-as police begin enforcement
The police yesterday began enforcement of new traffic laws which forced some minibus operators off the road to put themselves in order while many others were detained at police stations within Georgetown, on the East Coast, East Bank and West Coast Demerara.
Stabroek News yesterday visited the minibus parks within Georgetown and spoke to minibus operators and many said they began complying with the recently enforced traffic laws regarding the placement of markings/drawings on their minibuses, the ban on playing music in their buses and the use of mobile phones while driving. The ban on designs and the playing of music targets public transport operators–minibuses and hire cars–while all drivers are prohibited from using handheld cellular devices while driving.
Some bus operators yesterday said they removed the entire music system from their buses since in early February. The operators were given until February 15 by the Police Traffic Department to remove signs and markings from their buses but this was later extended by another month. When contacted yesterday, an officer at Traffic Headquarters, Eve Leary said the minibuses operators are allowed to have the original tape deck as well as the original speakers in their minibuses. He said other devices, such as power amplifiers and juke boxes have to be permanently removed from the buses.
Some operators said they were not in agreement with the regulations since they had placed the signs on their buses to attract passengers. A route 44 minibus driver who plies the Georgetown/ Mahaica route said he had a sign which read ‘Jesus Saves’ placed on his bus and is of the opinion that the police should target the “shine buses” since the operators of such buses had placed vulgar slogans on their buses and played lewd and vulgar music. A few drivers said they had small speakers and tape decks fitted in their bus and did not need these to be amplified since they only listen to the radio.
At the Stabroek bus park, a number of minibuses still had slogans displayed. A Route 48 driver said he was waiting until next week to remove the marking from his minibus since the signs were sprayed onto the bus. He said to repaint the bus will cost him approximately $80,000; money he said he is now trying to raise.
Stabroek News also visited a number of police stations around the city and on the East Bank Demerara where several minibuses were detained. At the East La Penitence, Brickdam and Ruimveldt police stations, operators were seen removing the markings, speakers and amplifiers from their buses which were detained yesterday morning. A Route 41 minibus operator said he was told to remove the speakers as well as the tape deck from his bus by the traffic ranks at the East La Penitence police station. He said he bought the bus with the equipment and was at a loss as to why he had to remove them.
A traffic officer at the Providence Police station said the minibus operators who traverse the East Bank Demerara have been putting themselves in order. He said only a few buses were detained at the station yesterday morning but many operators decided not to work yesterday.
Yesterday afternoon hordes of passengers were left stranded at some minibus parks. Those mostly affected included routes 32, 41 and 44. At the Route 32 bus park, dozens of persons rushed to catch half-filled buses as they approached the park. Some passengers said they were contemplating travelling to Vreed-en-Hoop by speed boat to catch transportation. Some however, said transportation is usually difficult from Vreed-en-Hoop and opted to wait at the bus park. Some operators said several buses had been detained at the Den Amstel and Leonora police stations earlier in the day.
Some commuters said that they were satisfied with the action taken by the traffic department. A few passengers said the laws were long overdue since the lewd music played in some minibuses has had a negative impact on their children. They said the police need to sustain the enforcement of these laws, especially where the minibuses are concerned since some traffic campaigns are usually seasonal occurrences.
Meanwhile, some Route 42 minibus operators who ply the Georgetown/Peters Hall/Grove route are calling on the traffic department for assistance. They said they utilize a turn-system where buses are established in two lines. However, some operators breach the no–parking sign in front of the park and full their buses while on the “hot plate”. They said the ‘hot plate’ buses as a result make up to 12 trips each day while they only make 6 trips.
Roy Pariag, a member of the East Bank Minibus Association, said he along with a few others met Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee as well as senior officers of the police traffic department last year to discuss the problem. He said they proposed placing of a no-entry sign on Water Street between the ministry and the Central Fire Station since this would deter the ‘hot plate’ buses.
Stabroek News observed a few minibus drivers using this illegal system. Pariag said the police are usually present when this occurs but he believes something more stringent needs to be done since this practice has been in existence for a while now.