Give us an amnesty or else, TODDS head warns Government
A policeman (left) converses with a transport operator while stranded commuters look on during the last withdrawal of service by bus and taxi operators. (Photo: Llewellyn Wynter)

EGETON Newman, president of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS), on Sunday appealed to the Government to "wake up and smell the coffee" as he warned that the public transport sector is heading for trouble.

During a hastily called meeting to discuss the issue of outstanding payment for traffic tickets by public transportation operators, which was poorly attended at Half Way Tree Primary School in St Andrew, Newman demanded that the Government gives them an amnesty and not a payment plan as is being considered.

According to Newman, he will not hesitate to go back on his initial word that taxi and bus operators will not stage anymore demonstrations.

"Rescind the whole idea of a payment arrangement and give us our first request, which was an amnesty. [The] Government can wipe the slate clean and start anew. If that does not happen we are going down to King Street, to the high court, with the issue," said a militant Newman who has claimed that his organisation represents thousands of bus and taxi operators.

President of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services, Egeton Newman speaking at a media briefing on Sunday at the Half Way Tree Primary School in St Andrew. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

"I have said that we will not go back to a demonstration but we might have to go back there. There is no way we are going to have a new Road Traffic Act and the conditions under which we operate are the same. It can't work. Also, we are giving Transport Minister Audley Shaw until the middle of February to ensure that bus stops are replaced," added Newman in an obvious reference to Constant Spring Road where several bus stops were removed when it was widened.

The TODSS head claimed that the Government has failed to put in proper infrastructure to facilitate them dropping off or picking up passengers, and has not put in place proper parking arrangements.

Newman said the situation has caused him to be upset and frustrated and he is now anxious to see the outcome on Tuesday, when he expects the matter to be discussed in Parliament.

"We have received a so-called payment arrangement from the Government where we have to pay billions of dollars by January 31st. Looking at the scenario, one taxi man has 300 to 500 tickets, not of his own will but because of the conditions under which he has to work. When Government says, 'You racked up these tickets so go and pay,' to us that is total madness because the conditions under which we operate give the police the right to give even seven tickets in one day. Wherever a transport operator stops, a policeman is there to waiting on him," said Newman.

He charged that the transport operators begged the Government to give them a particular space in Half-Way-Tree for parking but the property was given instead to a car dealer to park motor vehicles for sale.

"We are in a pickle, a bind, and at a crossroads. There is no way we can come up with over $3 billion by January 31. We are not paying one single dollar until we know what Parliament says," Newman insisted.

"We are not the cause of what is happening to us now — the Government is. [The] Government painted every section of the road yellow; if I have a hackney carriage I have to set up anywhere that is convenient for me. When you look at the road safety issues, is it the taxi man causing accidents on the road? No! Is it that Government planned this so that more money can go into its coffers?" Newman questioned as he accused the police of targeting private transport operators.

BY JASON CROSS Observer staff reporter crossj@jamaicaobserver.com

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