Road Traffic Act stalled again
The decision of the Senate to delay passage of the new road traffic legislation amid concerns raised by public transportation operators is a sign of Jamaica's maturing democracy, Government Senator Ruel Reid has asserted.
The Road Traffic Act 2018 was passed in the House of Representatives last week with six proposed changes, one of which has drawn criticism from the lobby groups that represent bus and taxi operators.
The bill, which creates new offences such as driving with a cell phone and other communi-cation devices and provides stiffer fines for existing offences, was scheduled to be debated then put to a vote in the Senate yesterday.
But early in the sitting, Reid, who acted as leader of government business, indicated that the proposed legislation would be considered at a "later date".
He explained that the delay was to allow for public education and consultation on the new amendments approved by his counterparts in the Lower House.
Outside the Senate, Reid explained that the Government wanted time to listen to the concerns of the public transportation operators and to provide clarification.
"This is a great opportunity for the maturing of our democracy, where stakeholders feel that the Government will listen to them if they have genuine concerns," he told The Gleaner. "We are not in a dictatorship, we are in a democracy, and so we will value our important stakeholders."
Louis Barton, president of the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators, explained that his group took issue with the section of the law that requires owners to pay for traffic offences committed by their drivers.
Barton, who was in the Senate when it was announced that the vote on the bill would be postponed, described the new clause as "totally unfair".
"We can understand and would support the owners being able to identify who the driver is that run through the red light or whatever misdeed it is, but to have the owner pay for it is unjust and is another way of digging into our pockets," he complained.
Reid said that the proposed legislation could be put to a vote next Friday.