More mini-buses return to routes
...but passenger harassment continues by Stacey Davidson and Calvin Marshall
Guyana Chronicle
February 1, 2002

MORE mini-buses returned to public transportation routes yesterday but dozens remained off the Georgetown-Rosignol run as they continued the strike against the police `boom boom' (big music boxes) campaign.

There were reports that passengers were harassed and ordered out of non-striking mini-buses in the vicinity of Brickdam in Georgetown but no injuries were reported.

Police said no major incident was reported and there were fewer clashes between strikers and operators refusing to join them.

On Wednesday, police reported several attacks against non-striking mini-buses and a group of protesters in Georgetown attempted to overturn a bus with passengers but fled when police showed up.

Protesters also punctured tyres of some mini-buses operating in the city and other parts of the coast.

Police said the tyres of two private and two hire cars were ripped up when they were forced to stop where a log was placed across the Abary Bridge in Berbice on Wednesday. There were unconfirmed reports that persons in some vehicles stopped were robbed.

It was reported to the police that persons jumped out of the bushes at the side of the bridge, punctured the tyres with knives or sharp instruments and disappeared into the bushes.

There were no mini-buses at the Georgetown-Rosignol park in the city yesterday but buses plying the Timehri, West and East Bank and West Coast Demerara routes were in operation.

There were a few operating on the East Coast Demerara and it was business as usual on the Essequibo Coast.

Mini-bus operators in East Berbice were back on their various routes yesterday after three days of protest, but those on the Canje, New Amsterdam/Georgetown routes were still off the run.

The decision to resume operations might have resulted from a brief meeting a small delegation of the drivers had with President Bharrat Jagdeo during his stopover in Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) on Wednesday.

Several of the operatives raised a number of issues with the Guyanese leader at Number 35 Village, Corentyne, including encumbrances on the highway, exorbitant fines, and other police related issues, a source said.

The Chronicle understands the representatives were supportive of the ban on `boom boom' boxes and expressed concern over the indiscriminate speeding by some operators.

About 40 of the striking buses gathered outside the Fort Wellington Court, West Coast Berbice but some 30 later departed for Georgetown where they drove around city streets and later gathered at the 1763 Monument Square.

At the square, they were again addressed by President of the Guyana Workers Union (GWU), Mr. Norris Witter who encouraged them to keep up the struggle.

He said the protest will continue as long as the objectives of the mini-bus drivers are met.

He said they want to meet Home Affairs, Mr. Ronald Gajraj to discuss the way forward as it relates to music in mini-buses, seat belts and the question of the guidelines for fines imposed.

Witter said they also want an assurance from the Government that reported harassment of mini-bus drivers by the police will cease.

Police and groups have blamed `boom boom' music on mini-buses and excessive speeding as major causes of the high road fatality rate.

President Jagdeo who also met representatives of the protesters at the Rosignol ferry stelling Wednesday night, urged them to avoid a confrontation.

He noted that there is a "public outcry" against the `boom boom' boxes on the vehicles and other aspects of the mini-bus operations, stressing that it is "a public safety issue" and he has a responsibility to all.

He advised them to meet Minister Gajraj on their grievances and said solutions have to take into account the interest of the travelling public and the mini-bus operators.

Striking mini-bus drivers argue that they cannot operate without music in their vehicles because passengers, especially school children, will not travel in these buses.