Two detained as `boom boom' protest continues By Jaime Hall, Stacey Davidson and Calvin Marshall
Guyana Chronicle
January 30, 2002

`All I see is the men them come with pliers and blow down three of me bus wheels; so me ain't know what this is all about' - driver Pramnauth Heeranandan

POLICE yesterday detained two persons as the strike by mainly Route 50 (Georgetown/Rosignol) mini-bus drivers against the `boom boom' (big music) boxes on their vehicles entered its second day with several incidents of intimidation reported.

A mother taking home her new born baby was among a few dozen passengers left stranded when some Route 44 (Georgetown-Mahaica) mini-buses not in the protest, were caught in a traffic jam caused by striking buses at Hope Village, East Coast Demerara.

Some 90 Route 50 buses on strike that were travelling towards Georgetown, stopped and parked on the highway at Hope creating a heavy traffic buildup and other vehicles were stalled for about 20 minutes.

The mother and her baby and others in the non-striking buses stalled on the road by the protest were stranded when the protesters promptly let out the air from the tyres.

Driver of mini-bus BHH 4902, Mr. Pramnauth Heeranandan of Mahaica, whose wheels were flattened, said he was returning from Georgetown with his family and was caught in the jam.

"All I see is the men them come with pliers and blow down three of me bus wheels; so me ain't know what this is all about. Now I left stranded here I have to wait and see me mini-bus friend them and borrow one, one spare wheel each from them", the frustrated driver said.

During the traffic buildup the police were not present, but traffic ranks arrived about 10 minutes after the buses left.

Police Commissioner Floyd McDonald said the police were monitoring the situation, adding, "whoever breaches the law would be dealt with."

He said police were investigating reports that protesters had punctured the tyres of buses not in the protest on the East Coast and on the Corentyne.

No mini-buses were at the Berbice car park in Georgetown yesterday. Hire cars drivers had taken over the area and were again doing brisk business.

One hire car driver said he normally operates in the city and decided to work the Georgetown-Rosignol route.

It was business as usual at the other parks in the city.

Executive member of the Guyana Public Transportation Association, (GPTA) Mr. Alexander Belle condemned the actions of those mini-bus drivers on strike and declared that the `boom boom' sets should have been taken out a long time ago.

The association, which looks into the concerns of drivers operating the Kitty/Campbellville route in Georgetown, said they are not on strike but there are a "few bad eggs" who want to cause conflict. He said a few of them on Monday blocked the entrance to the park preventing drivers from working.

Route 50 mini-bus driver, Mr. Nassau Moore, speaking on behalf of the protesters, said they intend to keep the buses off the road "until somebody in authority come down and tell us something."

He said most operators do not find the removal of the 'boom boxes' by the police a problem, but feel they should be allowed to install the speakers in the panel of the seats. He said in that way the music would not sound as loud as the 'boom boom' boxes.

He said the issue of the heavy fines being imposed for speakers in the panels and "police harassment" are what they want addressed.

"Mini-bus operators are not criminals. When a man invests $3M in a bus, it is to give somebody else a job. When you go before the court and plead not guilty is $100,000 bail and otherwise $30,000 fine. We don't need boom boxes, all we need to have is our panel speakers", he said.

Moore, who has been operating a mini-bus for 15 years, said it is usually very boring to travel 65 miles daily without any musical entertainment. He said, however, that if passengers have a problem with loud music and the driver refuses to turn down the volume upon their request, they should report this to the police.

Scores of striking mini-bus operators in East Berbice plan to meet President Bharrat Jagdeo today during his stopover in Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne), on his return from Suriname.

A representative told the Chronicle there are several grievances they want to draw to the attention of the Guyanese leader.

"Our problem is not about playing music in our is not against the ban on music; it is about unfair competition with other mini-bus operators and police harassment," the spokesman said.

Among the issues the operatives are likely to raise with the President are the demand for safety belts on all seats, the delay in acquiring special permits from the police for out of zone travel, restricting of baggage for airport passengers and the detention of their vehicles by cops for minor traffic offences.

As the protest entered its second day yesterday, a few more buses were back on the routes and there were fewer stranded commuters milling around.

Some of those who boycotted the strike complained that their protesting colleagues had attempted to prevent them from providing their regular service on the Corentyne Highway, but were deterred when the police intervened.

The Chronicle learnt that about 10 mini-buses were used to block the Number 53 Village public road mid-morning yesterday and there were some reports of vandalism of several buses.

The resumption of sitting at the Berbice Assizes was delayed for about 45 minutes because of the late arrival of some jurors due to the bus strike.

The Canje, New Amsterdam/Georgetown Number 50 Route Mini Bus Association will be holding its annual general meeting today at 17:00 hrs at the Church View International Hotel in New Amsterdam.

This grouping was not part of the protest and some of their members were threatened Monday for not going on strike.