A 'victory' for taxi operators is a defeat for the long-suffering public

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

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We have taken keen note of the miscalculation by taxi operators who withdrew their services last week that they have won a victory contingent on the decision of the Senate to delay passage of the new Road Traffic Bill last Friday.

It is to be hoped that the taxi operators did not feel emboldened by the meeting the day before between the leadership of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) and representatives of the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO) and Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS).

The mere delay in the Senate and the meeting with the Opposition, by themselves, could not constitute a 'victory' for taxi operators who parked their vehicles for several days at severe inconvenience to the travelling public.

Unless, of course, their leaders heard something that they wanted to hear from the Opposition delegation with whom they met. That, we suspect, could only be a signal of support for the operators in their beef with the new Road Traffic Bill.

From our understanding, the delay in the Senate is related to six new provisions which were passed in the House and had to be debated in the Upper Chamber before passage. That is procedural and not necessarily because of a call by the operators for such a delay.

Happily, we have not seen anything in a PNP press statement to suggest that any outlandish promises were made to the taximen that could be interpreted as victory, unless all that was done in secrecy.

In their press statement after the meeting, the Opposition drew attention to the grouse among taxi operators that owners should not have to pay for driver tickets issued based on detection of road breaches by electronic devices to be installed by the Government.

We certainly do not believe that the PNP would be so irresponsible as to side with them on this issue. The only way anyone can be held accountable for breaches caught by the devices is by tracing them through the ownership of the vehicle.

This has worked very well in many countries, where the number of vehicles on the road makes it impossible to deploy sufficient police officers to keep order on the streets and catch those who break the rules, often endangering other members of the public.

Happily, the PNP President Dr Peter Phillips was quoted as noting that while operators had the right to protest, it was important that their action did not penalise the public. The Opposition leader also emphasised that the dislocation in the transport sector could have been avoided by dialogue, and participation was not an abstract principle, but essential to good governance.

We hope that the delay in passing the Bill will not be any longer than necessary to go through the relatively small number of additional clauses. The 'wild west' that prevails on our streets is untenable.

It is time now for our politicians to show some balls and stand up to the rogue taxi operators. Any semblance of victory, by bowing to them, will be nothing short of a defeat for the long-suffering travelling public.

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