Letter: The never-ending saga of street vending in Georgetown

The removal of vendors from Demico House area

Dear Editor,

There is a court order, or mandamus, demanding the removal of vendors and their belongings from the pavement and environs of the city business place Demico House. This was successfully executed by the Mayor of Georgetown on Monday of this week.

Now, this is not the first time that we have witnessed this exercise being conducted by the City, nor is it the first time the City Council has been called upon to enforce an order of the court. Monday’s exercise is all in the continuing drama between established business and (what we usually call) small-scale hustlers. These are age-old, brawl-type episodes have been played out at regular intervals in Georgetown.

You would recall earlier rulings by the court which effectively saw the removal of vendors from the Muneshwers pavement. This was not an amicable separation, but one that was marked by raucous, ghetto-style evictions. While all of this is going on, other businesses are contemplating going that very same route to rid their pavements of the nuisance of streetside vending.

The forceful removal of pavement vendors is a never-ending nightmare that never seems to go away, because pretty soon those vendors would come trickling back one by one to the very same location, and the vicious cycle keeps repeating itself over and over again.
The reason for this occurrence is that the City Council does not have any real plans for the displaced vendors. With no futuristic goals for the City, we see more of these ad hoc measures being taken, which in turn leads us to nowhere.

Georgetown is a reflection of a backward-thinking municipality that has long outlived its usefulness.

Soon the accusing finger will be pointed at the Government and the business owners themselves, as the Mayor exculpates himself from blame. He will not stop to think that the deteriorating state of the City is due to their gross negligence and inherent corrupt practices, but he will continue to peddle the narrative of Government and big business being the root cause of the City’s problems.

Soon, Opposition forces and politically-aligned lackeys will take up the mantle and shout discrimination and race, and class and politics will take centre stage. Mention of some of the epithets coming from the displaced vendors and their sympathizers, “Deh putting we out because deh don’t like black people,” “De coolie man done deh pon tap; now look, we can’t even earn a living. Black man done, bai; we finish.”

Now, it would be remiss of me to highlight the problem without putting forward viable solutions. A viable alternative readily avails itself in the City approaching the Government to construct a new market befitting modern-day society. I am speaking of a representative structure spanning the entire block from the old Co-operative Bank at Cornhill Street to Stabroek Market itself.

Build a mega-market, so that vendors can ply their trade with dignity. It is a heartless thing to displace street vendors when you haven’t got a suitable replacement area for them to do their vending. It doesn’t work that way. Proper vending structures should be set up to meet the expanding retail trade. These should be commercial units established in the City, adapted to modern conditions and usage.

The outdated, disorganized bus terminals and high traffic congestion that obtains would be done away with.

Another option that should be explored is creating a commercial vending area at Durban Park. This location would serve the dual role of decentralized marketing and solving the nagging problem of traffic congestion.

Finally, to solve the problem of street vending, the City Council must join hands with Local Government to build a modern marketing complex fitting a capital city space. This can only be achieved when the Council puts away its empty political self-centredness and focus on the larger good of serving our country.

Neil Adams