Tue, 21 Mar 2000

Bogor public bus drivers strike over rampant levies

BOGOR (JP): Thousands of public minivan drivers staged a massive strike over the widespread use of levies on Monday, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.

The strike was marred by an incident when angry drivers beat up two officials, Indra and Subagiyanto, assigned to collect levies from the drivers at two points in the Sukasari and Lawang Seketeng areas.

The mob also vandalized the post being used by the two men.

The drivers of the minivans, locally called angkot, strongly urged the local administration to stop collecting the burdensome fare of Rp 200 per van, which has been imposed at various posts in Bogor since March 15.

"It is impossible for us to pay the levies every time we pass through a post. The route for minivans in Bogor is short, and the policy obliges us to pay over and over again every day.

I, for example, have to spend at least Rp 3,000 per day," said Masudi, a driver on the Baranangsiang-Merdeka route.

The drivers realize they have to contribute for road repair and maintenance. "But we can only afford to pay for Rp 100 and not Rp 200 per post," Masudi said.

Bogor's streets have a total of 6,500 angkot and intercity buses, serving a local population of 5 million people, some of whom work in Jakarta.

Another protesting driver named Anto said that they will pay the Rp 200 levy only if the other levies are removed.

"Can officials guarantee that there will be no illegal levies?" he said, adding that some officials never gave them proper tickets, but simply collected money.

Due to the massive protest that started at 9 a.m., thousands of passengers -- including students, workers and housewives -- were stranded in the streets from the Warung Jambu to the Sukasari areas.

At least 17 trucks from the police and local administration were deployed to rescue people who found themselves trapped in the chaotic strike.

The protesting drivers also stopped colleagues who chose not to participate in the strike and told them to remove the passengers from their vehicles or else they would vandalize them.

North Bogor Police subprecinct chief Capt. Purnomo said the drivers also tried to stop all intercity vehicles from Kampung Rambutan (Jakarta) from entering Bogor.

Twenty-one representatives of the drivers finally met with Bogor Council later in the day, demanding that the levies be revoked and that the money collectors only work from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"Several years ago the levies were done away with. Why then are they being imposed again?" one driver asked.

Councilors TB Rafli, Eman Sulaeman and Gatut Susanta promised to look into the matter and suggested to the local administration that they drop the levies.

It is not clear, however, whether the drivers will continue the strike on Tuesday. (21/24/edt)