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Monday the Ministry of Public Works swooped down on poor and vulnerable street vendors, in the dark of the night, disrupting their peace and an opportunity to earn a living.
Vendors with mini-shops saw the government using a crane to lift their shops in a dangerous manner. Members of the Guyana Police Force were present, not to protect the vendors, but to ensure the government was able to execute its task.
Yesterday Georgetown Mayor Pandit Ubraj Narine issued a statement addressing the Government’s Notice to remove the vendors on New Market Street, between Thomas and East Street.
He said the Council tabled no Notice nor has there been any engagement by the Ministry with the Council to remove the vendors. Further, he said, the action flies in the face of the authority of the Municipality.
According to Ubraj, the government’s “action cannot be seen as anything other than a deliberate economic strategy aimed at preventing poor people from earning a decent living, further pushing them into poverty.”
Last evening the mayor was out there with the vendors, identifying with his constituency. Clad in short pants and T-shirt Ubraj laid himself on the ground and under the crane, saying he is prepared to die for the poor people. He also said this will be the first time in the history of Guyana a mayor will die for the people.
Village Voice reached out to veteran trade unionist Mr. Lincoln Lewis for a comment who condemned the government’s action in the strongest possible terms. According to Lewis, the government continues to deny the poor the right to earn an honest living and were these persons from big businesses or another community such venom would not have been unleashed to economically disempower them.“There is a right and wrong way of doing things. What the regime is doing is criminal. Apart from taking bread out of the mouths of vendors and their families, the regime is also intruding on the City Council’s authority. Under the law the Central Government has no authority over vending in the city, that is a responsibility of the City Council.”
Giving the solidarity the mayor and vendors were persons from the City Council, civil society and the opposition, including Members of Parliament Sherrod Duncan, Roysdale Forde SC, among others.People have since taken to social media to vent their disgust. Shonelle Smith-Daniels wrote“The people on the outside looking in that have the most to say let me tell you this, we don’t have a problem if they have to be removed but you cannot remove with no alternative, this is all those vendors know, this is how they make a living. All we are asking is for all stakeholders involved to sit and come to an amicable decision and placement.
“Yesterday the people from Mon Repos market destroyed taxpayers’ money because they are not satisfied and you all were quiet, then last night you sent people to destroy what people built off of their own strength.
“Let me also add that this has nothing to do with ambulances not being able to commute back and forth, it’s all about the friends who own businesses and believe those vendors are taking away from them. speak the truth, don’t come with that nonsense about ambulances not being able to move freely when those caravans are over the line that was drawn by you so as to have a smooth flow of traffic.
“I am a representative of the people of this City and I am a fair person, let’s all sit and talk. Don’t take away the livelihood of some because a friend is hurt.”