For many years, successive governments have faced the challenge of PH taxis. In many communities, it is the only form of public transportation available regularly. But truth be told, many so-called “PH drivers” are criminals who use the public’s need for transportation to their detriment.
The gruesome killing of Ashanti Riley has again brought the discussion about PH drivers into the public domain since she was last seen alive entering a PH taxi.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley acknowledged there is a problem that must be dealt with. According to Dr Rowley, “there was a time in this country when you could not operate a motor vehicle for hire unless you were cleared by the state to be a person of good character and your vehicle was so marked. Every Tom, Dick and Harry is now being granted a licence to operate a vehicle and pick up people.”
This is the crux of the problem that must be dealt with. Why does it take a murder to reopen the conversation about criminals operating as PH drivers in this country? Should not the countless scenarios of robberies, rapes and murders of victims by so-called PH drivers not have necessitated the implementation of some system to weed out the criminal elements?
Many PH drivers operate in full glare of the police. They not only ply their trade illegally while bonafide taxi drivers who must pay for their badges and get their vehicles inspected annually are ticketed if they “try a thing.”
In 2010, then works and transport minister Jack Warner agreed to amend the Road Traffic and Motor Vehicles Act to address a legitimate transportation concern in some communities and to deal with the criminality involved in the PH taxi trade. The rationale back then was that due to the increase in crime, a regulatory framework for PH vehicles was a necessary step towards regulating that form of transportation.
A decade later, the country finds itself in the same position.
Ashanti’s murder is the nail in the coffin of a problem that continues unabated. The instances of crimes against women perpetrated by PH drivers are just too many to list.
The reality is that many young women working shifts and late hours have no choice sometimes but to take a PH taxi.
As a father and grandfather, PM Rowley admits to being concerned. Well, the rest of the country is hoping the pain the PM feels will bring a resolution to a problem plaguing us for years. Don’t wait until the next murder. Get the police to seriously monitor these drivers.
After Ashanti’s murder, it was reported that the PH driver was known to have previously interfered with passengers. Citizens also need to take their roles seriously. The authorities can’t be everywhere all the time. Until we become our brothers and sisters’ keepers, the scourge of crime will never be brought under control.
Let Ashanti’s murder not be in vain like so many others before her.