he country has been abuzz during the last few days over the proposed new fines for several road traffic offences included in the Budget proposal which has resulted in the strike that was launched by the Inter Provincial Private Bus Association (IPPBA) and several other trade unions. Bringing the islandwide strike to an end the President had appointed a 6 member committee to review the proposed traffic fines which will meet with the parties concerned today, in order to look into the issues faced by all stakeholders.
In the light of it the Daily Mirror contacted a few experts in the field to get their opinions on the proposals and their effectiveness.
The President of the IPPBA Sarath Vijitha Kumara has been an outspoken critic of the proposal, expressing his distaste of it on several previous occasions, asking Minister Ravi Karunanayake to revise the minimum penalty of Rs.2, 500. In the light of his disagreement the IPPBA went on an islandwide bus strike on Friday.
He has been quoted as saying that increasing the minimum offence is not reasonable and should only be applicable after providing proper infrastructures. He had further stated that the strike would last for five days if the President did not intervene to settle the matter.
reported on Friday that the IPPBA was unwilling to engage in further talks even if asked to by the President. The
IPPBA has even threatened action against the Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA) led by Gemunu Wijeratne if they tried to operate buses despite the strike.
attempted to contact Gemunu Wijeratne, leader of the Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA) the night before the strike his only quotes were, “Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”
Increase in fines should be approved by Parliament and the Attorney General
Former Deputy DIG Traffic T. Perinpanayagam
“I have been involved with this process directly.” According to the retired DIG when the minister says there is going to be an increase in fines it has to go to Parliament and the Attorney General to be approved.
“Rs. 25,000 is acceptable for drunk driving but a Magistrate has to impose it and decide on it. Nevertheless, it has to still go to the Cabinet and they have to finalize it first. It has to then be approved by Parliament,” he said.
"Rs. 25,000 is acceptable for drunk driving but a Magistrate has to impose it and decide on it. Nevertheless, it has to still go to the Cabinet and they have to finalize it first. ..."
Perinpanayagam says that this entire process will take at least three months.
“The fine of not possessing insurance documents is also acceptable but this too has to go to court. With regard to speeding we have recommended a tier fine system with different fines for different speeds. We can’t just have general fines. In relation to overtaking on the left side, as far as I know this only happens between Negombo and Katunayake. Spot fines and court cases have to be differentiated. Spot fines will work for speeding and overtaking though,” he said.
Even though the right to strike is an accepted legal concept one cannot deny the fact that the citizen of a country are in a sense being held hostage and are being used as leverage and a bargaining tool for demands to be listened to.
On November 30 hospitals in Sri Lanka ground to a halt, over disagreements with the budgetary proposals. The railway employees’ Trade Unions threatened to go on a token strike. The IPPBA actually carried out on its threat. All with no reference whatsoever to those who were to be affected by such actions and caught in the crossfire.
The Silver Lining
In spite of this, a portion of society seem to be making a great deal of lemonade out of these lemons.
Social media on Friday have seen the idea of carpooling being tossed around.
Maybe then it is inconveniences like this that will rally people to come up with solutions like this instead of sitting around and moping about the sorry state of affairs. Maybe fewer buses on the road will solve more problems than we think, from lane discipline to accidents. One cannot deny that fact that if the idea of carpooling was to gain momentum it would definitely benefit issues ranging from traffic congestion to environmental pollution.
The root issue is congestion
Anthropologist Arjuna Seneviratne
“I have spoken to three-wheel drivers as well as bus drivers,” Seneviratne likened the process to increasing prices for cigarettes.
“This proposed increase has the same idiotic logic. If we take cigarettes, people will merely resort to other forms of drugs if the price becomes one that they cannot bear. This is the same with transport.” According to Arjuna, what the drivers he has spoken to had said was that they didn’t mind the fines, the problem however was that the Police were corrupt. If they were caught by the Police for one of the offences that fines were to be paid for, there was no evidence to say otherwise.
“They are therefore at the mercy of the Police.”
Furthermore they had no legal way to contest the allegations. There was no way for them to get evidence to back them up and they also didn’t have the time to be spending in courts fighting the case since their living conditions were directly linked to the amount they made by driving. “The end result is that they will try to bribe the Policemen. “Now, these drivers are concerned that the bribe will increase,” he said.
" According to Seneviratne in 2015 the average speed vehicles travelled at was 12km/h. Furthermore in 2012 there were 27,300 vehicles coming into Colombo whereas in 2015 the number of three-wheelers that came in was 23, 000"
“There is way or evidence against what the Police say. Nevertheless Seneviratne states that both sides are at fault. This is because a majority of the drivers are also not properly trained. They don’t know the laws as well. “The root issue of all this however is the traffic congestion. This problem makes people violate the law due to the frustration road users have to go through on a daily basis. This needs to be addressed. A lot of vehicles have to be removed. To do this the public transport has to be at a high standard. This will incentivize people to use these modes as an alternative.”
According to Seneviratne in 2015 the average speed vehicles travelled at was 12km/h. Furthermore in 2012 there were 27,300 vehicles coming into Colombo whereas in 2015 the number of three-wheelers that came in was 23, 000. “What the government is doing is attacking this problem at the surface level with fines. This will not solve anything,” he said.
Good intentions but too high fines, say the general public
“We should have a system that fines people on a percentage of their income. This would better accomplish the principles behind these reforms. No one can deny the validity behind a system proposing a road network that is safe for both pedestrians and motorists.”
“The fine should be reduced for all offences other than drunk driving. It is hard for an ordinary person to pay such a fine.”
“This fine affects only the members of the general public since all the big people get away with all violations. The solution is not the fines but to solve the traffic problem first. There are too many three-wheelers on the road. The Government should make the public transport system better so that people will want to use it. I came in a CTB bus today which broke down.”
“We as people of Sri Lanka shouldn’t let private bus owners and three-wheeler drivers run a monopoly like this where they demonstrate this kind of protests. This is also an eye opener where people who create the most amount of traffic and accidents on the road are against these new fines. The Government should stand their ground and continue with this new system.”
“I drive six lorries. This fine of 25,000 is not fair. Most people can’t pay it especially the poor. This fine is okay for drunk driving though but not for the other offences. It shouldn’t be there for overtaking on the left. What these bus drivers are saying is right.”
“This fine is too much. It should be reduced as poor people can’t pay it. This has resulted in this bus strike and it is the Government that profits from it not us”
Nadun Rashmika- Kottawa
“From this fine it is the general population that gets affected. I came for an interview which was supposed to be at 9.00 a.m. but due to the strike I got here only at 10.15.”
Chathura Sandaruwan- Moneragala
“A fine of 25,000 is not fair as drivers do not earn much. Therefore a more reasonable amount has to be agreed upon. It’s not like people intentionally commit traffic violations. Most of the time it is due to the traffic. I came from Homagama today but it was very difficult as there were no buses. It is very hard to get work done without private buses. A lot of people are stranded.”
“The fine of 25,000 is a good measure. This is because the general driving of the public is very bad. This causes many accidents and deaths. This is good for the people who travel in buses as well since now they will drive more carefully.”