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Nov 7, 2000

Taxi drivers fight eviction

Story Picture
In virtually any society, among the most colourful and expressive citizens are those who drive taxis. Belize is no exception to that rule and this morning I met a group of taxi drivers who were not only ready to talk, but were loudly crying foul.

(Taxi drivers arguing)

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

It was an accident just waiting to happen (Car speeds by and crash into another). The taxi men at the Venus taxi stand on Magazine Road were not happy. They had just received a letter from Froylan Gilharry, owner of the bus terminal, informing them that the stand had been sold to one Selvin Sutherland and that the drivers would have to vacate the area as soon as possible.

Taxi Driver

“They have to arrest me because I am not leaving. And I will be here everyday for the next ten years.”

The taxi men say Sutherland just started working in the area a month ago and they, who have been in the area from as long as thirteen years, do not like the fact that they were not even offered the option to buy the stand nor given reasonable notice to move.

Emmanuel Swazo, Taxi Driver

“Instead of Mr. Sutherland coming in this morning and say guess what happen guys, I buy the stand from Mr. Gilharry and explain himself to us, he did not do that, he brought three taxis, three of the cars he own. No kind of information was past to us before this.”

Orlando Burgess, Taxi Driver

“The people know these guys, they have been operating here for years, they have their friends, they have their families. Some of them come from the west, some from the south and some from the north, how can we just move like that?”

Tension built outside the bus terminal as the drivers refuse to move their vehicles. The police were called out to maintain control. Sutherland says he has invested in the stand and has plans of his own.

Jacqueline Woods

“As the new owner, you want them to move?”

Selvin Sutherland, Owner, Taxi Stand

“Because I have plans for the stand, that’s clearly what I’m saying. If I did not have plans for the stand, them I wouldn’t do such things.”

Jacqueline Woods

“What are your plans for the stand?”

Selvin Sutherland

“I plan to buy my cars and put them in.”

Jacqueline Woods

“So you will be the only person operating from this stand?”

Selvin Sutherland

“Well after things settle down, then maybe one or two could be considered also, but I can’t see everybody.”

Jacqueline Woods

“So you’re not willing to negotiate with these taxi men?”

Selvin Sutherland

“How could I when I wouldn’t have space for them.”

Fortunately, Assistant Inspector of Police Charles Galvez arrived on the scene and managed to calm things down. Galvez, who was informed that Gilharry was on his way to Belize City, went ahead and held a meeting to come up with a temporary solution that would be in the best interest of everyone involved.

A.I.P. Charles Galvez, Rural Executive Officer

“What I did was to get the two parties who are here now, Mr. Sutherland who is the new owner of the stand and the other taxi drivers who have been out here for quite a long time, to sit down and negotiate this thing properly, so that both sides can have some peace and happiness.”

Jacqueline Woods

“I know the letter to them stated that they must vacate the area today. Has that decision now been put on hold?”

A.I.P. Charles Galvez

“To see that peace and tranquility is maintained, I have asked Mr. Sutherland to forget that letter for the time being and let routine activities continue until there is a meeting between the three parties.”

The ten drivers were removed from their traditional stand, but at newstime were operating from a spot nearby.

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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