By Lamin Cham
Scenes of long lines of people on both sides of many highways in the Greater Banjul Area filled social media yesterday as thousands of commuters to work and businesses across the country got stranded by commercial drivers heeding a nation-wide strike called by the General Transport Union.
The Transport Union president, Omar Ceesay said the strike will continue today Tuesday until their demands are met.
Those demands are for fuel prices to go down, Sene-Gambia Bridge toll fee reviewed and removal of unnecessary police checkpoints.
The Government responded by stating it did not impose new tariff at the bridge and has always been working to address the concern of the drivers.
It also deployed the national public transport company’s new fleet of buses and mini-vans while vehicles belonging to the Gambia Police Force were also deployed to transport the helpless public.
However, these measures proved grossly inadequate leaving many activities crippled as the country’s growing traveling community remains stranded.
Many stranded commuters urged government to initiate dialogue with the drivers.
”This cannot continue. Government must take its responsibility and find a solution by engaging in a dialogue rather than seeing this as a bluff by the drivers. People are suffering and they have only the government to turn to,” one senior civil servant said.
Asked if the government has reached out to them for negotiations, Mr Ceesay said no negotiations have started.
The Standard contacted the minister of transport, Ebrima Sillah who said the government’s doors are open for negotiation if and when the striking drivers want to talk. “As a government, what we are doing is to help the population cope with the problem by strengthening the public transport system. But our doors remain open for any talks. We have been working daily on addressing concerns of the transport sector. It is their union that called the strike so the transport operators should see for themselves whether the reasons for the strike are justifiable. All what we can do as a government is to help the people to cope with any difficulty they might be facing by deploying counter measures that can alleviate the problem,” Minister Sillah said.