Sri Lanka President gets tough with VIP traffic offenders

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena Thursday ordered a crackdown on VIP traffic offenders and asked police to take tough action irrespective of the individuals involved.

The President noted that reckless driving of VIP convoys not only caused accidents but also intimidated law abiding motorists and that this menace on the high way should be stopped.

The president ordered Inspector-General of Police to submit weekly reports on VIP traffic offenders who will be summoned by Sirisena himself for a ticking off, the President’s office said in a statement.

"Police have been told to enforce traffic laws irrespective of the persons involved," the President said.

Sri Lankan politicians are notorious for driving on the wrong side of the road, forcing other motorists out of the way and disregarding colour lights and police signals.

A senior administration official said the President wanted police to stop VIP vehicles flashing red and blue lights to demand right of way and intimidate others.

Even IGP has been told that his convoy too should not have these intimidating red and blue lights.

Only police emergency vehicles are allowed by law to have such strobe lights, the official said.

The President’s tough stance came as bus operators and taxi drivers threatened to stage a nation-wide strike Friday to protest the proposed increase in fines from an average of 500 rupees to 25,000 rupees from January.

About 3,000 people are killed on Sri Lankan roads annually while another 100,000 people are critically wounded in motor accidents each year, causing a heavy burden on the state-run hospitals.

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Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the government will not give into the demands of bus and taxi drivers and will implement the new fines from next year.

Bus operators tried to stage a work stoppage last week, but it fizzled out as the enhanced fines attracted strong support from the public and the media.

Drivers have argued that the minimum fine of 25,000 rupees was about half of their monthly salary.

Private surveys have shown that about half the 1.1 million three-wheel taxis are operated by drivers who do not have a licence.

The authorities have reported a doubling of applications for driving licences since the new fines were announced last month.

(COLOMBO, Dec 1, 2016)

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