Compensation for 23 drivers and conductors who operated the buses and the passengers who were attacked by bandits on the 1stDecember 2016, during the private bus strike, was held at SLTB head office, Narahenpita on 20th December 2016 the afternoon under the patronage of Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Hon. Nimal Siripala De Silva.
Among those victims, there are 04 passengers including Mr. Sumanarathna, who resides at Nawalapitiya and 18 bus drivers and a conductor who were engaged in service. Accordingly, a compensation of Rs. 50,000/= was awarded to the Army Officer and arrangements were made to award Rs.25, 000/= and Rs. 20,000/= for each others who were attacked.
Minister Nimal Siirpala De Silva, participated for this occasion, stated that this is an occasion to appreciate the service rendered by the SLTB employees by compensating by the SLTB and also to appreciate the passengers who used SLTB service. It is a responsibility and a duty of the SLTB as a public transport service. It would be the responsibility of SLTB as the employer to protect its’ employees if any accident was occurred.
Minister further stated that SLTB is bound to ensure protection of SLTB bus commuters according to the competition between SLTB and private buses. That responsibility has also been accomplished by today.
Minister also said that this compensation is not enough and this compensation is given symbolically. Those people should be given Rs. 05 or 06 lakhs if SLTB has a financial viability.
However, I am proud as the Minister in charge of SLTB is leading to such good task as it is a financially weak entity.
I immediately decided that the employees who discharged duties on the day of strike be awarded with incentives. And also, measures should be taken to cover SLTB employees. The Minister who expressed views on bus strike said that ‘a lot of facts are disclosed by this incident. We have to be ashamed as Sri Lankans. That is because we are ashamed that a murderous campaign was launched in line with the private sector bus strike. Everyone has a right to strike. Though, no one is permitted by the prevailing law in Sri Lanka to assault and intermediate employees who are engaged in duties or people who are peacefully involved in journeys. Therefore, I have instructed the legal division of the SLTB to inquire into the cases pending in courts in relation to these incidents by appearing SLTB legal officers in person.
The Minister further expressed that this private bus strike showed the importance of maintaining government institutes such as SLTB. In the absence of an institution in the caliber of SLTB, the whole population would have been in trouble. Therefore, the Treasury and the Government got a good opportunity of rendering a social service going beyond the economic value of institutes such as SLTB. Politicians also got that chance. I am glad about that. I see private bus strike as a situation where the need of government run SLTB and Railway service came into light.
The Deputy Minister Asok Abesinghe expressed views on the occasion that ‘I see SLTB as an institution that renders a yeomen service in the presence of loads of shortcomings. Therefore, the government has no need whatsoever to privatize the SLTB. Various trade unions are spreading false opinions. Today, the two major parties are attempting to render a good transport service to the people of Sri Lanka in collaboration with each other. Today, there are about 21000 private buses that are driven in roads throughout of the country. But, only 5500 of SLTB buses are in operation. But, SLTB has managed to render a better service by successfully taking on the private sector. Therefore, people in Sri Lanka thoroughly believe in SLTB at present. SLTB has a huge responsibility to maintain such trust. The government is there to provide necessary human and physical resources to fulfill that goal.
This occasion was graced by a number of officials including Mr. Ramal Siriwardene – Chairman of SLTB and trade union leaders.