2ND LEAD (Correction)
Sri Lanka's private transport operators strike
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 09 August 2005, 07:56 GMT]
All private public transport systems except State services came to a standstill from midnight Monday following an island wide strike by private bus operators and three wheelers, demanding that authorities should postpone implementing the announced increase in fines for traffic offences. The strike affected tens of thousands of people in Colombo and its suburbs from reporting for work in government offices, private business establishments and schools since Tuesday morning, sources in Colombo said.
Finance Ministry has increased the road fines from 150 rupees to Rs 2,500 for driving without license, for over speeding from Rs 200 to one thousand rupees and for the failure to obey the instruction of the traffic police from Rs 150 to Rs 1000.
Road fines have been increased to curb the increase of road accidents and committing traffic offences. Trade union sources said the increase of road fines would lead to the end of the private transport service.
The All Ceylon Association for the Protection of Vehicle Owners and Drivers (APVOD), Private Omnibus Owners Federation and seven other transport organizations have called for the strike as they failed to receive a written assurance from Transport Ministry till Monday 4.p.m.
State buses are running with full load of commuters. But commuters are seen in bus halts for hours to take their turn to board busses.
Private sector bus stands in outstations appeared deserted. Civil sources said that since most of the State buses are under repair there is insufficient capacity to fulfil the shortfall created by the strike.
Mr.Lasantha Alagiawanne, the Deputy Minister for Transport, said the strike is unreasonable and the commuters have been put into severe hardships.
Highways had to be rehabilitated and the transport service better managed before any road fines are increased, said Mr.Gemunu Wijeratne, President of the Private Bus Owners Association.