Minister within the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development,
Mr. Norman Whittaker,has said that the market tarmacs at Buxton and Foulis, East Coast Demerara; Klien Pouderoyen, West Bank Demerara and Diamond, East Bank Demerara, were handed over with the expectation that the NDCs would have set up market committees to manage them.
According to him, in all those instances, the committees have been established and would each have their own bank account with signatories.
He explained that the challenge being faced by the NDCs is getting the vendors off the roadsides and relocated to the tarmacs.
Whittaker lamented that some who have been accustomed to vending at roadsides are refusing to move, as they fear that someone else will take their spots on the road and their sales would be cut if they relocate.
What the minister reported is what has been known for a long time and no amount of lamenting will bring an end to this “sore” in our society. What is needed is strong and decisive action and those who are involved in illegal roadside vending realise that over the years the authorities have been sending ambivalent signals on this matter; hence, they have become emboldened and continue to flout the law with impunity.
It must also be acknowledged that those tarmacs were built with taxpayers’ dollars and therefore cannot be allowed to become “white elephants.” In addition, we are now pushing tourism development and as such would we want tourists to see unsightly and disorderly markets? This certainly would discourage them from revisiting our country.
Any form of lawlessness and disorder puts a brake on the developmental process. That is an undisputed fact and therefore we have to demonstrate the will and commitment to putting an end to it if we want our country to march swiftly along the road of progress and socio-economic advancement.
The excuse by the NDCs that vendors do not want to move to the tarmacs is a lame one, because what these vendors are involved in is illegal and therefore it is not their right to be vending on the roadsides. In this regard, the NDCs’ functionaries need to answer a few serious questions: Was any sensitisation and education exercises carried out prior to the construction of the tarmacs? Were those involved in illegal vending informed officially that they will have to occupy the tarmacs when they were completed? Were these people sent legal notices to remove from the roadsides? And now that the vendors are refusing to occupy the tarmacs, what plan of action is in place to deal decisively with the issue? Or will the NDCs continue to allow the “tail to wag the dog” and therefore allow this gross lawlessness and disorderliness to continue to plague and envelop this country.
We have seen how ambivalence has brought Georgetown to a state of decadence and lawlessness. Do we want the entire country to become like Georgetown? But the reality is that it is fast becoming like that because in almost every area on the coastland illegal vending is spreading like wildfire.
What no one seems to care or understand is that illegal vending poses several grave dangers such as traffic hazards; littering and garbage disposal problems; health problems, etc.
A typical case in point is the Sunday morning La Penitence market. It impedes the flow of traffic so that it takes more than half an hour to travel from Ruimveldt to Lombard Street. And this has been happening for years without any attempt to address it, even though a simple solution could be construction of a tarmac along Punt Trench Dam to accommodate the market and bring an end to the ensuing confusion, chaos and hazards.
In many developing countries the situation with respect to illegal roadside vending and the breakdown of law and order is a major challenge. In fact, in some cases the situation was even worse than what obtains in Guyana. One such case was Singapore, but through strong, uncompromising and decisive measures and action, law and order were restored to the highest level and today that country is viewed as a model developing country.
This is what a news report on illegal roadside vending said: “Police say they received more than 20 complaints today of the illegal roadside vending and the traffic impacts.
“When they showed up on scene, the vendors quickly packed up and drove off.
But five minutes later, we saw some of the same vendors driving back to set things up again.
"It’s good they can sell their flowers, but I think we need a safer way to do it," says Fo.
“Illegal vendors can be charged with a petty misdemeanor crime, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, up to 30 days in jail, or both.”
Closer home in Dominica this is what another news report on the same matter read: The Roseau Market Authority had to displace several vendors today after some were caught selling agricultural produce on the road side in Roseau.
Superintendent for the Roseau market, Julius Carbon, told media that authorities had to force people out, most of them Haitians, after warning several times about their vending on the roadside, an act considered against law.
Carbon told an afternoon ‘Kweyol’ programme on DBS Radio that the Roseau market is the location designated for the selling of agricultural produce in the city, and that while some are observing the law, several others are just not.
He said authorities were mainly giving a strong warning today to further inform vendors selling agricultural produce on the roadside that their actions were wrong, but he vowed that officials will be tough on those disregarding the rules.
So the point is stern and uncompromising action has to be taken to rid this lawlessness that has taken root throughout the country. Make no mistake about it: no illegal vendor would willingly move to the tarmacs. The time to act is now. Any delay in acting decisively would worsen the problem and make it much more difficult to handle. A clear message of no to illegal roadside vending has to be sent to all and sundry