HAPPY MASHRAMANI and Congratulations to the Good Mini Bus Operators–by Francis Quamina Farrier

Commentary: Guyana’s Mini Bus Operations

Mashramani Parade

Let me begin this feature Article by extending to you and yours, HAPPY MASHRAMANI, and hoping that the 49th Republic Anniversary of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana was a positive, happy and memorable one for you.

The hope, as well, is that MASHRAMANI will always be a grand celebration here in Guyana, and will never be de-emphasised or stymied by any other non-Guyanese event. MASH “Is We Own” and as patriotic Guyanese, we must do everything we can to “BIG Up” we MASH with pride and dignity as we sing along with Rudy Grant, “MASH in GUYANA”.

Georgetown- Parika Mini Bus

At this time, I’ve chosen to write this article which I consider to be of grave importance to the day-to-day running of our Beautiful Guyana at this time of our history; the mini bus operations. 

The horse and buggy is no longer a means of transportation here in Guyana. The once popular Tram-cars which operated from Peterts Hall to the Sea Walls and around some of the streets of Georgetown, have all gone. Trains which operated from Georgetown to Rosignol and from Vreed-en-Hoop to Parika, as well as Passenger trains from MacKenzie to Ituni, have all gone; so, too, the trains which operated between Port Kaituma and Matthew’s Ridge – all gone, even though British Guiana (Guyana) was the first country in South America to have had trains.

The big wooden buses which operated all across the coastline of Guyana from Charity to Corriverton, all of the past, are gone. It is now the mini-bus era for the majority of day-to-day commuters here in Guyana. Just close your eyes and consider that for the rest of this week ALL mini-buses are off the roads. Frightening, isn’t it? Imagine the resulting situation at Private and Public Offices without staff. Consider Schools without teachers or students. Consider the total SHUT-DOWN of the country – because all the mini buses have stayed at home.

Well, ironically, it is also frightening to close your eyes and imagine another week of the mini-bus madness on our streets and roads.  Our mini bus service is easily the worst in Caricom. It is something we have been lamenting for a long time, but the service is only getting from bad to worse. Many people are maimed in crashes. Many are also killed. That is so because of the many mini-bus crashes which were avoidable. More recently, a fleet of “David G” mini-buses have been put into service for students to get to and from school comfortably and safely.

However, one has to admit that there are some really great Mini Bus operators who give their passengers comfortable and professional service, and that must be recognized. As an example, I refer to the Bell Twin Brothers who operate in one of the Georgetown routes. About twelve years ago, I chartered their service for two weeks to take around a group of Professors and students from the Indiana University in the USA, who were in Guyana on a work study tour which took them to Bartica, the Corentyne Coast, including a visit to Babu John at Port Mourant, and also to Linden. The service by the Bell Twin Brothers mini-bus service was so warm and professional, that well over a decade later, two of the professors who are still in touch with me, always ask that I give the Bell Brothers their regards.

There is another case which greatly impressed me. I was travelling in a mini-bus from Georgetown to Timehri. The driver took three cell phone calls during the 25 mile journey; and every time his phone rang, he pulled off to the curb, asking his passengers for their understanding. His time on the phone was always less than thirty seconds, and off we went again. I was so impressed by the professionalism of that mini-bus operator and his respect for his passengers, that I wrote a letter to the Traffic Chief about my wonderful experience. YES, there are those mini-bus operators who do give great service and I wonder why it is that their quality of service is not officially recognized; is it that in Guyana today, we are concerned and consumed mainly with those who create confusion and mayhem in the society, and not about those who keep the Golden Arrowhead flying high? Is it that we care little or nothing about our day-to-day heroes and heroines? Those who bring us samples of “The Good Life” by the little wonderful things they do for others?

The stories of the many horrific experiences by passengers of mini buses, and other road users are well known. There was the case a few years back of an elderly passenger in a mini-bus who was so roughed-up by the conductor, that the poor gentleman collapsed and died shortly after. A more recent case was that of an elderly female, who had hardly gotten off the bus, when the driver drove off resulting in severe damage to the lady’s arm. When asked why she did not report the incident to the Police, the victim responded,”Well, because it would be a waste of time” Later, I asked myself how it is that victims of Mini-Bus violence accept their pain and suffering without recourse to “Service and Protection” by the Guyana Police Force? There have been cases when mini-bus operators have attached Police ranks who were executing their duties of law enforcement.

This feature has the background of my long observances of mini bus operations all over Guyana as well as in many countries in Caricom, including Suriname, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Trinidad and Belize. I have also gained experience with mini bus operations in Ghana. As such, I can be classified as an “International Mini Bus Connoisseur”. The majority of Guyanese mini bus passengers would like to see a vast improvement in the operations. The average commuter needs to enjoy THE GOOD LIFE having PAID for the service of the mini bus. The hope is that by MASHRAMANI 2020, there will be a quantum leap into a much better mini bus service in this The Cooperative Republic of Guyana. PAYING passengers deserve a much better service. Once again, HAPPY MASHRAMANI.

A mini bus in Ghana in which I had a safe and comfortable four hour journey from Tachiman to Tamale, hundreds of miles from the Capital, ACCRA. I took this photo during a rest stop at Nyawrupe, for the driver and passengers. (FQF)

A mini bus on Croal Street near Vlissengen Road in Georgetown. Speeding along Homestretch Avenue is normal for the Routes #41 and #48 mini buses. Deadly Crashes on Homestretch Avenue have resulted in the loss of many lives over the years. (Photo by F.Q. Farrier)

One of the “David G” School Buses which are in service and transport students to and from school safely and comfortably. (Photo by F.Q. Farrier)

This is the Mini Bus Park under the Stabroek Market Tower in Georgetown. It is where the worst of behavour occurs daily; fights included. (Photo by F.Q. Farrier)

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Comments

  • Jasmine  On 02/22/2019 at 9:02 am

    Nothing will change unless the Police step up and do their job. Charges and stiff penalties, i.e. impounding the vehicle, need to be administered.

  • guyaneseonline  On 02/22/2019 at 10:44 am

    The minibus code of conduct
    Feb 21, 2019 Editorial – Kaieteur News

    Now there is a minibus code of conduct. The people responsible for this development are due a word of praise and a round of applause for their thinking and actions to get to this point. It represents a long overdue and much-needed start; a new and positive one that should benefit travellers and all road users.
    News coverage of the code of conduct makes for a good read and good listening. Hope flows. This is good news all around, and with more in the report that noted some drivers have already exhibited their support through donning the recommended uniform. So far, so good.

    Already some of the areas outlined in the newly unveiled code of conduct identify those matters of the most serious concern to road users. There is something speaking to quality of commute: loud and offensive music, vulgar language, and harassment in any form. The elderly, the challenged, the differently oriented, and the younger ladies should be pleased, and especially as it relates to that aspect about harassment. Too much of that, and too frequently has become the norm, almost a culture by itself. Seems like it could be a road of respect, courtesy, professionalism, and safety.

    There is something about safety, as no code of conduct for drivers would be complete or worth its salt without input and standards in this area. There is provision for addressing safety concerns with a focus on such sensitive things as overloading and speeding. These should offer some relief for the weak of heart and weak of spirit, who are compelled to submit to what has become the order of the day and the dangerous roadway.

    Speeding alone covers a whole lot of territory: overtaking, pedestrian crossings, traffic light infractions, and the vulnerable and slower in the way and usually ignored. This is all good news and should bring some warming relief to disgusted and imperiled passengers, pedestrians, and all those other persons who form a significant segment of the national transportation network and statistics.

    The sensible and conservative, the fearful and reserved, most likely welcome these developments and now sit back and wait to observe how matters will unfold in the weeks and months ahead. In other words, how much of a difference this very commendable code of conduct will make, and the response from the travelling public. The code looks good on paper, and is appealing to the ear and heart. The issues will be with implementation, reception, and consistency. The follow-through efforts to make things happen through change.

    As is well known by now to most citizens, this country does have a large library of praiseworthy policies and procedures that address many needs in many areas of endeavour. For the most part, there has been little material issue with good intentions and what is finalized on paper. On the other hand, there always seems to be gaps, stumbles and, to some not inconsiderable extent, failures by way of commitment and determination to implement and enforce all the way to the end.

    The challenge, also very familiar to watchful citizens, is to power past vested interests, settled ways of conducting self and doing business, and the associated resistances of a society long accustomed to having its own way and to hell with everyone else, be it government or individual. Too many times, relationships and friendships intrude negatively on what begins as the positive and possible, what is missing and what is constructive. The will must be there to overcome the anticipated holdouts and violators that are sure to follow.

    This minibus code of conduct is constructive and calls for continuous oversight and enhancing, as more is learned and adjustments have to be made. The code should be welcomed, if only for attempting to introduce some sanity into daily life. Now it must come alive, so that all can drive. And also walk, and can get from here to there (wherever that may be) safely.

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