The Private Bus Owners Association (PBOA) yesterday warned that it would launch a one-day island-wide token strike next Thursday in protest against the recent diesel price hike of Rs 4 per litre. If, however, immediate steps are taken to vest the Road Passenger Transport Authority in the Government, the proposed strike would be called off, the Association assured.
Since, the Transport Authorities are under the Provincial Councils and function as semi-government bodies, corruption is rampant. The PBOA said that bus owners part with Rs. 80 million per month as extortion money all over the country and the main culprits are time keepers. `If it is vested with the Government there would be no need to pay extortionists` PBOA President Gemunu Wijeratne said. Asked whether vesting the passenger transport authority in the government would bring any reduction to the diesel prices, He said the savings on the extortion money would easily offset the diesel price increase.
Reminded about the GCE (A) Level examinations that commences next Monday, Wijeratne said they are concerned but cannot postpone this all important issue which is their bread and butter.
The PBOA earlier forwarded four demands to the Acting Transport Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna. The demands were for the vesting of the Road Passenger Transport Authority in the government, an increase of the minimum bus fare from Rs 5 to Rs 6, a reduction of the price of diesel and an assurance that the diesel price won`t be increased in the future until a proportionate bus fare hike is effected.
The bus operators said they were ready to drop three of the four demands if the first demand, the vesting of the Road Passenger Transport Authority in the government, is conceded.
Acting Transport Minister Alagiyawanna said that no more bus fare hikes would be permitted. However, bus operators` demands would be put to an expert panel and their opinion obtained before the next move, he said.
There are 18,000 private buses in operation.