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Times of Oman - 17.12.2015

MUSCAT: Expatriates, who have been unfairly fined for ferrying passengers in their private vehicles, can reclaim the fine if they can prove their innocence, a senior Royal Oman Police (ROP) official said.

“There is no such rule that penalises an expatriate if he is providing a ride to a friend or a relative in his private vehicle. However, they can reclaim the fine if they can prove their innocence,” the police official said.

Ferrying relatives

Recently, many expatriates told the Times of Oman (TOO) that they were stopped and fined by police officials for ferrying relatives and friends.

“I was stopped and fined by a police official on the basis that I was transporting my friend in return for money two days back. I was just helping my close friend to reach airport in my private vehicle. We tried our best to convince the official that we are not doing anything wrong but he didn’t lend an ear to our requests. We were fined OMR35,” an Indian expatriate working at a senior position in a company in Muscat, told TOO.

“I drive a sedan. I annually pay taxes and insurance to have four people in my car. How can the police stop me and slap a fine for helping my friend to reach airport? I was stopped in Al Khuwair and fined,” the expatriate, who was fined, said.

A group of expatriates who went in a car to celebrate a birthday party was also fined.

“I went to Qurum to celebrate my birthday. My friend was driving the car. My group was stopped by police and we were fined for moving together in one car,” Parth Mehta, told Times of Oman. “While talking to us, the police told us that this is not a new law,” Parth added.

Illegal private operators

Meanwhile, the police official added that this has been done to curb illegal private transporters.

“We know that many expatriates are ferrying people in private vehicles in return for money. So, patrolling is carried out to catch these violators.

However, depending on the circumstances they are caught in, if they can prove they are innocent, then they can reclaim the fine,” the police official added.

Tonia Gray, general manager at Competence HR, said she is surprised the ROP is stating that it will refund fines if the

individual ‘can prove themselves innocent.’

“Surely it the job of the ROP to prove the individual guilty of any offence before issuing a fine. Surely it is better on our busy roads that people ‘car pool’ and isn’t it an individual’s own choice as to who he allows in his or her car? I accept that there should not be ‘private’ taxis as this affects the income of public transport and taxis and there are probably insurance issues, but offering people lifts and carpooling with friends and colleagues should surely be acceptable?” Tonia asked.

Some other expatriates, who were fined after carpooling from the Darsait Church a few weeks ago, said they were surprised by the police’s move.

“We were having a sort of carpooling to visit church. While we were driving back, we were stopped and fined,” the expatriates added.

“As it is Christmas season, we had late night prayers and celebrations. So we got late. And moreover, as we are coming from same area, we opted to carpool to save on petrol.

However, we were disappointed when we got fined,” the expatriates added.

Meanwhile, taxi drivers in Muscat said patrolling should be increased as illegal private transporters were stealing their market share.

“We are not saying that expatriates, who are providing help to a friend or relative, should be fined. But illegal transporters should be identified and caught. Police can find illegal transporters in front of schools and airports. Those who indulge in illegal transporting should be fined severely,” Mohammed Faisal, a taxi driver in Muscat, said.
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