Scores of truck and bus drivers staged a protest in front of the South Sumatra governor’s office in Palembang, South Sumatra, on Wednesday, demanding the immediate revocation of a gubernatorial decree that prohibits coal-carrying vehicles from passing public roads.
The drivers, who make a living by transporting coal in and out of the province, bemoaned that the newly passed law had negatively impacted their income.
Strike coordinator Satria DW said around 1,500 drivers participated in the protest to push the South Sumatra administration to revoke the decree since it had reportedly contributed to increased unemployment among drivers.
“I haven’t worked since the government passed the law. I have my wife and children to feed,” said Andi, one of the drivers who joined the protest.
The South Sumatra administration issued the controversial decree on Nov. 8, stipulating that coal transport must be rerouted from public thoroughfares to alternative roads. The issues of dense traffic, road safety and maintenance prompted the need for such a law.
However, the central government, through the Transportation Ministry’s Land Transportation Directorate, has stated its support for the revocation of the gubernatorial decree since the province still lacked alternative roads for coal-carrying vehicles.
The ministry’s land transportation director, Budi Setyadi, said he had discussed the matter with several other state departments and private coal companies. The ministry had encouraged the private sector to construct more robust alternative roads exclusively designed for coal-carrying trucks since the existing roads were not up to par, he said.
In addition, Budi said the ministry had also asked the Railway Directorate to expedite the construction of double-track railways meant for coal-carrying locomotives.
“The issue of coal transport is a complicated one. It requires coordination with various parties,” Budi told the press last Saturday, adding that the ministry would review the prevailing gubernatorial decree.
Previously, South Sumatra Governor Herman Deru said the lack of alternative roads for coal transport could be supported by a consistent operational schedule on public roads.
“We’ve been drafting a long-term law that we expect will help ensure road safety and convenience. In addition, we also welcome coal companies to apply for alternative road permits,” Herman said. (rfa)