By Makutu Manneh & Isatou Kanyi
Commercial vehicle drivers across the country, have embarked on a sit down strike yesterday Monday 22nd June 2020, leaving hundreds of commuters stranded, with many others trekking to reach their destinations.
This came in the wake of the Gambia Transport Union calling on Government on the 15th of June, to consider their demands by easing up restrictions on the number of passengers their vehicles are licensed to carry, failure of which they will declare a nationwide sit down strike. Commuters complained that this has made their mobility difficult as most of them were not aware of the strike.
“I am urging Government to have dialogue with the drivers and listen to their demands. We have suffered a lot today,” Momodou Touray, a stranded passenger at Serre Kunda garage told these reporters. Momodou said he was not aware of the strike and was supposed to go for work but was stranded at the garage for hours without getting a vehicle.
Fatou Sarr, another 27-year-old stranded commuter said she trekked from Brufut to the Brusubi roundabout in order to get to her place of work.
“I have to work because I cannot stay at home without permission from my boss. This is what led to me to walk this long distance,” she said.
Jalika Jobe, a fish monger said she came to the market, but was did not sell any fish in the morning. She said few customers came to the market that day; that something needs to be done to ameliorate the situation for people to go about their normal businesses.
Sheriff Fofana, a van driver at the Serekunda Car Park said his van is licensed to carry fourteen passengers, but President Barrow ordered in a proclamation that commercial vehicles should carry the number of passengers they are licensed to carry as a precaution against Covid-19; that this is not favorable for him and that is the reason why he joined the sit down strike.
He gave marketplaces as examples where people can risk contracting the virus than commercial vehicles that are licensed to carry certain number of passengers.
Fofana said most market vendors sell from morning to evening and sit at the same place without observing any social distancing measures; that they want Government to fulfill their demands before Friday or the sit-down strike will continue.
Galo Bah, another driver at the Serre Kunda garage said they did not want any trouble; that this is reason they maintained the peace by embarking on sit-down strike; that they will abide by any orders which comes from the Government.
“The reason we are on sit-down strike is because public buses overload their vehicles as well as private vehicles. Government must allow us to carry the number of passengers we are licensed to carry” he said.
Bakary Sonko of the Serre Kunda garage said Police should respect drivers.
“The reason why police Officers are on the road is for the safety of the people which includes drivers. We urge the authorities to come to our aid and assist us,” he said.