Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 19th 2017 Contents A14 news
guardian.co.tt Thursday, January 19, 2017
Worldwide online transportation
network company, Uber, is offering a ser-
vice that collides with the country's laws, says
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.
Speaking with the reporters at the opening of
Movie Towne South cineplex at C3 Centre in San
Fernando on Monday hours after Uber was official-
ly launched here, Al-Rawi said for the service to be
used locally it would require legislative amendment.
"The law in T&T is that cars that are for hire
has to be registered as cars for hire, just to put it in
the most simple terms possible. Uber as I heard it
being reported is saying that they host a platform
for the technology to operate an independent
The Ministry of Works and Transport is
reviewing the position."
"On one hand there is quite a very in-
teresting progressive step of the registra-
tion exercise of the vetting of the security
which is a step beyond T&T's PH driv-
ing system. On the other hand there is
collision with the existing laws in T&T
where cars for hire have to be registered
"It is certainly worth looking at
where the balancing act should result
in legislative consideration and that is
certainly something we will be looking
at right now. So to summarise it, there is
no position other than the existing law, cars
for hire need to be registered.
There are progressive and legitimate
aims for services like Uber and that would re-
quire legislative amendment and treatment. Al-Ra-
wi said insurance is something that also needs to
be factored. Asked about security when using the
service, he said there is nothing except decency as
a first round of protection. "The T&T police ser-
vice has a significant role and in the role out of
traffic wardens and certainly with municipal
police 1,200 of them to come on stream, the
idea is have a more efficient police service
which is why the manpower audit is afoot
right now so that you know how you will
be deploying the existing resources that
He said throwing more money or
more legislation isn't necessarily the
"In T&T we have spent close to
$21 billion on the T&TPS over the last
ten years and that 's manage appro-
priately 6000 police officers, includ-
ing SRPs, that is a lot of money. We
have had a host of legislative amend-
However, he said what really drives
a better product is management and
ensuring accountability of those who
are paid to do what they ought to
do. Al-Rawi said very soon there will
be some very important and sweeping
amendments on the motor vehicle legisla-
tion, including red light traffic enforcement,
fixed penalty offences, the ability to pay fines
online and how to collect revenue, manage it and
monitor traffic moving from one place to anoth-
er. Pointing out that most crimes as committed with
cars, he said that has to be dealt with as an integral
part of anti-crime manoeuvres.
Former works and transport minister, Jack
Warner, who in 2011 promised to fast-track
plans to take the contentious issue of legalis-
ing PH drivers to Parliament, is in support of
Uber--- the worldwide online transportation
network which was officially launched in
T&T on Monday.
But while Warner said the initiative was a
good one and would help commuters who are
faced with transport woes get to their desti-
nations safely, two taxi drivers association are
against the service, which allows users to get
transportation using an app.
Warner's views come three days after the Min-
istry of Works and Transport issued a press release
expressing concerns about the legality of Uber's
operations within T&T's jurisdiction.
A major concern the ministry raised was wheth-
er privately owned vehicles would be used for hire.
Weighing in on the controversial issue, Warner
recalled that when he vowed to fast-track plans
to legalise PH drivers to Parliament six years
ago, various associations representing taxi
drivers across the country "kicked up a fuss
and came up with all the negatives of having
PH drivers, including to say that PH drivers
While adamant that this was the way to go,
Warner said the People's Partnership buckled
under pressure and "backed down."
Thereafter, Warner said everything fell flat.
Had he remained as transport minister, Warner
said he would have pushed at all cost to have PH
drivers operate legitimately.
"There are places and areas in this country and times
of the day and night where regular taxis would not go. It
leaves people stranded and abandoned."
He said this compromised people's safety.
Questioned if he was in support of Uber, Warner said
it was a good initiative.
Warner saidalthough he had not reviewed all the checks
and balances with Uber, the service looked good to him
and created "legitimacy relative to the use of PH
drivers. Once the drivers' character and background
are properly checked, I don't see any problem."
Warner said Uber would also provide jobs for
"a lot of guys who have private cars are in serious
need of an income."
He said he felt the Government should con-
sider legalising PH drivers.
"We should do that seriously. At the end
of the day, this country is grinding to a halt
in terms of a traffic problem."
However, president of the San Fernando
to Curepe Taxi Drivers Association Dane St
John said Uber was going to have a big impact
on the livelihood of its 100 drivers.
"If you have these private vehicles going
to places to pick up passengers that means
our taxi stand will get slower than what it is
right now. The travelling public would not
want to come to our stands but would call
Uber instead. We are going to be put out of
In the coming days, St John said, the as-
sociation would hold a meeting to discuss
their next course of action.
"We are going to write the Minister of Trans-
port on this matter."
President of the Valpark to Grand Bazaar Taxi
Drivers Association Cathy Goonraj slammed the
ministry for being tardy in raising concerns about
Uber hours after it was launched.
"Since last year Uber announced its service was com-
ing here. Why did the ministry take so long to talk about
its operation being illegal? This matter should have been
tackled weeks ago."
Goonraj also holds the view that Uber would take bread
from the mouths of its 25 drivers who plied the route.
California-based Uber offers an app, which allows
smartphone users to hire a private driver to pick
them up and drop them to their destination. To be
an Uber driver, you must have a valid background check
from the police, a newer four-door car, and you pass an
interview. This is equivalent to what is required of taxi
drivers. As of August 2016, the service was available in
over 66 countries and 545 cities worldwide.
WHAT IS UBER?
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