More than 100 vendors and transporters of agricultural produce were Tuesday blocked from selling on Robb Street between Alexander and Bourda Street, resulting in the potential loss of millions of dollars in agricultural produce.
Acting Mayor, Sherod Duncan said he “is unaware of what led to the decision, but I am looking into it.”
Vendors said Town Clerk, Royston King walked through the area earlier in the day and ordered the immediate end to selling on that block until further notice because of garbage in the area. City Hall did not issue a statement on that decision.
Up to late Tuesday, City Constabulary members manned police barricades, preventing vehicular traffic from passing. On the fringes, vendors were seen with baskets and trucks of perishable vegetables and provisions that have been mostly locked up all day.
A frustrated young father had no other option but to collect bundles of bora from his wife who was at a nearby vehicle, and stand on the intersection of Robb and Alexander Streets to sell as much as he could. “This is not fair because farmers are working so hard to bring out their load out here to sell and then when you come out here you can’t get anywhere to sell,” said Tajekumar Outar the farmer-vendor. “I have five children to look after. What this government want me to do? Right now I am so frustrated,” he said.
In other cases, other vendors risked exposing some of their items on the parapets near Robb and Alexander Streets in the hope of getting a few sales, while others eventually departed or remained and contemplated what next to do.
The vendors and truckers, several of whom come from as far as Parika and Black Bush Polder, complained bitterly that they were not notified in advance that they would have been barred from selling or delivering produce there.
“This must affect us. We bought it and brought it. We got to get transportation. We had to pay people and the people will look forward to their money. They (City Council) will refund the people money to us? They would not do that,” an irate vendor, Rookmin, told Demerara Waves Online News as she sat on a stool.
Kurt Washington, who travelled from Ann’s Grove, East Coast Demerara to sell a few papaws, said all farmers and vendors who look forward to earning a few dollars at the street market would be badly affected. Saying that no arrangement has been for the displaced vendors, he questioned what the authorities were doing to improve the conditions of working people. “I don’t know what these people want you to do. They say
good will come, but how good will come when you affecting ordinary people like me? This is really unfair. Nobody come and tell you anything. They just come and bulldoze you just so,” he said. “How long will we able to stand up to this? We can’t be living like this all the days of our lives.”
A trucker said the decision by the Town Clerk has already begun having a spin-off effect on at least 50 farmers who would have already reaped produce, but were told by transporters that they would not be collecting loads because there is no place to sell it. “I had to call everybody and cancel the load. Now the people rowing and asking what they would do with the load. I turn and ask them what I will do it if I can’t send it,” he said.
President of the newly-formed Guyana Market Vendors Union, Eon Andrews acknowledged that this is the biggest test that his union is facing since its formation about one month ago. He did not rule out legal and protest actions being taken against City Hall.
With each vendor charged 300 per table and GYD$4, 500 landing fee for vehicles to sell on Robb Street, Andrews questioned the wisdom of City Hall depriving itself of much needed revenue by removing the vendors and transporters. “You know from vendors, it is a daily income so why would one want to shoot one in one’s own foot. I don’t understand that kind of logic,” he said.
Andrews said he failed in his efforts to solicit the intervention of Minister of Communities, Ronad Bulkan because he was in Cabinet all day.