A bus driver accused of being aggressive towards an immigrant family may face racism charges.
His behaviour was reported by young lawyer Yanika Bugeja, 25, who was disgusted by his attitude towards an African family. She was initially told by the police the driver had apologised and she accepted to drop her charges if he was given a stern warning.
But after the incident was reported on The Times, the police seem to have changed their mind about dropping the case and will be proceeding of their own accord with Dr Bugeja as their main witness.
When contacted, the police and Transport Malta both spoke of further action.
The police said: “We are still investigating the case and necessary action would be taken accordingly”.
Transport Malta said it was “awaiting the conclusion of the court process” and appropriate action would be taken afterwards.
The Times is also informed the police questioned Dr Bugeja, another passenger who offered to testify and the African man who the driver apparently pushed to the back of the bus and later called “trash”.
Sources said the driver could be arraigned within the next couple of weeks and would probably be charged with racial hatred. They added the driver had since been suspended.
Meanwhile, the driver was recently called to explain his actions to the executive committee of the Public Transport Association.
“We want to hear his version of what happened. We also want to find out why the police did not take further action. I guess they had their reasons but we will still look into this because any rule-breaking behaviour is unacceptable,” association president Victor Spiteri had said.
The association may fine the driver but its investigation has not yet been concluded.
The incident happened on October 7 on route 55, when, according to Dr Bugeja, the driver complained the immigrant couple was carrying a pram and only had a €5 note with which to pay the fare. Moreover, the driver ordered the man to give his seat to a Maltese woman who was standing on the bus but she declined the offer. Later, the driver asked the man to move to the back of the bus and, when the vehicle stopped at a set of traffic lights, he got hold of the foreigner and pushed him towards the back of the bus, angering Dr Bugeja and onlookers.
An argument ensued and Dr Bugeja said the driver told her: “These people are trash”. He also claimed his father was a police inspector.
Dr Bugeja said she replied saying he was trash, prompting him to stop the bus and report her to a nearby traffic policeman, a scene witnessed by The Times.
Dr Bugeja’s action sparked a very supportive reaction online, with most readers applauding her behaviour, urging others to do the same and calling on the police to take action against the driver.
The Sunday Times has reported that only four people have been charged in court for racist crimes over the last 10 years, a figure described as “shocking” by Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil.
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