February 5, 2010
Striking minivans get clamped in bus terminal

Head of the newly formed ‘St. Vincent and the Grenadines Mini Bus Alliance’ Anthony Bacchus claims that protest action by minibus operators here last Friday was successful, despite a poor turnout by drivers.{{more}}

Bacchus, speaking to SEARCHLIGHT on Monday, said that more drivers had attended the meeting where the decision was made to strike than who actually took action.

“It seems they were afraid (to protest). We had the whole Windward side on lock, but the Leeward side was poor.”

Bacchus indicated that the decision to strike was taken after officers from the traffic branch of the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force had pulled a number of minivans off the streets for violations relating to tyres and rims.

According to Bacchus, a High Court hearing, which was brought against the police traffic department by the Alliance, will determine whether the police had acted in accordance with the Law, when they apprehended the vehicles.

On Friday January 29, the striking drivers staged a ‘park in’ at Little Tokyo bus terminal to show their displeasure at what they considered police harassment.

The protesting drivers parked their vehicles in the area that is reserved for the dropping off and picking up passengers.

This act brought out officers of the police traffic department, who clamped at least three minivans involved in the protest.

“I have no problems with them taking strike action,” reported Station Sergeant Calvin Glasgow of the traffic department.

“Our problem is that they are taking up the space of drivers who are working.”

“If they are striking they should park somewhere else or stay home,” Glasgow asserted.

A number of heated confrontations and verbal exchanges between police, drivers and some onlookers resulted in two persons being arrested.

After tempers cooled, the police and drivers came to an agreement that the vehicles would be unclamped without fines being imposed, as long as the drivers removed them from the area.

The arrested men were released with a warning.

Sergeant Junior Nero, also of the traffic department, said on Monday that the increased vigilance goes beyond illegal tyres and rims on vehicles, but also a wanton disregard for safety and traffic laws by some drivers.

“Especially with the vans in the Calliaqua area. Sometimes we pull them over and there 25 persons in an eighteen-seater van!”

Nero claims at times there are up to eight persons (girls sitting in the laps of boys) in the third and fourth seats each.

“Sometimes, they disobey the No Entry sign at Sally Spring, and make illegal u-turns when they get to Peace Mo,” Nero asserted.

Feedback from some persons who were at the bus terminal during the melée on Friday indicates that while persons appreciated the drivers’ right to protest, they were in favour of police action against drivers who were parked in the drop off/ pick up area.

One mini bus operator who was on duty claimed that he had not been ‘harassed’ by the police, mainly because he obeys the law.

“Me ha bills to pay. Me na ha time to strike,” he claimed, as he filled his van with passengers and drove off.

Both sides are awaiting the High Court’s ruling, before taking further steps.