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Maxi-taxi operators slam new plan

By NEWSDAY REPORTER Monday, January 10 2011

click on pic to zoom in
EMPTY: The City Gate transportation hub at South Quay, Port-of-Spain, was devoid of the usual rush for transportation last week Wednesday when Maxi-ta...
EMPTY: The City Gate transportation hub at South Quay, Port-of-Spain, was devoid of the usual rush for transportation last week Wednesday when Maxi-ta...

“Disappointing” and “vindictive” are the words being used by president of the Route Three (Green-band) Maxi Taxi Association Kelvin Pierre, to describe a plan by Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner, to introduce a new City Gate tax for maxi taxis.

On Saturday, while on a tour of roads and drains in Arima and Arouca, Warner told reporters the $1 fee drivers had paid from 2001 until December 2010, was a nominal one, used to help maintain the parking area, while the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) covered the cost of security, lighting and a cleaning crew.

Maxi-taxi owners and operators, represented by attorney Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, S.C., took Government to court over the $1 fee and won.

In December, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ordered Government to stop collecting the fee and ordered it to pay a $50 million refund for the nine years the $1 fee was collected.

Speaking to Newsday yesterday, Pierre said the possibility of a new tax was “really disappointing.”

“Mr Warner needs to review the original plan, under which the maxi-taxi operators and owners agreed to take care of the hub themselves, and Route Three would contribute. He should give maxi-taxis the opportunity to run their own affairs, be entrepreneurs, instead of looking to introduce a new tax.”

Pierre accused the minister of vindictiveness, following last Wednesday’s strike by maxis and taxis to highlight their opposition to Warner’s plan, recently approved by Cabinet, to legalise Private Hire (PH) drivers.

“It seems Mr Warner is about vindictiveness. He is deliberately implementing this sinister plan to phase out maxis. He is not creating a healthy atmosphere by legalising PH drivers to compete with maxis and taxis on the roads, but we are not going to let him succeed with this,” Pierre declared.

On the issue of the January 5 maxi and taxi strike, mainly along Trinidad’s east-west corridor, Pierre told Newsday the “blatant activity of illegal PH drivers was the birth of lawlessness. Here you have the Minister of Works and Transport inciting a free-for-all situation on the nation’s roads and we (maxi men) are saying that in any society where this is allowed, chaos and anarchy soon follow.”

The Route Three president reiterated the position of all six maxi-taxi associations on the PH issue. “We have no problem with more maxis and taxis serving the public, just with PH drivers’ efforts to circumvent existing laws to do so. If we need to review the law, do so but let us all operate under one umbrella. The H umbrella,” Pierre stated.

Route Two (Red-band) Maxi Taxi Association president Linus Phillip could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, head of the Route One (Yellow-band) Maxi-taxi Association, Eon Hewitt, has called on Warner to consult the relevant people before making such announcements.

Although Route One has its own hub, separate from City Gate, Hewitt told Newsday “Mr Warner is missing the point. He is consulting the public but not maxi men. Why? Mr Warner seems to be looking for a confrontation,” Hewitt said.

The lawyer who represented the drivers who took Government to court over the City Gate $1 fee has also spoken out about Warner’s plan.

Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, told Newsday he needed to know whether the proposed new tax was Warner’s idea or a Government decision.

“I need to know this before I am able to make a (more detailed) statement. However, if it is a Government decision, maxi men would have to consider what steps need to be taken in respect of it.

“The PTSC cannot serve the entire commuting public, only about 25 percent of them. Therefore Government would have to work with maxi-taxi owners, co-operate with maxi men, to provide proper public transportation,” Maharaj stated. Newsday understands the heads of the five maxi-taxi associations in Trinidad, routes one, two, three, four and five, all plan to meet today to discuss the proposed tax.

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