“We want back our spot,” – displaced WBD hire car drivers
Hire car drivers at the Vreed-en-Hoop Junction who ply the West Bank Demerara route were given the shock of their lives on Friday last after a “No Stopping” sign was painted along the area where they would usually park. This has now led to the drivers calling for the intervention of the relevant authorities since they are maintaining that the sign was illegally extended to cover their area at the request of a popular businessman.
According to them, the businessman would have acquired a property in the vicinity of their parking area and ever since, he has been abusive towards them. They related that he continuously threatened to have the sign painted there. The drivers said that they paid him no mind and went on plying their trade but on Friday they were quite surprised when they saw persons repainting the previous “No Stopping” sign as well as extending it.
Guyana’s traffic regulations dictate that vehicles are not allowed to stop within 30ft of a corner or junction but the drivers are contending that the sign exceeds the stipulated 30ft.
Lakeram (only name given) said he has been plying the West Bank Demerara route for over 25 years now and this is the first time he has experienced such an issue. He noted that their livelihoods are now being affected and most of the drivers out there are working and paying for their vehicles.
“We begging that the relevant authority to give us our spot back so that we can park and we can support our family and transport the people smoothly. Them just come here and put this sign and didn’t tell anybody anything and that is not fair. Them need to tell us and find somewhere for we to go because this is not good enough for we,” he said.
Meanwhile, Keon James questioned whether it is only the business folks that matter in society.
“We does pay our taxes too and we deserve to get our spot to work because we are here and are not bothering anybody. This spot here [at the Junction] is where all the passengers come. They does come from all over the West Coast, from Essequibo, from the islands and even people does come over with the speedboats from town. They do their shopping and come here to get a car to go on the West Bank. It is ridiculous now that we don’t have a place to go,” James said.
The driver said he has been on the road for over five years and is calling for the return of their spot. He lauded the system the drivers have developed over the years and noted that it is now being threatened by them being displaced.
Another driver, Jason, said he is now worried about the future of his family. He noted that a little over two years ago, he lost his job at the Wales Estate and resorted to driving a car because of the lack of employment opportunities.
“I am driving hire car for about 9 years now but is only two years now since I doing this full time. I start because the estate close down and now they want take this away too. The supermarket man already tell us that he is going to put this sign here and we want to know if he is bigger than the law because he can do what he want,” he said.
“I come here to make my daily bread. We can’t go and thief if that is what they want we do. We have to come here and get we daily bread and we got we family to take care of. Man I don’t know what they want we do now because it nah got space for we up the stelling there,” Jason added.
There is a designated parking spot for hire car drivers close to the Vreed-en-Hoop Stelling, however, the spots are used by private vehicles who have the blessings of Police Officers. When the hire car drivers complain to the officers, they are told to “come early and hold yuh spot”.
The drivers are also calling on the Traffic Chief and the other parties to meet with them to discuss the issue. The drivers are now contemplating their next move since there is nowhere for them and the No Stopping sign means more fuel for the vehicles and very little money to take home.
When contacted, Traffic Chief Linden Isles related that he is not aware of the situation and calls to Divisional Commander, Edmond Cooper’s phone went unanswered.