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Sabtu, 31 Oktober 2009

Include us in decision-making, say drivers

Jakarta ; Around 100 drivers of three-wheeled bemo staged a protest in front of City Hall on Friday morning, demanding the transportation agency halt the raids that were recently conducted in some areas

The drivers parked around 50 old rusty bemo along the green strip of the street in front of the building.

Boyo Hidayat, head of the Bemo Drivers Community, said the drivers felt they were being treated unfairly, because the officials confiscated their vehicles without providing them with an alternative solution.

"We welcome a plan to replace bemo with new vehicles, but please start to phase in the new vehicle, so we can still earn a living. Don't conduct any raids before we get a replacement," he said to representatives from the transportation agency and the administration.

The drivers conducted the protest following the confiscation of 15 vehicles in Mangga Besar, West Jakarta, last Wednesday.

Boyo said the raids meant the loss of livelihood for around 30 drivers, while hundreds of other drivers were afraid they would be targeted in future raids.

The city has not made any firm decision on the drivers' fate.

Arifin, head of a control unit at the transportation agency, told the drivers he could not guarantee the agency would immediately cease the raids, claiming he was not authorized to make such a decision.

He said he would convey the drivers' concerns to the agency head.

Meanwhile, city secretary Muhayat said the city was still discussing the model of three-wheeled vehicle that would replace the bemo.

"Bemo will be replaced by a natural gas-powered three-wheeled vehicle. The rollout will be the same as the replacement program for bajaj *another three-wheeled vehicle*," he said.

Muhayat said the administration would wait until the bemo owners were financially ready before starting the program.

He said the raids were not intended to wipe bemo from the streets, but were conducted because many bemo were not properly licensed.

Edi Saidi, a community organizer and advocacy official at the Urban Poor Consortium (UPC), said he was concerned with the drivers' anxiety, and expressed his fear that a clash would erupt in the next raid.

Once a lucrative mode of transport, the Japanese bemo, which has been in the country since 1968, was phased out by the administration in 2003. Despite the ban, it is still possible to spot the odd seven-passenger bemo plying some parts of the city, including Bendungan Hilir, Karet in Central Jakarta, and Grogol in West Jakarta.

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