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Minister accused of blocking law enforcement

Taxi operator and social commentator Julio ‘Sam’ Henry in discussion with tourists

There is virtual unrest among taxi operators – one of whom has accused minister responsible for transportation Mark Vanterpool of preventing the Taxi and Livery Commission from enforcing the laws governing the industry.

As a result, “the entire industry is being run like a cowboy town,” said well-known taxi operator Julio ‘Sam’ Henry.

Henry came public with his concerns after Opposition lawmaker Julian Fraser this week urged Vanterpool to address the disorder among transport operators who are ‘fighting’ at ports of entry for visiting passengers – especially those visitors interested in charter yacht arrangements.

But Henry, in an interview with BVI News Online, said he does not expect the minister to address the issue, because the minister himself is the problem.

“Mark Vanterpool is the problem. The Taxi and Livery Commission has been tasked with enforcing the laws as on the books, and they have been faced with roadblocks and challenges from Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Communication and Works [Anthony McMaster] and the minister himself. The minister is cutting a sword with two edges… This is the first time we have had an active [Taxi and Livery Commission] board who has now started to pursue regulating the industry, but are being [allegedly] strong-armed and tied down by the Minister of Communication and Works Mark Vanterpool and others around him.”

Henry further stated that a number of livery drivers have been illegally operating. “And the Taxi and Livery Commission has had a difficult time enforcing the law because every time they sit down with the minister to get the minister’s support and backing, the minister [allegedly] telling them to turn a blind eye,” Henry claimed.

How the breach is done

He further explained that one of the major issues is that livery operators have been showing up at the ports, and transporting visitors who rightfully should be transported by independent taxi operators.

“In all ports of entry, the law clearly states, unless a person is coming to this territory pre-booked/pre-paid and have his voucher for a specific charter company, they are deemed to be independent and should be carried by an independent taxi operator.”

“When visitors come in the airport, the people who work with the charter companies go and get a list of the people who are potential guests of those establishments and represent the establishments when the establishments are not pre-paid for those customers. So that’s the fight. When those operators take those guests and they get to the establishments, they are collecting the money [from the guests] on behalf of the owners of the establishments. That is illegal. The law said those operators cannot collect fare because the visitors are supposed to be prepaid [in order for those operators representing the establishments to transport them],” Henry continued.

“We have brought it to the minister’s attention several times for almost five years now and the minister has continued to turn a blind eye.”

A Port Dispatcher, under law, should verify if visitors have proof of pre-paid arrangements with a particular taxi or livery operator. If such proof is provided in the form of a voucher, the visitor is then matched with the particular transport operator.

Law enforcers called off again

Meanwhile, Henry further told BVI News Online that, up to recently, the Taxi and Livery Commission met with transport operators, and there was a decision to again start to enforce the laws.

However, enforcement didn’t last, Henry said. “As recently as within the last month, Taxi and Livery has had meetings at the airport with the operators of the livery as well as taxi operators. Then they (Taxi and Livery Commission) stepped up their game to enforce the law. Two or three days later, they (persons enforcing the law) were pulled off [allegedly] by the same minister [responsible for transportation].”

Henry continued: “The people were [also] out there enforcing regulations on the taxi operators at the cruise pier, but in the meantime, the livery operators are violating the law. We ain’t talking about policies; we are talking about laws… If they decide tomorrow to enforce the laws as they are written on the books – because they are well written, we wouldn’t have no discussion now.”

In the meantime, BVI News Online has been trying to get a response from the minister responsible for transportation, Vanterpool. However, several calls to his phone have been going to voicemail.

Mark Vanterpool

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