Wednesday, 5 November 2014

‘Fare hike should not burden rural folk’

Express boat fares must be regulated. -Tuan Haji Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah
SIBU: The increase in express boat fares, while inevitable and necessary, should be implemented in such a way that it would not burden the people.

This is a shared sentiment among several state leaders, in response to reports stating that costs of travelling between Kapit, Song and Sibu by express boats had gone up by RM2 to RM10.

Sarawak Rivers Board (SRB) controller William Jinep disclosed that his side was carrying out investigation on the matter.

For Kapit MP Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi, the increase – while necessary – should be reasonable and confined to first and second class passengers.

He believed that a RM5 rise per economy class seat for Sibu-Kapit route was too much.

“For Song/Kapit/Song trip, the increase by RM1 should be reasonable. Ideally, there should not even be any increase in economy fares,” Nanta, who is also Deputy Rural and Regional Development Minister, said yesterday.

Local express boat owners confirmed that they had been raising fares since Nov 1, citing rising cost of operations as the factor.

Many threatened to halt service should the government act against them for upping the fares unilaterally.

A former operator, speaking on condition of anonymity, claimed that for the Sibu/Song route, the price had gone up by RM3 and for Sibu/Kapit, it was by RM5.

He figured that the measure was not justifiable by the recent rise in fuel prices.

“If the fare is raised unreasonably, this could burden the people,” he said, pointing out that express boats were the only means of transportation in the upper reaches of Rajang River.

“The operators should also shoulder the burden as part of their social responsibility,” he stressed.

Meanwhile Belaga assemblyman Liwan Lagang said the fare hike was ‘burdensome’ to many rural folks and as such, hoped that relevant authorities could help cushion the impact by providing fuel subsidy to transport operators.

“We also hope that the proposed ‘Jiwa Murni’ road project stretching from Belaga to Nanga Merit would proceed immediately,” Liwan, who is also Assistant Minister of Culture and Heritage, told The Borneo Post.

In his comment, Assistant Minister of Youth Development and Asajaya assemblyman Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said just like in other public transportation, the fares must be regulated.

He advised registered express boat operators against increasing fares without approval from the government.

“On the other hand, they (operators) must be eligible for fuel subsidy – just like fishing trawlers – as they are providing a service to the public,” Abdul Karim opined.

“I am unsure whether these express boat operators are already being given the subsidy, but if they still decide to hike fares despite having received the subsidy and without consulting the government, it is highly irresponsible of them to do so.”

Speaking on behalf of rural folks, Penghulu Enyang Menchol expressed his displeasure over the whole thing.

“Definitely it would burden rural folks in the upper reaches of Rajang River,” he said, claiming that express boat operators were still enjoying fuel subsidy

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