Belize Bus Assoc. wants the Transport Board Chair gone in 72 hours
Challenges remain in the public transportation industry and this morning, representatives of the Belize Bus Association hosted a press briefing in Belize City to air out some of those issues. One of them is what the association has described as Floralia’s disadvantageous insertion into the bus industry. They argue that Floralia’s preferential treatment are putting their members’ livelihoods in peril. The BBA says they are growing visibly frustrated with the situation with its members losing runs and the underhanded politicking. President Thomas Shaw, who sits on the Transport Board, spoke about this.
Thomas Shaw, President, Belizean Bus Association: “I was told at the board tell your operators if they want to hold their permit mek them stay away from politics. I was told if you stop fight for the operators you will have more. And I’m not telling a lie. When I actually got appointed to the board and even as the president of the Belize Bus Association I didn’t hold a bible in my hand and make an oath like some of them out there it’s just that I have integrity and I’m not going to sit at a board in front of members and say yes, yes, yes for everything. Whenever I go into meetings I wear three caps, a bus operator, a representative or the operators and also a member of the transport board and the way how the transport board is set up it has to be people who have knowledge about the industry. We cannot just go in there and be biased and say “Oh yes yes give this one.” I was told that man will lose his run because it’s him that made that village go red. Now for me I think that’s the man’s fundamental right and everybody’s right and this goes for PUP and UDP. I am not a political person. I’m for the people and I’m not campaigning but I think it’s a downright right. I’m calling upon the Prime Minister to intervene and let the chips fall where they may.”
The association today called for the removal of the chairman of the Transport Board. The association’s secretary Ewart Metzgen outlined their position in this regard.
Ewart Metzgen, Secretary, Belizean Bus Association: “My take is we have two things we’re demanding of the Department of Transport and the Minister. First and foremost is the removal of the chairman of the transport board within 72 hours. Secondly for the National Bank of Belize who is willing to work with the BBA and bus operators countrywide one of the things – they already have an MOU signed with the Department of Transport for that effect but what the bank wanted from the department was a seat on the transport board in order to protect the investment needed to give to operators and to protect that the bank will be able to get back its money. It’s the people’s money. It’s the people who deposit, businesses and private individuals who deposit their money in the national bank that is the money we’ll be getting. So we’re also demanding that the National Bank gets a seat on the transport board when this transport board is reformed. This will also give the security to bus operators and it will also give the other banking and lending institutions in this country peace of mind knowing that there is someone from the banking industry that sits on that board to protect the investments being made by our local banks. So those are two demands we’re asking for. If the minister and the department truly want to see the upgrades they want and they’re telling us we need 50% of our fleets to be upgraded by December the BBA has all the major operators under our umbrella. With all of us you’re looking at over two hundred buses of that over two hundred buses we need to have 50% which is about a hundred or so buses by December this year up to their standards and there is no way in hell for the larger operators to do that without having the lending institutions at our side.”
Metzgen says that the chairman is one of the main causes of the problems in the industry today. But he was asked if the chairman is not removed, then what’s next? The BBA secretary says they may have to turn up the ante on the authorities. Here’s how he put it.
Ewart Metzgen, Secretary, Belizean Bus Association: “He’s part and parcel of the problem. He’s the mastermind behind this Floralia issue. He went to find them and he took them, he said it with his own mouth. He is part and parcel of the problem along with other members in the department of transport so we’d also like for them to do an internal investigation and find out what took place with these last two permits that were issued premeditatedly because Mr.Ritchie got his letter the 12th, the gazetted the runs the 10th before Mr.Ritchie even got his letter saying they’re taking him off the road. No application to the road service permit went to the transport board for any of these runs I personally called the CEO and asked him alright you’re taking Ritchie off the road you just had board meeting no application form went to the transport board for approval for any operator to do the runs for Ritchie who will do it ?” He said well Floralia but we’ll give them a TP which is a temporary permit. Now the temporary permits are designed for existing permits that have expired for operators that are already running when you go and reapply to renew your passport they give you a temporary permit to run out there so if transport or police stop you you have something to show that yes you’re authorized to do this run until the department prints off your certificate and whatever and gives you your proper permit that is what the TP is for not for new runs. Because when you give a man a temporary permit you can’t stop him from running again because you already gave that man that run already. And that man he is part of the problem there.”
Reporter: What happens after the 72 hours ?
Ewart Metzgen, Secretary, Belizean Bus Association: “We will dance. We will dance. No doubt about that we will dance.”
Reporter: Are you anticipating something similar to the previous bus strikes that have happened ?
Ewart Metzgen, Secretary, Belizean Bus Association: “It will be on steroids.”