By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Furious taxi drivers yesterday slammed the Road Traffic Department (RTD) for shutting down efforts to resume business at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) following the restart of inter-island domestic travel.
Wesley Ferguson, the Bahamas Taxi Cab Union’s (BTCU) president, told Tribune Business: “Things are not going good. I’m just trying to reach back out to the minister (Renward Wells, minister with responsibility for transport) right now.
“On Monday, the Road Traffic Department came, even though they were very visibly absent in all of the meetings that we had to put strategies in place with the major stakeholders to re-open the economy so taxi drivers could start working. [They have] this issue with the emergency order, where taxi drivers were told Monday they were not a part of the emergency order and that the emergency orders only went out to private citizens.”
“So I called the minister in front of the road traffic supervisors, and he reiterated to them that the emergency orders include taxi drivers. Because they felt like they lost that round, they went back to the office now to say the emergency order includes you but you can’t work under the emergency orders. You can ride around and do your own personal business. So they disregarded what Mr Wells said in front of me to them.”
Mr Ferguson said he was uncertain as to the legal basis the Road Traffic Department has for its actions. “Because the emergency orders did not spell out any fine details, they went back and found another route around stopping taxi drivers from working,” he argued.
“They took another route and decided that taxi drivers can ride around and can be on the road, but taxi drivers can’t work and they can’t apply for hire. So they interpreted the emergency order to suit their purpose so they can stop taxi drivers from working after we have been shut down for so long.
“On Monday they allowed the taxi drivers to work, because I got the minister on the phone and the minister was able to clear it up in front of them,” Mr Ferguson added, “but it was not clear enough with them so they went back Monday evening or early yesterday morning to strategise. Now they are interpreting the emergency orders to say that taxi drivers cannot work.”
Mr Ferguson said drivers were warned they would receive a traffic ticket if they were found working or on the road without permission. He added that he yesterday asked drivers to return home until the situation was clarified, saying: “I’m going to shut this thing down, because the minister is not clear enough or is not instructing the Road Traffic Department on what are the fine prints in the emergency order.”
The taxi union chief blasted Bradley Sands, the Road Traffic Department’s controller, for “orchestrating” the situation and accused the official of “ducking” him. Tribune Business calls to Mr Sands, both at the Road Traffic Department and on his cell phone, were not answered or replied to by press time.
Mr Wells yesterday told assembled media outside the Cabinet Office that he had to seek instruction from his ministerial colleagues on how to respond to the issues involving the taxi drivers.