Eight red-band maxi taxi drivers were arrested yesterday, after police caught them without any permits allowing them to operate during the curfew hours of 9 pm to 5 am.
Spokesman Andre Dillon, 42, said it was around 4.45 am, while operating in the Arouca area along the Priority Bus Route, that the drivers were stopped and taken into custody at the Arima Police Station. But Dillion said some police officers may be confused about what is lawful at this time.
“I heard the Prime Minister say public transport workers are essential. I believe that we can operate during the curfew hours because no clear statement was made that we could not operate during curfew hours to move other essential workers. Today (yesterday), I transported two security guards, two sanitation workers and one nurse. There are people waiting on transport from very early in the morning who have essential jobs to do. The officer put them out of the maxi taxi and ordered me to follow them to the police station. Two hours after, around 7 am, the policewoman said that we will be charged. Listening to the PM’s statement, I took it that we were essential,” Dillon said.
He explained that other police officers saw him operating during curfew hours earlier in the week and he was allowed to operate as usual.
“On Monday and Tuesday, I transported other essential workers and I observed PTSC buses were on the road before 5am and police did not stop me. I am not sure if any new regulations came out. I was not given any information that taxi and maxi taxis need a permit. There are people on the side of the streets with curfew passes but no transport. Imagine a garbage truck cleaning at 8.30 am!”
Dillon said maxi taxi drivers are essential to get frontline workers to their jobs on time and to ensure the wheels of the economy and essential services keep rolling.
He is asking that this issue be clarified so that maxi taxi drivers and others in the public transportation system do not get into trouble with police.
But speaking on the CNC3 7 pm news yesterday to news anchor Ria Rambally, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said he did not know where maxi taxi drivers got such misinformation from but said they are required to have and show a curfew pass.
He said the only people exempted from presenting a pass are healthcare workers, who are allowed to show their hospital identification pass to police officers if they are out during the curfew hours.
Griffith also added that no consideration is being given to extend the curfew hours from 6 pm to 6 am, as suggested by the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA).
He said in any event, such a suggestion would have to be discussed with the National Security Council. However, he said such a move would serve as a major disruption to essential businesses like supermarkets and pharmacies.