At our last statutory meeting on the 23rd of April 2018, the Chairperson, Her Worship the Mayor of Georgetown, Patricia Chase-Green refused to allow me, a duly-elected Councillor the right to highlight the plight of the Kitty market vendors who continue to sell on the roadside after some two and half years since the Market rehabilitation project began and still pay their rentals for stalls they do not occupy.
While the incumbent Mayor announced at a recent press briefing her expectation is for the opening of the newly renovated section of the Market to coincide with the Independence celebrations scheduled for May 26, 2018, the situation appears bleak together with a great deal of uncertainty.
With some 200 million dollars in its treasury, Town Clerk Mr. Royston King boasted in March 2015 when the project began that there was more than enough money in the City Treasury to complete the entire project by November 1st the same year 2015.
Approximately three years later Phase I of the Market is still to be completed while Phase 2 which is the meat and food section is still in a deplorable state. The huge signboard erected on the northern side which carries the slogan – ‘A Dream Realized’ has but all faded and needs to be repainted, if anything is to be achieved for the upcoming Independence celebrations.
The Kitty Market, like Stabroek Market, has a unique historic appeal, its towering majestic clock facing the Atlantic Ocean is a defining structure where massive rallies and political meetings were held by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) then in opposition led by Dr Cheddi Jagan during the days of what many considered the dark days of oppression and authoritarian rule by the ruling People’s National Congress, the PNC. It has since been regarded as a symbol of hope by the residents of Kitty.
What is significant is the continued plight of the vendors who have been dislocated and the many others who have become so fed up that they simply packed up and left. How many families went under we might never know.
When will we learn that our job is to listen to the people, not ride roughshod over them. Why do we continue to operate in this high-handed fashion as if the City belongs to those who have assumed authority at City Hall?
The problems in the City, in fact, any City are too big to be handled by one entity alone. There is need for a multidisciplinary and multi-agency approach.
The vendors’ complaints must be heard. They are the ones who are the lifeblood of any Market, whether, Kitty, Bourda or Stabroek. The new stalls constructed on the eastern bottom half of the Kitty Market have shutters which when open allow rain in, while when shut no one can stay inside. These stalls were not designed for people much less perishable fruits and vegetables. Moreover, the stalls are flooded as the drains in front by the roadside overflow when it rains causing flooding. The inner stalls still being constructed, are still without adequate ventilation. Initial plans to put in air conditioning have since been aborted.
Following a protest activity by the PPP/C in solidarity with the Kitty vendors, Central Government was forced to appoint a new contractor with the M&CC now placed as the oversight body. The project is now funded by Central Government. While Phase 1 is nearing completion and is expected to have the Kitty Health Clinic back at this location, including halls and stalls for private rentals, many vendors are pondering about the new rentals. Will it be affordable, especially since the economy seems to be in a tailspin?
These are just some of the complaints that I was prevented from raising at the last statutory meeting. The issue of the Kitty Market continues to reflect on the incompetence, alleged corrupt actions in accounting for monies mis-spent, the mis-management of public funds with little or no transparency and accountability. Where is the work report on the work done, so far? Not only is this not presented to Councillors but the public needs to know, as well. Why do we have to wait on the Auditor General’s findings when Councillors need to give approvals for work to be done in the first place?
It should be noted that the once magnificent City Hall built in the 19th century, was built in less than two years. This 125-year-old building started in 1887 was completed in June 1889. The failure to call a special meeting this year as a follow up to the ‘Comprehensive Restoration and Sustainable Conservation Management Plan’ completed in 2017 indicates the inability of the M&CC together with Central Government to complete plans for a restoration fund to restore City Hall before the upcoming Local Government Elections scheduled for mid-November 2018.
The failure to complete the Kitty Market project some three years ago is nothing less than a national disgrace by those in authority at City Hall who must be held accountable by the electorate.