Do not come to me with any absurd requests!
Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley made this clear to private sector owners and operators of public service vehicles (PSVs), with whom he said he was willing to work, but from whom he was not willing to entertain nonsense.
It was in reference to an apparent request from the PSV drivers and conductors for Lashley to resolve an issue surrounding
steep court fines for transgressions on the road.
The minister last night said in an address to the St James South constituency branch of the Democratic Labour Party he would not attempt to influence the judiciary for the operators.
“I said to them there are so many lawyers, test the court and you could probably be successful. I may not be successful. And they are complaining about that again. I am not going to engage going to a magistrate and asking favours. That is not my role. There are many lawyers out there, some that aren’t getting any work, go and get them to appeal.
“I said to them don’t even bring that to the table with me. I am not going to seek to influence any part of the judiciary because I understand and respect the separation of powers doctrine. So don’t bring it to me at all,” Lashley said ahead of a meeting tomorrow with the PSV operators.
Both the Alliance of Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) and the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO) have complained in the past that magistrates were treating them unfairly and issuing fines that were steeper than necessary when drivers and conductors appeared before them.
Ahead of a meeting with Lashley in September 2015, AOPT Chairman Roy Raphael drew attention to the “high court fees” and complained that drivers were afraid to appear before a particular magistrate who they accused of not using his discretion when imposing fines.
“One man had to pay as much as $800 for a pair of slippers and then he made certain statements that . . . ‘if you plead not guilty and you come back before me, I gine double the fine’. So much so now that dey got men afraid to go to this particular magistrate, but are prepared to put down the van and decide to done wid dat,” Raphael told Barbados TODAY at the time.
When they met back then Lashley had told the PSV operators he would not seek to influence court decisions, a position he repeated last night, while adding that the operators complained too much.
“The first thing the PSV operators do is complain. We have reached out to them, we have talked to them, and it’s a very sad thing when you hear some of the arguments coming from the PSV operators. We want to work with them, we want to help them, but when you come to the table and tell me you want a magistrate from giving you fines, keep out the court,” Lashley said.
“Any PSV operator who believes a magistrate has handed down on them some unreasonable sentence, has a right under the laws of Barbados to appeal the magistrates decision. And I have said that to them. Get a lawyer,” he repeated.
Following Lashley’s meeting with the owners and operators last year, then APTO Acting Chairman Morris Lee admitted there were unruly drivers, who should be dealt with to the full extent of the law.
However, he argued then that it was wrong to treat everyone as if they were chronic offenders.
“I would admit there are some PSV operators who continue to commit the same offences over and over again. However, I don’t think an operator who only has a few charges should be dealt with in the same way,” he told Barbados TODAY at the time.
“Also, I think the nature of the offences should also be taken into consideration. Take for example if a man had previous convictions for working without his badge, or for the bus not having a spare tire or a fire extinguisher, he should not be treated the same as an unruly operator who has chalked up repeated traffic convictions.”