name given), one of the drivers, said they decided to stage the protest because they heard they would have to remove from the area, where they have been operating for over two decades. “We don’t see a reason. We are not vendors that would be blocking up the area and make a mess… we have been operating here for years,” Terry argued, while noting that operators are providing a service to the public and they have customers who depend on it daily.
Another operator, Winston Peters, said he has been operating a taxi for almost twenty years and never had an issue with the operations of Demico or the Mayor and City Council. The man said if the city is looking to move their operations, it should find a suitable spot.
Owen Green added that the city never contacted or consulted with the drivers before it made the decision to move them. He said if there is no response from the city, they would be seeking an engagement with the Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan. Green also reiterated that Demico House does not have any issues with the drivers operating outside of the premises as they would often do drop offs for the food house and support the business.
Additionally, V. Jagroo, another driver, said during the early part of the year they had an engagement with the city where the decision was taken that they would brand the taxis operating around the Stabroek Square as “Stabroek Taxis.” He, however, said that after the first engagement, they did not meet again with the city administration and the status of the agreement is unknown.
He told Stabroek News that it seems as if they are operating illegally in the city even though they contribute to the generation of revenue through vehicle licences and fitness fees.
The drivers were, however, hopeful that their protest would lead to answers on the future of their operations soon.
Mayor and City Council Public Relations Officer Debra Lewis told Stabroek News in response that the city is looking at the situation and for a permanent solution. A council meeting was held on Thursday to discuss the future of the vendors and the establishment of permanent parks in the city.