Seating capacity controversy...
Minibus operators welcome President's intervention
Guyana Chronicle
January 29, 2004

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MINIBUS operators yesterday welcomed President Bharrat Jagdeo's decision to put enforcement of a minibus seating capacity regulation on hold for three months, saying his intervention was wise and timely.

Several owners and drivers spoke a day after a delegation of operators met with President Jagdeo at the Office of the President.

After Tuesday's meeting, at which the operators raised their concerns about the enforcement of regulations that would reduce the seating capacity in their buses from 15 to 12, the President in consultation with Home Affairs Minister Mr. Ronald Gajraj, Police Commissioner Mr. Floyd McDonald and Traffic Chief Michael Harlequin decided that a hold should be placed on enforcement.

The minibus operators had been arguing that the regulation would bring them undue hardships since they would have had to carry three fewer passengers per trip. They said this move would significantly impact on their daily earnings and operational cost.

They wanted the authorities to review the regulation and this is now being considered following the meeting with the President and is now being viewed as a welcome step.

Yesterday the Chronicle sought the views of minibus operators on what this decision means for them.

Mark Anthony is owner of a Route 44 bus he conducts; he said he was pleased that the President decided to meet the minibus operators to look into the matter. "If we had to take out three of the seats it meant I couldn't pay a driver anymore to operate my bus. I would have to drive it myself but I don't have a license to drive bus and I have other commitments to pay off a mortgage".

Bus Driver, Rohit Rambarran, said: "We feel good about the President looking into the matter in the right way and we hope that after three months they won't tell us that things haven't worked out. Over the years a lot of pressure has been coming down on minibus operators. First it was the music box, then the tint, then seatbelts. Now they want us to carry only 12 seats. This is making living harder for people; we're trying to make a honest living".

Driver, Imtiaz Jameel, said: "This suspension (the seating capacity regulation) leaves people guessing right now. We hope that a proper decision will be made on it at the end of three months as the President said."

Satesh Persaud, who is also a driver, said if the regulation had remained enforced that would have been no problem for operators but the traveling public who would have had to face a fare hike to compensate for what the operators would have lost with the regulation in place.

The regulation on seating capacity for minibuses dates back to the 1960's and is contained in the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic Act, and Road Traffic Regulations (Subsidiary Regulation).

Traffic Chief Michael Harlequin had said that the enforcement of the seating capacity would be put in abeyance until a revision of the regulation is done.

According to a parliamentary official the Ministry with responsibility for public transport will have to put forward the ideas for a review on the regulations to Parliament in the form of a Bill and go through the parliamentary procedure before any adjustment can be made.

Police Commissioner Mr. Floyd McDonald said a revision process will start shortly and will see through consultations being held with stakeholders, including minibus operators and owners to ensure a satisfactory resolution. (Jaime Hall)