By Shermain Bique-Charles
“Anyone cannot and should not be allowed to become a bus driver,” is the stated opinion of Keithroy Black, the President of the Antigua and Barbuda Bus Association.
Black, who was speaking on the heels of the news that a bus driver, Addison Browne, had been found guilty of tying up a minor and raping her, is also calling on the government to ensure due diligence is conducted on people who want to be part of the profession.
“We continue to push for background checks. People may want to give reasons why they want to be part of the bus system but I am of the view that background checks should be done to ensure they don’t have a criminal record or a record of preying on young people,” Black told Observer.
Browne reportedly raped the 12-year-old child in his private car when tasked with dropping her home, but she told the court that she had known him for about five months before the incident took place by virtue of him being a bus driver on the route where she resided at the time.
Black, who said he was appalled by the situation, also condemned the incident but was quick to add that not all bus drivers are the same.
“We have some very good, decent bus drivers and those who are preying on our young people, mainly the females, that is unacceptable, and we, as an association [are] in support of whatever laws need to be put in place to protect the young ones…they are our future,” he said.
The accused, who is the brother of Prime Minister Gaston Browne is expected to be sentenced on July 15, this year.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Browne said: “The ABLP and its leadership abhors the abuse of our women and girls and insist that those who violate should face the full force of the law. Unlike the UPP, we do shield these perverts from the law, irrespective of relations by consanguinity”.
And his political opponent Harold Lovell fired back, calling the PM “a child misbehaving like a little school boy who never see come see”.
Lovell, the Leader of the United Progressive Party, said Browne was using the matter to “play politics”, rather than to address the issue at hand.
“The young lady was cruelly raped by your brother. This is not the time to play politics. That is a matter for you to offer words of comfort, sympathy, recognising that this child has to fight the worst traumatic experience they ever had to fight in their life,” Lovell said.
Last week, the government declared that it plans to implement new measures to address the problem of motorists preying on young children, which is in breach of the Sexual Offenses Act.
The new procedures will be implemented, according to the Cabinet “to catch and arrest those who engage in activities that violate the law against kids,”.