Sat, 16 Sep 2000

PT KAI lacks courage to punish employees, Minister Agum says

BANDUNG (JP): Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications Agum Gumelar criticized on Friday the state railway operator PT KAI for lacking the courage to punish errant employees.

Speaking at an informal meeting with train drivers, conductors and railway traffic controllers working in Java here on Thursday, Agum said that a consistent attitude from the company was needed to take action against employees found violating operational rules.

"It is unwise to punish those who are in fact innocent, while the guilty are let free without punishment," he said.

Eliardi, a train driver in Cirebon, told the minister that a driver friend of his had frequently broken operational procedures in a way that could have led to fatal accidents.

He also complained about sloppy railway traffic controllers. "We want PT KAI management to instruct Semarang traffic controllers to turn their radio communication devices on. I'm often unable to contact them."

The minister said the meeting with the 120 train employees was aimed at finding out what was really happening on the nation's railways.

"I've been planning a meeting like this for a long time. And this meeting is related to the recent train collision," Agum said, referring to the train accident in Batang that claimed 16 lives on Sunday.

The collision between the Semarang-bound Tawangjaya II and a freight train took place at around 6:30 a.m. in the village of Ketanggan, Batang, some 100 kilometers west of Semarang.

Preliminary investigations have revealed that human error was behind the accident.

Many employees complained about fatigue and poor salaries. "We want the management to pay more attention to our welfare," one of the drivers said.

The minister said PT KAI had many problems that should be dealt with at the same time.

"Passengers without tickets, and those sitting on top of the wagons, should be dealt with before PT KAI starts internal law enforcement."

But PT KAI spokesman Gatot Wibowo told The Jakarta Post after the meeting that dozens of employees had been dismissed for breaking operational regulations.

"We have also conducted a reward and punishment system according to the law. We should be careful in handing down punishment. We must first learn the level of the violation by the employees."(25/sur)