Thu, 20 Mar 2003

Hoodlumism has deep roots in Pulo Gadung bus terminal

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

"Drivers have to pay a variety of illegal fees to thugs if they want to do their work in an orderly fashion and in peace," says Amin, 38, a driver plying the route from Pulo Gadung, East Jakarta, to Pasar Gaplok, Central Jakarta.

He told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that every day each driver plying the route had to pay around Rp 3,500 (US$ 0.39) to a gang that "ruled" the terminal. The same gang controlled the flow of public transportation vehicles into and out of the terminal.

The gang, which placed men at every corner of the terminal, decided which minivan could enter the terminal, which would leave first and which could take passengers, Amin said.

"Late at night, when fewer passengers board my minivan, I have to pay Rp 1,000 to thugs, who claim they will find passengers for me," Amin said.

At every intersection and crossing around the terminal, he had to pay Rp 100 to thugs before they were willing to allow his minivan to pass, he said.

A striking example of how street thugs have power over traffic in the terminal can be observed every day. Two street thugs, for example, persuade drivers to make an illegal U-turn, which is barred by only a chain. A driver of any vehicle, ranging from buses, trucks and minivans to private cars, who wants to make the turn, need only pay a certain amount of money and the thugs will lower the chain to the ground. All this happens before the eyes of the police.

Amin said that the total amount of money in illegal payments to thugs operating in the terminal averaged out to Rp 5,000 per day.

"The money I have to fork out for illegal payments has become part of my regular daily expenditure, like the gasoline for my vehicle," he said, while checking the engine of his minivan.

A report from Pulo Gadung police subprecinct shows that around 450 public transportation vehicles enter and leave the terminal every day.

Separately, a 24-year-old man, who claimed to be working as a payment collector said that drivers paid up voluntarily as a contribution to maintain security and order in the terminal.

"If there were no one to keep the traffic in order, drivers would try to get ahead of each other, and this would mean chaos in the terminal," he said.

However, anyone who has ever visited Pulo Gadung terminal will know that the terminal is totally chaotic.

The man -- who wished to remain anonymous -- said that all the money went to a gang that would later share it out with policemen and officials from the transportation agency.

"The gang divides the terminal into areas in accordance with the routes taken by public transportation vehicles. One person's in charge of each area," he said.

Chief of the subprecinct Second Insp. Soenaryo, however, denied the allegation that an organized gang was operating in the terminal.

He told the Post that people asking for money from drivers were acting individually and posed no serious threat to the security of passengers there.

"We still tolerate the presence of people asking for money from drivers because, in reality, they help drivers do their job," he said, adding that there was no possibility of getting rid of them if there were no improvement in the country's economy.

Soenaryo said that the police were resigned to the situation, as it was one of the ways that some people coped with the economic crisis.