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Savaii operators want $19,000 compensation per bus

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, August 22, 2009) - Bus operators will refuse to bear the cost of relocating their passenger doors as a result of the road switch.

One owner said he would rather take his fleet to parliament and burn it there so MPs can "see what they are doing to us."

The decision announced yesterday puts the government’s switch plan in danger.

In a meeting organised by PASS for all Upolu bus operators to gauge their views, the 24 operators resolved to reject the Ministry of Land and Transportation orders to change the entrances for their buses.

The decision echoes the petition by the 20 bus operators from Savaii seeking compensation of 50,000 tala [US$19,500] per bus or no changes will be made to their fleets, a PASS statement said.

Leanapapa Laki of Express Transport said, "My business has been handed down from our grandfather to our father and then to us. Now I cannot continue if the switch takes place. Our family business has survived more than three generations and now a government policy has put an end to it - a business that has supported us for many years. I feel I have failed to sustain our forefathers’ hard work for over many, many years."

Nanai Tawan from Mapuitiga Transport shared similar sentiments: "The Government thinks we are fools. They ordered us to change the entrance and have offered compensation of licence fees for only six months worth $1180, when the cost to safely implement the entire changes to the bus structure will be $50,000 tala per bus. In protest I would rather bring my buses to Parliament and burn them there for Parliament to see what they are doing to us."

All Bus operators have agreed to support a peaceful protest march on 31 August organised by PASS. They will provide free transport to all those who wish to maintain the current side of the road, and those who are in solidarity in ensuring public safety. Stopping all public transport as of September will be considered at the next meeting in protest against the switch.

All the members who attended the 19 August meeting agreed to revive the Bus Operators Association and proceeded to elect an interim executive to govern their operations with a registration of 100 tala per member. They aim to strengthen their petitions to Government on issues affecting transportation costs and ensuring public safety on their vehicles.


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