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May 24, 2011

Fuss about bus; who will run west and who will run north?

We reported last week on the complaints by the Belize Bus Owners’ Cooperative over new zoning being proposed by the Department of Transport that granted West Line Bus Company Limited morning runs from Belize City to Benque Viejo and returning in the afternoons to Belize City. B.B.O.C.’s President Thomas Shaw made pleas to the Minister of Transport to reconsider or for the Prime Minister to intervene, to avoid layoffs and discourage investment in these already tough economic times. After protests and meetings, the government agreed to a temporary twenty-one day delay in implementing the new zones. But it didn’t quite turn out that way and hell broke loose on Sunday at the bus terminal. Today, the B.B.O.C. reiterated its complaints about what it sees as favoritism being granted to West Line and its owner Sergio Chuc, a supporter of the government. The B.B.O.C. says that by cutting its number of lines down to eight, it will be forced to lay off workers. Following a closed door meeting this morning, the B.B.O.C. wrote to the Minister of Transport setting a deadline of Thursday at midday for action if the routes of the B.B.O.C. are not re-instated. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports about the turmoil in the industry.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

What should have been a regular day on the job for bus operators at the East Canal terminal on Sunday morning, instead erupted in chaos following a last minute decision by the Ministry of Transport to renege on a promise made to the Belizean Bus Association a day earlier.

Claude Frazer, Chairman, Belize Bus Owners Cooperative

“We came out to take out our scheduled runs as we normally do.  Even though yesterday we were informed that come this morning we would not be allowed.  We didn’t get anything in writing, all it was was a phone call from the Chief Commissioner of Transport Mr. Gareth Murillo and with that we proceeded to take out our runs and this is where it is right now.”

Thomas Shaw

Thomas Shaw, who heads the Belizean Bus Owners Association, says Minister of Transport Melvin Hulse had initially agreed that the implementation of a new Northern Zone schedule was to have taken effect after a period of three weeks.

Thomas Shaw, President, Belizean Bus Association

“We called a meeting with the minister on Friday and we came to an agreement and I think the media captured that where he stated that he’d give us twenty-one days.  And instead of the twenty-one days when my operator went into the terminal yesterday the Commissioner of Transport, Mr. Murillo, told them well “Today [yesterday, Saturday] would have been the last day because your permit has been revoked,” okay.  So that’s the situation that’s unfolding here at this moment.”

Around five a.m., law enforcement officers were called in to ensure that the abrupt change of plans be executed without incident when bus drivers decided to proceed with their runs despite the short notice.

Thomas Shaw

“My operators they still came out to take out their runs this morning but one went out but as soon as he got to the four-mile checkpoint they stopped it there.  We had other buses parked there where the officers came [and] hotwired it and moved it out of the way.  Couple of our drivers got arrested but as I said it is a democratic process and all we’re trying to do is to send a message to the minister because a situation like this is unfair.”

Claude Frazer

The problem, according to Claude Frazer, is that the minister is giving bus operator Sergio Chuc preferential treatment, allowing his company more than fifteen runs to the north.

Claude Frazer

“We have the new West Line coming in and it was obvious this morning if you guys were out here earlier this morning to see that the buses they came out here with California license plates.  They don’t even have a Belizean license plate, a green license plate, to show where your transporting commuters.”

For stakeholders the economic impact, when revenue losses and unemployment are both taken into account, will be staggering.

Claude Frazer

“It will be eighteen buses off a run which is equivalent to thirty-six workers unemployed right now and like the rumors were out this morning from some of the old bus conductors and drivers that they had felt the same thing but we had nothing to do with that. I guess he’s trying to favor some U.D.P. supporter but in favor of one U.D.P. supporter you’re crippling thirty-six employees right here who have family.  These guys they went out, they have mortgages [and] even with a couple members that didn’t have buses [they] went and stepped to the plate and purchased their buses and now they’re left with a mortgage to pay and no runs.”

And where does Melvin Hulse stand in all of this?  Well, according to Shaw the minister says he is powerless when it comes down to a final decision on the matter.

Thomas Shaw

“He told me that he is the minister but the board has the final say so I said minister I know you have the final say.  He said the board has so I said since you don’t have the [final] say then I need time to sit with my operators and sit with the board since you don’t have a say.  So we had twenty-one days for me to go back to my members then have a meeting with the Transport Board and see where we go from there.  But he just pulled back on his word.  He said one thing and he’s doing something else and I’m really, really annoyed. I’m disappointed.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

The B.B.O.C. also issued a release this afternoon upping the ante on Minister Hulse. The release states: “We have been disrespected and betrayed by our Transportation Minister, Melvin Hulse. We are calling on the Prime Minister, Dean Borrow, to intervene so we may resolve this matter. West Line should be removed from its present runs and the Belizean Bus Owners Cooperative (B.B.O.C.) should be re-instated immediately.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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10 Responses for “Fuss about bus; who will run west and who will run north?”

  1. Elgin Martinez says:

    What about thinking about the people who use these buses to get to work?

  2. Upset says:

    not only are people loosing their jobs in the bus industry, but as a commuter my job will soon be threatened for arriving late to work again, yesterday was the same thing! I was waiting for the bus at 6:15 this morning to go to Belize City, didn’t get on a bus till 8am! and a lot of people were left behind on the western highway!

  3. sassy says:

    My people u are now seeing the true UDP colors. Ww have change black dog for Monkey.

  4. Teacher says:

    What a shame on the Minister and the ministry. Minister is not a man of his word. What else will this government do to the people of Belize. Sergio Chuc already has enough, why should he be given more. He is greedy and wants more and more. It’s a shame on our country. Where is the Prime Minister and all his pretty words. What else is coming for us?

  5. suga says:

    dis Government di play………….Hulse and d Government got the fault for all of dis fuss about bus but wat they no realize yet is dat all of dis wah go against dem for d next general election and make dem memba dat only one finger put dem to govern our country and same way one finger could remove dem.

  6. suga says:

    why why why????????? d Minister of Transport and the transport department allowed Mr. Chuc’s bus to run with California License plates, on wat I saw Sunday morning at the Belize City Terminal most of the westline buses had California License plates and some neva had no license plate at all… u could see dat d Government deh with Mr. Chuc.

  7. belizeanpride says:

    i wish the bald head resing also before we enter in a civil war because of political favoritsim and opretion from this Usless Dumb Party the UDP

  8. EMS says:

    Melvin Hulse appears to be one of the JOKERs in the deck, I grew up with Hulse in the fifites and sixties. He has not change any after all these years. How did he get to be a Minister? he is the flip side of Boots.

  9. unbiased says:

    we should all boycott westline and support BBOC Sergio Chuc owns 2 gas stations in San Ignacio other people want to eat as well greedy greedy sergio chuc

  10. Elgin Martinez says:

    When are we going to start treating every Belizean Citizen equal and not based on political affiliations?This $#!$ needs to stop.

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