Tue, 21 Nov 2000

Protesting bus crews damage 8 vehicles

JAKARTA (JP): Eight vehicles were vandalized on Monday by some of the hundreds of Metro Mini public minibuses who were staging a heated rally on Jl. Bekasi Raya, East Jakarta, to protest the illegal operation of vans serving their Tanjung Priok-Pulogadung service route.

Two of the vehicles, both Isuzu Panther minivans, belonged to the operational unit of PT Metro Mini, a private firm that is jointly owned by several Metro Mini owners, while the other six vehicles were privately-owned vehicles bearing no legal license for taking passengers.

Four staff who drove the two minivans were actually attempting to calm down the upset drivers, who angrily blocked the cars and asked the four to leave the cars before pushing the vehicles into a ditch where they were staging the protest just in front of PT United Tractor, some 400 meters from Pulogadung bus terminal since 6 a.m.

"The protesters were angry since the staff threatened to send big metromini buses to serve the stranded passengers today," said Anwar, 50, one of the protesters.

Hundreds of commuters heading for the Pulogadung terminal were also forced to walk after the vehicles they were riding were ordered by the police to return in the direction of Cempaka Putih, some 1.5 kilometers from the protest site, in a bid to avoid a possible clash.

No clashes were reported during the seven-hours protest but the protesters unfortunately occupied one of the lanes in the two-lane street for parking their minibuses, creating severe traffic congestion on nearby streets for hours.

Only a handful of police officers were seen watching the protesters from a distance.

Arriving in around 60 Metro Mini minibuses, the protesters demanded the city administration ban all the private vehicles, which have been illegally serving thousands of passengers to and from Pulogadung terminal and the huge manufacturing complex of Nusantara Integrated Zone (KBN) in Cakung-Cilincing area, North Jakarta.

During the protest, the bus crew blocked any vehicles from entering or leaving Jakarta's busiest inter-city bus terminal, causing a chaotic traffic situation in the crowded area.

The KBN area, home to hundreds of export-oriented firms, is a place of work for thousands of people, most of whom reach the area using transportation from Pulogadung and nearby Tanjung Priok terminals.

The presence of the unofficial transportation apparently caused great losses to the Metro Mini drivers and their attendants.

"Our revenues dropped after the operation of the unofficial vehicles. Unfortunately, the administration never banned them from operating in the street," Soebagyo, coordinator of the protest, told reporters.

According to the protesters, drivers of the illegal public vehicles also charged their passengers Rp 300 higher than the Rp 700 rate set for the official minibuses.

Separately, chief of the East Jakarta Police Sr. Supt. Syafrudin Fabanyo said the protest was the responsibility of city's Traffic and Public Land Transportation Agency (DLLAJ).

"I have called them to settle the protest," he said.

The protesters vowed to stage a similar protest in Tanjung Priok terminal on Tuesday. The protesters dispersed peacefully at 1 p.m. (asa)