Public bus operators in Honiara marched in front of the Honiara City Council office today in an unauthorised protest against the council’s ordinance that addresses short bus routes in the city.
Many bus operators were concerned about the set destinations for routes imposed by the ordinance, which came into effect yesterday.
But Honiara City Mayor Andrew Mua said the regulation is not new.
The ordinance is based on existing laws within the city council regulation and bus operators must comply with those rules, he said.
“What we are trying to stop is the short bus routes,” Mr Mua said. “We are not preventing anyone from running a bus service — it is your freedom to run a bus service.”
Bus operators demanded an increase from $3 to $5 for adult fares and threatened to halt bus services until the city council complies with their demands.
A bus driver, who asked that his name be withheld, said the new ordinance would affect his profits.
“Every day we have to meet a target, which is $1,000 for one day,” he said. “With the current regulation I might only get $600 to $700, and I could lose my job.”
He said given traffic jams and bad road conditions, the ordinance would make it more difficult for him to live up to his employer’s expectations.
But Mr Mua said maintaining road conditions is not the city council’s responsibility, so it is not a valid reason to increase bus fares.
He said although the city council is not responsible for changes in fares, bus operators must talk to HCC about proposed increases.
Bus operators are expected to approach the council through the Honiara Bus Association for their demands to be considered.
Provincial Police Commander for Honiara City Alfred Uiga told the bus operators their protest was illegal and that they could face arrest if the situation intensifies.
“There is no permission provided from legal authorities for you to stage this protest today,” he said. “I want all of you to select certain individuals to come to the council to represent your views in a proper manner.”
By Lowen Sei