No more 'blys'

Senate approves extension of amnesty but wants speedy passage of new Road Traffic Bill to tackle indiscipline

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, November 25, 2017



DELINQUENT motorists were yesterday given a lifeline when the Senate voted to approve a new amnesty for those holding unpaid traffic tickets for more than 45 days.

The Bill was approved by a 10-6 margin as Opposition senators voted against the measure. Government members, despite voting solidly in support, admitted some disfavour.

The amnesty starts Monday.

Government, Senator Kavan Gayle said that, while he agreed that the idea of giving the motorists a “bly” should stop, he would support this Bill. However, he urged that the drafting of the new Road Traffic Bill be speeded up to ensure that there would be no more “blys”.

“I support the Bill today, but I am calling for the Road Traffic Bill to be brought before the Parliament and debated,” he urged.

Minister of State for national security senator Pearnel Charles Jr, who piloted the measure, insisted that, while the Government did not condone the idea of giving “blys” for breaching the law — as it was moving to table the re-drafted Bill, “which will be implemented with zero tolerance” — there was a need also listen to the citizens of the country.

“If we did not, it is the same Opposition that would be telling us that we don't care. So, we have to temper our movement towards the culture of enforcement by listening to those persons who have called upon us to consider them and their desires to make good before we draw the line in the sand,” Senator Charles said.

He added that, in listening to those motorists, the Government was not capitulating but, as an Administration, it had to take “practical, sensible decisions”.

Opposition senators yesterday called for a “divide” after Government members rejected amendments to the Road Traffic (Temporary Ticket Amnesty) (No 2) Act, 2017 which would have extended an exemption from demerits granted to those benefiting from the amnesty to motorists who had already paid their fines on time.

Opposition Senator Lambert Brown, who raised the amendment during the debate on the original amnesty Bill (No 1) in July and lost out during the vote, raised it again yesterday suggesting that “those who abided by the law are shafted”.

The Bill was passed in the House of Representatives on November 14, piloted by Minister of National Security Robert Montague, who explained that at the end of the recent three-month-long ticket amnesty, which ended October 31, many people had appealed to the authorities for additional time to settle their outstanding tickets, and the Government had to “respond to the concerns of the public and answer to their needs”.

The Bill provides for a second period of amnesty, from November 27, 2017 to January 13, 2018.

During the first amnesty, from August 2 to October 31, more than 260,000 tickets were dealt with, resulting in payments of more than $590 million, as well as 45,000 calls made to the Traffic Amnesty Call Centre.

Minister Montague said that he was urging individuals with unsettled traffic tickets to make use of this final period of reprieve before the newly re-drafted Road Traffic Bill is tabled.

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