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'A brave soldier who fought tirelessly'

Ezroy Millwood dies two days before resuming decade-old court battle with Gov’t

BY CONRAD HAMILTON Sunday Observer senior reporter hamiltonc@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 02, 2012    

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LESS than two days before he was scheduled to return to court in his long-standing legal battle with the Government, the firebrand head of the National Transport Corporative Society (NTCS) Ezroy Millwood was found dead at his Leas Flat, St Andrew home yesterday morning.

Police investigators believe that the 70-year-old Millwood died of natural causes, while his former associates in the public transportation system are convinced that he died as a result of stress, stemming from his protracted legal fight.

The former NTCS boss was embroiled in the legal battle following the Government's decision in 2001 to terminate the NTCS's 10-year contract to operate a public transportation system in the Kingston Metropolitan Region.

The Government at the time paid the franchise holders for the remaining seven years of the 10-year contract and also paid for their fleet of busses.

However, Millwood was not pleased with the Government's action and believed the franchise holders were given a raw deal by the Government, which was eager to modernise the public transportation system.

The matter went to arbitration and in 2003 the panel agreed that the NTCS was treated unfairly and ruled that Millwood's franchise should be awarded $4.5 billion.

The Government challenged the position of the arbitrators and went to the Supreme Court in 2004 where it was successful in having the award overturned.

But the outspoken Millwood was not satisfied and took the matter to the local Appeal Court which also upheld the Government's position.

He then appealed to the United Kingdom Privy Council, which in a major ruling in 2009 argued that Millwood should be compensated and that the arbitrator's awards should be for three years and not six.

The matter was then sent back to the Court of Appeal for a decision on the exact amount that should be paid to the NTCS, that decision, which was made just over a year ago, stated that the NTCS should be paid over $2 billion in damages.

However, Millwood died without receiving a cent, as the Government has again appealed the Court of Appeal's determination of the damages and is seeking leave to take the matter back to the Privy Council.

Patrick Bailey, who served as Millwood's attorney, said the matter is still slated for hearing in the Court of Appeal tomorrow morning.

Despite Millwood's death, Bailey is emphasising that the decade-old battle has not ended and vowed to continue the fight as a tribute to Millwood's legacy.

According to him, the claimant in the matter is the NTCS and not Millwood.

Meanwhile, Bailey, who has been at the forefront of Millwood's legal fight, admitted that he is deeply saddened by the death. "He was a brave soldier who fought tirelessly," Bailey stated as he indicated that the former NTCS boss was not well two weeks ago when he last saw him.

Other members of the public transportation sector, who turned up at Millwood's home yesterday morning, were also saddened by news of his death. "It was something he spoke of several times. His heart was broken by the latest decision to go back before the courts," said Dion Chance, the president of the National Council of Taxi Associations.

"This has really left all of us in a state. Mr Millwood was a fighter and to hear of the news it has really left all of us at a loss," Chance added.

He declared that even as he waited for more answers he strongly believed the long legal battle between the Government and Millwood contributed to Millwood's suffering.

"The death has really left all of us in shock," said Egerton Newman, national co-ordinator of the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators, told the Sunday Observer.

He, too, acknowledged that he was aware that Millwood was ailing for some time.

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