Racket in operation on Route 31

Dear Editor,

I read every day of minibus operators who behave in a vulgar manner on the roads or in the parks of Guyana. However today I wish to bring to the attention of the public a matter that concerns the law-abiding ones who ply Route 31, specifically those who work the La Parfaite Harmonie route (commonly called the Dairy route).

At this park there exists a criminal enterprise that extorts operators who wish to work during the day and need to use the park facilities provided for the Dairy route. This ‘enterprise’ consists of a network of touts who extract a fee of $3,000 for 6 trips or a fee of $2,000 for 4 trips. This simply means that if I am a minibus operator, I need to decide if I am going to pay $3,000 or $2,000 when I roll into this park. In addition to this I am required to pay a fee of $200 each time my bus is loaded.

If I am not prepared to pay this fee, the touts who number approximately 12 (complete with hierarchical command structure) will gang up on my bus and drag, coerce and persuade passengers not to enter my vehicle. The passengers will be guided away to a ‘regular bus’ (of course a compliant one). They also state it is their intention to make you sell/or change route if you don’t comply.

This enterprise has a command structure with an individual who is referred to as ‘The King’ as its CEO. There are other touts who have their various functions within this enterprise. It should be noted that even if you don’t see some of these individuals in the park, fees are being collected on their behalf for the right to use the park.

This organization has its own strategy for dealing with the occasional police officer who ventures into the park. In the event of such an unlikely occurrence they all have conductor licences and pretend to be minibus conductors who are soliciting passengers.

The criminals who ply their trade at the park have to approve even the hire of a conductor on your vehicle, before cooperation would be forthcoming. It is also rumoured that they now want to place ‘collectors’ at the entrances/exits of the La Parfaite Harmonie Housing Scheme to collect taxes from outbound public transport that needs to work in this area.

This situation has forced many bus operators to restrict their operations to rush hours (morning and evening) to avoid having to deal with this criminal enterprise. This has had a negative effect on both the operators and consumers that ply this route. The operators who pay up are forced to overload and take many chances just to meet this overhead; consumers also are forced to endure these conditions; the number of buses during the day to serve the community is limited; and many operators have sold their buses or changed their zone.

It is my understanding that this matter has been previously reported to the police and no adequate action has been taken.

It is my contention that someone who has no investment, no operating cost, provides no value-added benefit and just brings to the table a criminal mind should not be calling the shots to the many operators who have invested $2 million, $3 million or $4 million in the industry.

I must say I am Guyanese who grew up in the tout culture, and I can live with an individual who helps to load your bus being provided with a small fee or tip, but not someone who takes control of your operation and demands money from you as he deems fit. This takes touting into the realm of paying criminal protection for your business, or possible extortion.

I hope that this letter may serve as a catalyst for the authorities to look into this matter, since many of the operators live in mortal fear of this enterprise going after them.

Yours faithfully,

(Name and address provided)  

Editor’s note

We are sending a copy of this letter to Commissioner (ag) Seelall Persaud for any comment he might wish to make.

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