Private bus strike
Gemunu hums different tune:
SLTB to deploy more buses

By Dasun Edirisinghe

The Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) has said it will deploy more buses in view of today’s private bus strike.

SLTB Chairman Ramal Siriwardena said yesterday normally around 5,300 state-owned buses operated countrywide, but the SLTB would have on standby 6,000 buses to meet any emergency.

"Transport Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva held a special discussion yesterday morning to discuss arrangement to overcome the difficulties in case of a private bus strike," he said, adding that the SLTB would take all possible action to prevent inconvenience to commuters.

Observers, however, said if the estimated 20,000 odd private buses did not operate, the SLTB would not be in a position to meet the shortfall in any way.

Railway trade unions, too, have threatened to strike at midnight today over several unresolved issues.

President of the Lanka Private Bus Operators Association, Gemunu Wijeratne, who earlier objected to a private bus strike told The Island yesterday that since the strike was spearheaded by their workers they could not halt it.

Siriwardena said they were concerned about the transport needs of students who were sitting the G.C.E. (Ordinary Level) examination from Dec. 06 as well as long distance passengers.

Leave had been cancelled for all SLTB drivers, conductors and technical staff for one week, he said.

"We also made security arrangements after discussions with the Deputy Inspector General (Traffic) to foil any acts of sabotage by private bus operators," Siriwardena said, adding that additional SLTB buses would be parked near police stations after reaching their destinations.

The Chairman said all trade unions of the SLTB had also pledged thier cooperation to operate buses to minimise inconvenience caused by the scheduled private bus strike.

Private bus owners were expected to launch the strike from midnight yesterday, demanding the cancellation of the proposed increase of the minimum fine to Rs. 25,000 for seven offences including driving without valid driving licence, driving without a insurance certificate, overtaking on the left hand side, high speed driving, driving under the influence of alcohol, driving recklessly at railway crossings and allowing someone to drive without a valid driving licence.

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