Savage Street in a savage land
Day by day, little by little, the ordinary John Public, the poor and the powerless are giving up on the preservation of their inherent rights in Guyana. Whatever they are entitled to by virtue of being citizens, they are surrendering it to the wealthy classes.
The question is, does the wealthy class contribute more than the working people or to put it another way, aren’t the rich and the ordinary entitled to the ownership of Guyana?
My column for Thursday, September 20, reported on an incident outside of Steve’s Jewellery Store in relation to parking. I forgot to mention that my friend, Vincent Alexander, from UG, witnessed the encounter.
I was prevented from parking on the grassy parapet in front of the store even though I wasn’t blocking the entrance and there were seven more vacant parking slots available because it was early in the morning. I refused to move; I summoned the police.
The owner said that he spent money to concrete the space. My reply was, “then he owns the parapet.” The police told him that such expenditure did not give him the right to possess the parapet and exclude others.
The police specifically told him that the entrance was not blocked and there is available space for customers, so I was not infringing on his business. Before I leave this aspect of the discussion, I need to remind readers that I was on the public parapet. I was involved in an uncannily identical incident last Tuesday on Sheriff Street.
It took place outside the Maharaj Restaurant right next door to Survival Supermarket. Before a description of this second occurrence let us visit some places – Caricom Secretariat, International Convention Centre, National Aquatic Centre and Buddy’s Pool Hall. I live next to the first one, and very near to two of the others. All four of these places have parking facilities on their property itself.
Take Buddy’s Pool Hall. On the private property of this business is customer parking. Then there is the trench, then the parapet that touches Sheriff Street. You can’t go into Buddy’s Pool Hall’s customer facility and stop your car and go shopping. But you can certainly do so near to the business place on the parapet without blocking the entrance. Caricom, the Convention Centre and the Aquatic Centre all have inside parking so you can leave your car on the railway embankment near to these places and just wander off.
On Tuesday morning, I left my car on the parapet that touches Sheriff Street in front of the Maharaj Restaurant. This business place has facility on its property for its customers, plus a concrete placement over the trench. I had no idea that the owner would stop you even if you are on the parapet. The guard did that and I refused to move. A man came out and suggested I leave.
I don’t know if he was the manager or owner. I refused and told him I would comply with the police request so he should call the police. He in turn told me I should bring the police. I did just that. I drove to Kitty Police Station, saw three ranks in a patrol jeep and they accompanied me. The police in my presence told him that the parapet was state property (the words the police used). He agreed and said I could remain there.
This is a new trend where huge business places are hogging large chunks of public property. Last month, I refused the guard’s request to move my car outside of Hand In Hand Insurance Company, even though I was on North Road itself. Again I called the police. The police chose not to evict me.
Do you know Hand In Hand touches four streets – Robb Street, Avenue of the Republic, North Road and Savage Street? And the company occupies all four streets for their own parking?
In Savage Street, there is a private employee facility where the employees enter and leave on Savage Street, but Hand In Hand preserves that section and uses North Road to enter and exit and put two barriers blocking citizens from parking on North Road. I told the guard and the police that was wrong. Let the employees enter and exit from Savage Street.
I removed the two barriers and I left my car there and went to the Post Office. The guard was conciliatory, but I still brought the police. I want Hand In Hand to know that they are not going to stop me from parking on North Road which belongs to all Guyanese I urge other citizens to stand up for their rights. Guyana belongs to all of us.