Declaring that enforcement of laws was key to stamping out lawlessness among public service vehicle (PSV) operators, Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley this afternoon announced proposals to put the powers of prosecution into the hands of transport inspectors.
During a tour of the River van stand that included a stop at the adjoining old Queen’s College building, which is to be transformed into an ultra-modern PSV terminal complex, Lashley told reporters there were also problems getting members of the public to report breaches they had witnessed.
“The issue is enforcement and I am saying that if there is an issue with the police doing it, we have to mirror our legislation similar to the Jamaica legislation, where the transport inspectors would have similar powers and have powers that they can initiate prosecution. That is how we have to do it,” he added.
Lashley noted that right now under the legislation, inspectors who saw an infringement of traffic laws, could only document the offence but had to refer the matter to the police.
“It can only be enforced if we supplement the police officers with traffic inspectors and give them the power,” he said.
“The traffic inspectors that we have now, all they do is report and pass it onto the police. The traffic inspectors come in here [van stand], find a fault, report it to the police. They have to go to the police, the police have to prepare a statement, the police have to then come . . .,” explained Lashley.
He insisted that traffic inspectors should therefore be given the power to do the job.
The Minister of Transport and Works also questioned whether there was a backlog of traffic cases in need of speedy disposal.
“The other issue that we may have to face is that whether there is a backlog of cases relative to traffic cases. Yes, there is a traffic court there but since this is a national issue, we might have to reach a stage where we look at another magistrate or another judicial officer to sit in another court so that we can crack some of these matters and have them accessed to the benefit of the person accused and of the litigant,” said Lashley.
His comments came on the heels of Tuesday’s tragic accident in which a ZR overturned on its approach to the River terminal, causing a schoolgirl to lose her left arm and injuring 20 other passengers.
Lashley denied claims by that authorities were unable or unwilling to enforce the law fully against certain vehicles because their permits were owned by Transport Authority officials and Government ministers.
“Not me. Not this fellow here. So I don’t go into those rumours. I don’t pry behind people . . . .I don’t get involved in those things. I am saying, I am not in fuh dat. I don’t know of anybody who sits on the Transport Authority. I don’t know of any ministers either. I don’t know of any that have been drawn to my attention,” Lashley contended.
He noted that such rumours and “spurious” allegations defeated the whole purpose of seeking to eliminate lawlessness and reckless driving on the roads of Barbados. “The issue here is really regulating these people [PSV operators].”
Lashley said he had research covering the 1980s to the 2000s where all these issues had been recorded, “but it just remained there in the book”.
Defending his administration’s delay in introducing the amended Road Traffic Bill, Lashley said it was now ready to be signed off on by his ministry. He said the bill, which had to compete with several other pieces of draft legislation of equal importance, would outlaw the playing of music on public service vehicles through any device.
The Minister of Transport also told reporters he was considering introducing stricter measures relating to permits. He said he was thinking of legislation which would stipulate a specific period, possibly three to five years, within which PSV permits could be transferred.
He explained that the proposed law would be based on the existing Tenantry Freehold Purchase Act, which prohibits a person from buying a plot of land at $5 per square foot and then selling it days or weeks afterwards.
Lashley contended that right now, a person could obtain a permit and transfer it at any time. He said the objective of changing this, was to cut out profiteering and try to eliminate people who do not have a genuine interest in the development of the public transport sector.
Another measure being contemplated in addressing delinquency on the roads by ZRs and minibuses was a review of how workers were paid. The minister said while he could not pry into the rights of owners and dictate to them how to pay their drivers, he would examine the legal implications of doing something about it.
He acknowledged that the present method of owners requiring a quota from drivers each day and then allowing them to take what was left, was a major contributor to the hassle that resulted in breaches of the law.
Lashley also warned drivers and conductors that if they injured someone, not only could a criminal action be brought against them, but also a civil one for damages.
“For damages, for pain, suffering, loss of a limb, that is their right. They have not only opened up themselves to criminal sanctions, but to civil action for substantial damages in the High Court,” emphasized Lashley, who is an attorney-at-law.