Monday, February 13, 2012

Strike will stop as soon as subsidy is given: Gemunu Wijeyratne

Private bus operators today vowed to continue the strike action if they did not receive the fuel concessions that were promised to them by the government after the price of a litre of diesel rose by Rs.31 during the weekend, the Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) said today.

Hundreds of commuters island wide were left stranded today owing to the scarcity of buses. Earlier Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundara had assured that the diesel subsidies will be calculated in accordance with fuel costs and the mileage they cover which would be transferred to the accounts of private bus operators. During discussions with the LPBOA last week Dr. Jayasundara had assured that diesel would be provided at a subsidised rate of Rs.76 per litre regardless of the new price hike.

The funds were to be transferred to accounts at the Bank of Ceylon and People's Bank this morning. However LPBOA President Gemunu Wijeyratne said the associations had still not received the funds. “I checked with the bank manager this morning and the funds had still not arrived. We will stop the strike if we receive the funds. But if we don’t we shall continue going on strike until the government gives us some kind of assurance of a fuel subsidy ” Wijeyratne said.

The LPBOA is the largest private bus operators union in the country that runs 20,000 private buses. Wijeyratne said even if the private bus operators receive concessions they will still demand for a bus fare increase in July when bus fares will be reviewed.

Private Transport Services Ministry Secretary Victor Samaraweera said bus operators will be provided concessions as promised but that the ministry was still in the midst of discussions and that a decision on the matter would be taken soon.

Meanwhile several buses that had not taken part in the ongoing bus strike had been allegedly attacked in the Narahenpita area today by other bus operators. 29 were arrested in connection to the attack. It is reported that police officers had carried out mobile patrols to provide security to operating buses.

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