Transport operators are not 'hooligans'

BY Louis Barton

Thursday, February 21, 2019

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The article in the Sunday Observer of February 17, 2019, written by Jason McKay, demonstrated a misunderstanding of the plight of transport operators.

Transport operators are not “hooligans”, as the article asserts, but defenders of their rights to be treated like any other investor in our Jamaican economy.

We are small business investors in the transport sector of our economy. Our sole motivation is to make a profit in this sector of the Jamaican economy, with the intention to accumulate enough funds to do further investments in the sector or diversify into other sectors. We want to grow economically.

McKay says that the resistance by the bus driver in the Spalding incident was misplaced. The crowd's anger was also misplaced. However, our Jamaican history should teach us some of the reasons for a crowd to resort to hooliganism and resist law enforcement.

Paul Bogle resisted enforcement. Sam Sharpe resisted enforcement. Alexander Bustamante resisted enforcement. And the crowd that followed these heroes resisted enforcement. All of our national heroes were characterised as hooligans, just as the participants in the Spalding crowd are characterised as hooligans by this criminologist.

This driver's attack on the armed person was foolhardy. We would not advocate such an action, and especially on an armed law-enforcement officer. Also, in our Jamaican legal system it is illegal to attack an officer of the law.

Transport operators are under attack by unjust and unfair laws and regulations. The problem in the Spalding incident was the police attempt to seize and tow the bus for reportedly having one passenger above the legal requirement.

1. For many years operators have been asking for a list of violations that will result in a vehicle seizure. We are yet to get such a list from the police or the Transport Authority.

2. The seizure of a public passenger vehicle can cost between $30,000 and $60,000 to the owner before it is returned.

3. The income lost while the vehicle is impounded could be up to $60,000 daily.

4. An owner is therefore looking at a minimum of $100,000 for a one-day seizure. However, a seizure is on average five days.

5. Almost every bus and taxi owner/driver dispatches the vehicle with an extra $10,000 to pay extortionists and dishonest uniformed police.

6. It is an open secret that some enforcement officials work with wrecking companies to extort money out of transport operators.

7. The video phenomenon in the present era makes it plain to transport operators that this unjust treatment is not only in a few areas, but is all over Jamaica.

8. Over the years, not one of the new regulations that are proposed is done so as to improve the profit of the investor.

9. And of great importance, the sector investors cannot raise their price/fare when the price of gas, oil, parts, etc, increases.

10. In the Spalding incident, the 28 legal passengers were taken off the bus so that the bus could be seized

Do these conditions give one a sense of justice?

These pressures and more that the transport investor operates under would definitely drive him to be a hooligan and resist enforcement of the law.

This driver's back was against the wall. He entered into a state of mental breakdown boosted by the angry, resistant crowd.

We in the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO) are not assigning blame to anyone. We are asking all concerned, including the writer of the article, Jason McKay, to examine the existing relationships among the players in the transport sector and suggest improvements, and not name calling.

Louis Barton is president of the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators. Send comments to the Observer or

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