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FBOA: Stop Illegal Operators Quickly

The issue of illegal operators was a hot topic of discussion at the Fiji Bus Operators Association annual convention yesterday at Novotel Suva Lami Bay. It was an event that
21 May 2017 08:50
FBOA: Stop Illegal  Operators Quickly
Fiji Bus Operators Association representatives and officials with the Acting Prime Minister, Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum at Novotel Suva Lami Bay on May 20, 2017. Photo: Losirene Lacanivalu

The issue of illegal operators was a hot topic of discussion at the Fiji Bus Operators Association annual convention yesterday at Novotel Suva Lami Bay.

It was an event that gave bus operators a chance to go over the underlying issues faced by the industry.

A range of topics like the shortage of bus drivers, no national timetable, e-ticketing, availability of finance, to name a few, were discussed.

A question on why the issue of illegal operations in the country was not discussed during the first session of the presentations.

It was posed by a member of the audience to the Land Transport Authority chief executive officer Carmine Piantedosi, Fiji Police director of traffic SSP Mahesh Mishra and Fiji Roads Authority Aram Goes.

“My first thought is: Why is there a market illegal operation? Has anyone looked at that and why is there a market for it?” asked Mr Piantedosi.

The topic of enforcement can be discussed but there is not a large number of enforcement officers from the LTA, he said.

Other members of the audience replied saying that there is no need to answer that question as the request from the legal bus operators is to ensure that LTA and Fiji Police Force are doing their best to stop the illegal operations of the unlicensed operators.

Mr Piantedosi replied posing another question as to why the fare-paying customers are using the illegal operators’ services?

FBOA president and Opposition Member of Parliament Parmond Chand said: “There are too many illegal operators going to the bus bay or busstands picking passengers who can offer faster services.

“There is nothing being done. Police and LTA are unable to address the situation properly.

“What we are saying is for them to do something such as to book them and give tickets but if we start asking questions like why are they travelling in them, then this should be no excuse because if they do something that is illegal there.

“So the rule of law still applies and must prevail.”

Fiji Police Director of Traffic Mahesh Mishra said the LTA has been suspending and cancelling the driver’s license and registration of the vehicle of illegal operators.

“It is not an easy process. There are a lot of evidences required. Fiji Police is doing all its best to pursue these people to court but when it goes to court, the belief that every person is innocent until proven guilty is followed.

“When we do not have any witnesses that they are paying particular fees to the particular driver for those service then we cannot prove the offence. That is something we need to understand.

“Also the Police Force is doing all its best. We have submitted a list to LTA and they have suspended and deregistered their vehicles but they are coming back and taking us to the civil court.

“Fiji Police and LTA paid $40,000 in Lautoka High Court for suspending an illegal operator this is because of the process of collecting evidence. We need the stakeholders report and support to make sure we can address this issue.”

As for the traffic congestion issues, Mr Mishra said there are more than 300 police officers working every day around the country during peak hours.

“The vehicle population has increased and the road is still the same. The size of the bus stop is still the same,” said Mr Mishra.

A participant who did not want to be named said outside of the meeting: “It is crazy to get through the early hours of the morning during peak hour, it is crazy to get from one point to the other. It never used to be like that before.

“This illegal operations are operating their business parallel to the buses.”

The Convention concluded with its 2017 election.

The newly-elected president of FBOA is Richard Lal while Nishar Ali Shah is Vice President.

Feedback:  monica.aguilar@fijisun.com.fj



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