by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 8 October 2006)
I just bet that if Jagdeo and his administration were forced to use the mini buses in Guyana, like many of the citizens of the nation must do, they would find a way to exact a safer performance from these drivers.
Can you imagine Smart and Sharp Robert Persaud, the new Minister of Agriculture, riding in one of the nation’s out-of-control mini buses to get to an appointment in the interior, holding on for dear life as the bus races down the street and zigzags to dodge pedestrians?
How about the new Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Poised and Proper Priya? Would she still look crisp and polished after being tossed about during her morning ride to work? What would her frame of mind be when she (hopefully) arrived at her office after listening to blaring music during her entire trip and maybe even watching some very sensual behaviour along the way?
Even better, let’s make Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, ride the mini bus system for a week and see if after that week he is still willing to allow the criminally reckless behaviour of these drivers to continue.
It really does seem as if a person is risking his or her very life just to get from point A to point B. Safety does not appear to be a priority with these drivers, or at least loud music and speed seem to take precedence over the safe delivery of their passengers.
On one of my trips to Guyana, I rode from the airport to Georgetown with a mini bus diver and even if we took the cows and construction out of the equation, the speeding and swerving were enough to make me beg the driver to maintain a more tranquil mode of driving. I was never so happy to get out of a vehicle in my life.
The fear I felt during that drive was obvious to my relatives, which is why my heart goes out to anyone who must deal with this frenzied driving on a daily basis. It is simply unnecessary and risks the safety of the passengers for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
I have read countless letters to the editor and news articles on this subject, yet people continue to die and the problem persists. I cannot help but wonder if these drivers are provided with some form of specialised training, or at least required to obtain a chauffeur license, since they are responsible for the lives of so many people on a daily basis.
There are so many small gestures the Jagdeo administration could make that would go a long way toward improving the quality of life for the people of Guyana. It is not as if it would cost the government a fortune to fix the chaos created by the nation’s mini bus system. In fact, if tickets were generously dispersed to these manic drivers, things might start to calm down quite quickly.
For the more brazen of these drivers, those who just do not give a damn about the people on the bus, the pedestrians on the streets or the other cars on the road, I think some jail time and hefty fines are in order. Surely some suitable drivers can be found to transport the people of Guyana in a safe manner and in an innocuous environment.
Like I said, small gestures would go a long way to fix this situation. The real problem is how to get the Jagdeo administration to take this issue seriously enough to take action. This is why I suggest a new mandate that requires the President and his cabinet to ride the mini bus system for at least one week a year.
I know it is naïve of me to make the next suggestion, but blame it on my ever-present desire to believe the best of people. It would be nice to see someone from the Jagdeo administration volunteer to use nothing but a mini bus for transportation for an entire week.
By riding a mini bus for a week, that government official would have a chance to interact with the people and get a firsthand taste of the fear and frustration with which the people of Guyana must live just to get around the country. But I won’t hold my breath for volunteers - that would be expecting too much from this administration.
Meanwhile, bus drivers continue to kill people with their criminal recklessness and the administration wastes its time and resources arresting those very lethal and dangerous strippers.