Minibus seat dispute for parliament committee
Stabroek News
February 9, 2004

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The row over the number of seats allowed in a minibus is to be examined by Parlia-ment's Economic Services Committee.

Legislation dating back to the 1960s denies licences for long wheel base buses with more than 15 seats.

Chairman of the Committee James McAllister says although the enforcement of the law has been suspended, the committee has met and decided it would proceed with an examination of the issue.

The law was suspended in order for a review to take place, following a meeting late January between President Bharrat Jagdeo and minibus operators.

Operators, who stopped work in protest at the enforcement of the law, which began last August and was intensified in January, petitioned the committee to intervene.

McAllister noted that it might be that the law was not being properly applied and said the committee would focus on whether the issue was a matter for licensing and how the law could be used to deny licences.

Since the beginning of the year certificates of road fitness were not issued to operators who failed to comply with Section 150 (b) of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, a provision that has not been enforced for years.

According to the law, each seat must be 16 inches wide and there must be 19 inches between the front of a seat to the back. For the owners of the 15-seat long wheel base vehicles, this means the removal of three seats.

The law was drafted during a time when the state controlled the public transportation system with much larger buses.

McAllister said the committee would seek a response from Minister of Commerce, Manzoor Nadir on certain issues, including the effect on the current fare structures.

He said a brief interaction with the Commissioner of Police would also be sought concerning the application and enforcement of the law. But this latter step is being delayed by a procedural dispute among committee members who have referred the matter to the Parliamentary Management Committee.

McAllister said members said the proper procedure was for the police commissioner to be summoned through the Ministry of Home Affairs. However, this is being disputed by other members who argue that to summon the commissioner is within the ambit of the committee's powers.

The Management Commit-tee has been asked to pronounce on the issue which, according to McAllister, affects how the committee would proceed.