Bus owners railroad govt. into reconsidering huge fine hike

Strike suspended


By Dilanthi Jayamanne

The Lanka Private Bus Owner’s Association (LPBOA) yesterday evening suspended its strike scheduled for today after a discussion with Finance Minister, Ravi Karunanayake yesterday evening. 

Chairman LPBOA, Gemunu Wijeratne told The Island that the Minister claimed that the minimum fine of Rs. 2,500 had been misinterpreted.

"The unions explained to him that they had no issues with such heavy fines for drunk driving and other such serious offences. But, to charge such a colossal amount for minor offences was unacceptable." 

The Minister had, he said, pledged to take up their issue at the Cabinet meeting today (15) and later hold another round of discussions with the LPBOA, the other bus unions, the All Ceylon Three wheel Drivers Association and the School Van Owners Association. 

Earlier in the day, Wijeratne, addressing the media at the Centre for Society and Religion (CSR) at Maradana, vowed to go ahead with the token strike today (15) against the increase of the minimum fine for a traffic offence from the existing Rs 500 to Rs 2500.   

"Our grievance is not the increase in the fine as such. There were traffic fines in excess of Rs. 100,000. But, the government should not adopt the fines charged in developed countries like the UK and the US. It should take steps to develop the roads before increasing fines.

 Wijeratne said the road network was not equipped to take the huge number of vehicles thereon. He said: "In 2006, the number of vehicles registered was about 300,000. It increased to 429,556 in 2014. Last year the number rose to 668,907."

 Several private bus operators’ unions would throw their weight behind the LPBOA’s strike while the school van operators had opted for a protest after dropping children at school today (15). The school transport service wouldn’t be affected by their trade union action, they said.

 The All Ceylon Three Wheel Drivers’ Association (ACTDA), President Sunil Jayalath said that the fine hike would adversely affect three wheel operators. There were days when they could not earn at least Rs. 1,000 due to the large number of trishaws in the country. Jayalath said that the unions which were scheduled to meet Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake yesterday evening would take a final decision, depending on its outcome of the talks.

 The Finance Minister, in his 2017 budget, proposed a 500 per cent increase in fines on traffic offences purportedly to curb road accidents. He said several lives were lost daily due to the traffic violations. Accordingly, the minimum fine was increased from Rs. 500 to Rs. 2,500. Traffic offences would be re-classified, he said.

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