Some operators say likely to return to work tomorrow
Stabroek News
February 3, 2002

Striking minibus operators plying most of the country's routes had yesterday returned to work although in markedly reduced numbers and for different reasons.

Reduced levels were clearly evident at the Berbice and Linden bus parks during. Checks by Stabroek News yesterday showed traffic proceeding in an orderly manner without much stalling or large groups of persons awaiting transport. Minibuses plied all of the destinations previously affected.

At the Linden Park an operator remarked that most of the buses had focused their attention on the water show at Splashmin's Fun Park on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway. The 32-seater coaster buses that also operate this #43 route, it was stated, were hired by the fun park's management to transport persons to and from the two-day extravaganza.

At the Route 50 (Georgetown-Rosignol) minibus park just about seven buses were seen yesterday and an operator said that others were still involved in strike action but that they were expected to resume work tomorrow.

Checks at other city minibus parks saw significant numbers present to accommodate the travelling public. The usual build up of minibus at the Square of the Revolution was not evident yesterday.

Thousands of minibus operators have over the past week initiated strike action to protest what they said were clear instances of highhandedness by police who were requiring that they remove all music out of their buses. Further they were not in agreement with the mandatory fine of $30,000 when placed before the courts for failing to observe the no boom box rule.

Friday's action by operators saw an escalation of the protest with several buses covering all routes in Demerara and Berbice proceeding to Grove on the East Bank Demerara (EBD), led by television personality Mark Benschop, resulting in chaos on that route. An attempt by the police to arrest Benschop for dangerous driving resulted in pandemonium outside the Providence EBD police station. Stabroek News understands that the police went to Benschop's home to invite him to the station yesterday, but he refused to go.

The PPP/Civic in a press statement issued yesterday, called on all interested parties and stakeholders to act responsibly. The party urged that the present standoff between operators and law enforcement authorities come to a swift end.

According to a release from the party, the dispute between operators and authorities was the result of misunderstanding of measures required to ensure greater public safety and efforts by "anti-government elements" aimed at destabilizing and confusing stakeholders, punishing consumers and derailing the road traffic system.

Appealing to bus operators to comply with the effort to introduce regulations for a better and more efficient operation, the PPP/Civic stated that it should be made abundantly clear that all vehicles were allowed to have radios, tapes and CD electronic apparatus for normal use and enjoyment. The party pledged its support to the police in their drive to regulate and implement laws, which would ensure greater safety for the commuting public.

Meanwhile, a traffic policeman on the East Coast Demerara (ECD), Embankment Road in the vicinity of Turkeyen, was distributing to occupants of vehicles a flyer from the traffic department headed 'Help make our roads safer'.

According to the flyer, carried as an in Friday's edition of the Stabroek News, the traffic department was currently engaged in a countrywide daily traffic enforcement exercise aimed as ensuring full compliance with the motor vehicle and road traffic act and regulations.

The exercise targets all categories of vehicles, including minibuses, lorries, private cars and animal drawn vehicles, and is aimed at ensuring that they did not pose a danger to the lives of innocent citizens, the flyer said.

Noting the protests by minibuses on routes in Demerara and Berbice, the department reiterated its publicized view that only amplified musical sets were illegal, and in breach of the road service licence.

Regular music sets, which include radio/cassette/CD players without amplifiers and with having regular four-inch or six-inch speakers were allowed in minibuses.

The flyer also sought to highlight that the compulsory use of seat belts was not yet in force and as such no traffic rank was enforcing this measure in any type of vehicle.

The police reiterated their position that no class of operator, including those of minibuses, was being harassed by the police nor had they been targeted. They said that measures will be in place to ensure the safety of the vehicles of those drivers and conductors who wished to continue or restart their service to the travelling public, as well as the commuters.