Thousands stranded as buses, taxis stop

Main Stories, National

The National, Friday 21st September 2012

THOUSANDS of public transport users were stranded yesterday in Port Moresby as PMV bus and taxi operators held a one-day stop work meeting.
They were protesting delays in issuing of licences and harassment by police and transport officials.
The operators gathered at different suburbs and convoyed towards the Jack Pidik Park, stopping traffic for hours.
At the park, they waited to hand over their petition to authorities but nobody turned up.
The operators stayed off work until 4pm, causing disruption in the city and forcing commuters to seek alternative transport.
Most of them walked home.
Many schools closed early and sent their students home to begin third term break a day early.
Operators’ spokesman Cornelius Botingnuc said the delay in issuing of licences had been an ongoing issue and affected their income.
He said the process of registration or obtaining a licence took a long time and was complicated as it involved several authorities such as the Independent Consumer and Competition Commission, the Transport Department and the Motor Vehicle Insurance Ltd.
That has left the operators confused about which authority was responsible for issuing licences, Botingnuc said.
Because of this, most PMV operators operated illegally using white plates and were unregistered, resulting in PMV drivers being held at check points and large fines demanded from them.
Taxi drivers were bashed frequently and their earnings snatched and, in many cases the vehicles were damaged, Botingnuc claimed.
“Seeing that absence of licence is the main reason behind the harsh treatment we’ve received, we ask for the relevant authorities to inform us quickly about the reason for the stoppage in issuing us licences,” he said.
Botingnuc said they resumed operation in the afternoon so people’s activities and movements were not disrupted too badly.
They are expected to stop work again next Thursday and if the authorities do not receive their petition then they go on strike for an indefinite period.
An officer from the Transport Department said they were not responsible to comment on the issue while the MVIL could not be contacted.
A police spokesman said last night: “If these operators have a complaint, there is a proper process to put it to authorities. For the police there is a very effective public complaints unit.
“No member of the public should be paying cash at road blocks.”