The National Council on Public Transportation (NCOPT) has issued an invitation to more members of the public who have grievances against minibus drivers to come forward.
“Obviously I would like to see more persons come forward when they have issues,” NCOPT President, Godfrey Ferdinand, told St Lucia Times.
Ferdinand spoke against the backdrop of a viral video in which a woman asserted that she was threatened by a Gros Islet minibus driver after she and other passengers had earlier been asked by the driver of another bus to get off his vehicle that travels the same route.
The woman said the driver who issued the threat during a back and forth with her and other passengers, said he would hit her in the head with a cutlass and later threatened to drive the bus full of passengers into the sea.
NCOPT President, Godfrey Ferdinand, while making it clear that he was neither siding with the minibus drivers involved nor with members of the public, told St Lucia Times he would like to see more members of the public make reports.
But he stated that the investigative process cannot go forward if persons do not present themselves at a hearing and stand by their report.
He lamented that there is an enforcement problem in Saint Lucia with decisions being made but no one enforcing them.
“Yes, there is a disciplinary committee – there are disciplinary matters and persons are suspended for one or two days or for a week, but after that they might go back to doing the same thing,” Ferdinand explained.
“What we need is enforcement and more severe penalties,” he asserted.
According to the NCOPT President, in 20 years there has only been one revocation of a permit.
“The act makes provision for the Road Transport Board to have a disciplinary arm to deal with matters of that nature and if the board makes a recommendation for somebody’s permit to be revoked then that would send a strong message,” Ferdinand stated.
But he stressed that he was not passing judgement in the matter of the accusations made against the Gros Islet bus driver.
“There is no way that I am saying that the gentleman is at wrong because we have to investigate,” Ferdinand declared.
“Obviously he was provoked whether he handled it wrongly or not, the parties hearing it will decide,” he said.
Nevertheless, the NCOPT President asserted that whether someone is provoked or not, there is need to act professionally at all times.
The same position was taken by the Vice President of the Gros Islet Minibus Owners Association, Danny Edward, earlier this week.
Speaking on local television, Edward explained that in certain situations, drivers have a right to ask a passenger to get off a bus.
He advised drivers to be professional at all times while at the same time informing commuters that public transportation is teamwork.
“We need you guys – because that is our daily bread and you need us as well,” Edward stated.
He said minibus operators do not want to be in a fight with commuters.
NCOPT President, Godfrey Ferdinand for his part asked whether a police officer or a pilot who is provoked by a customer, can just threaten to kill the individual.
“They still have to act professionally and there might be other ways of handling it. One would be to walk away. One would be to leave the bus and say ‘unless the matter is resolved peacefully I am not moving’.” Ferdinand told St Lucia Times.
He said based on his “small investigation” the bus driver in question is one of the most disciplined operators on the Gros Islet route and not one to be involved in any issues.
“So it was a shock to the association as well as other persons,” Ferdinand explained.