Tissa Jayaweera, a prominent personality, who often writes to local newspapers, recently wrote an article titled ‘Sound Pollution.’ In his article, he highlighted how the “Sri Lanka Police has suddenly woken up from being a ’Deaf Police’ to being an ’Active Police’, in controlling sound pollution by bus drivers”. 12 March 2019, was considered as one of the most peaceful days for the public in Sri Lanka in recent history, mainly due to bus drivers not polluting the environment by tooting ear blasting horns! This was felt by the public at home, on the road and in offices situated by the side of main roads.
This writer has written several articles on the deterioration of traffic laws in this country, including sound pollution, where motorists, pedestrians, tuk tuk drivers and particularly the motorcycle riders don’t pay heed to their own lives, let alone others. The meaning of the word self-discipline seems to have vaporised completely into the equally polluted atmosphere! Bus drivers and tuk tuk drivers are the worst villains on Sri Lankan roads because they think that roads are their domain – due to their lack of intelligence. Despite sound polluting bus drivers, what is distressing along with their disorderly behaviour on public roads, is the strange behaviour of even the calmest and disciplined driver who turns into a ‘demon’ once he or she sits behind the steering wheel of a vehicle.
Such misery was compounded when buses fixed with horns, which toot an ear-splitting sound, where drivers depended more on air horns rather than concentrating on other factors such as driving on the road in a disciplined manner. Whenever bus drivers were obstructed by vehicles, the deafening sound of horns became an irritation to other road users; when they approached bus halts, drivers began tooting to draw the attention of the waiting passengers.
The impulse of using horns becomes worse when a bus driver attempts to overtake another competitor in a marathon race, and tries to be the first to pick passengers. This shows how irresponsible drivers make a mockery of traffic laws in this country and their attitude to other road users, where they treat them with utter disdain and psychologically threaten with loud sounds.
Thanks to a brainwave of the Police hierarchy, the Traffic Police went into action after 12 March, where the public could view on TV how Police Officers stopped buses and physically removed loud horns fitted in buses. The authorities also need take note of the fact that it is not only the ‘under paid-over worked’bus drivers who violate motor traffic laws should be prosecuted but that the real culprits are the bus owners who dictate terms to their poor workers by imposing various conditions to increase revenue. These ‘sharks’ seem to set busy time tables to drivers concentrating on monetary gain by using the poor employees as guinea pigs and pushing them to the hilt to achieve their targets. These money-orientated machinists pay no attention at all to the comfort of passengers who travel in their buses. Doesn’t this disgraceful act, by both the bus owner and pressurised bus driver alike, turn traffic law into ‘an ass’? The authorities need to look into this manoeuvre seriously and positively?
Tissa Jayaweera quite pungently pointed out that it is not only the drivers of buses, who break traffic laws by sounding air horns fitted to buses should be brought before the Law, the operators of these buses should be also prosecuted, such as state-owned depot superintendents, chairman of the CTB and equally the Minister of Transport, who share the ultimate individual and prime responsibility, rather than adopting a picking order !
Tissa Jayaweera’s article speaks about a video going viral of a Sub Inspector of Traffic Police inspecting and charging bus drivers for having ear blasting horns fitted in buses. All that is fine and accepted as good work by the Traffic Police, but the problem is when violators are produced before a Court of Law, there also exists professional Attorneys-at-Law, who are ingenious and are prepared to make ‘Black’ into ‘White’ and vice versaby displaying their professional flair in a Court House, which ultimately makes the Police Officer to look like a fool, being unable to prove the level of sound, and whether it is a case of exceeding the legal limit or not! This again confuses the sitting Judge, as he too will be bamboozled whether to fine the suspect or release the driver! According to the existing legal system prevalent in this country, no one could predict for how long errant bus drivers will have to dragged to Courts, considering the procrastinated nature of the Legal System in Sri Lanka.
Interpretation of the Law
The Law specifically interprets that the rating of sound should be below 80 decibels at the perimeters of all industries, but the Authorities have diluted it by changing the sound of vehicle horns to be kept below 60 decibels! In his article, Tissa Jayaweera highlights a vital issue courageously about an importation of a costly Sound Detection Equipmentby the Ministry of Transport, purely for the purpose of testing sound levels of vehicle horns, the existence of which seems to have died a natural death!
Sophisticated and expensive equipment
To import such sophisticated and expensive equipment to Sri Lanka, the Government would have had to spend millions of dollars out of public funds. So far, it remains mysterious as to whatever has happened to such expensive equipment because it is alleged that the public has never seen them rather than learning about the importation by way of news.
In Tissa Jayaweera’s words, “These could be corroding and rotting in some warehouse or discarded being unsuitable for use in Sri Lanka”! Or else, could it be that the staff at the Transport Ministry lack knowledge how to operate the equipment without technical training expertise from manufacturers, which happens to be the normal practice in Sri Lanka when those responsible officials do not bother about the specifications or the suitability when signing for various trade agreements as long as they are contended with the commission factor involved therein. It’s also a fact that in dealing with the International trade, marketing practices include a commission aspect as an integral part of the deal automatically, whether one likes it or not, but the responsible officials’ common sense should prevail in negotiations prior to signing of any trade agreement, rather than getting blinded by the ‘ santhosam’ factor, remembering what they are playing with is public funds that should benefit the country.
So, Tissa Jayaweera feels that it is not too late still, for the Minister of Transport to go into a comprehensive inquiry as to who was responsible for this white elephant of importing such ‘improper and unsuitable equipment’(if that is so) for the use of the Ministry of Transport.
President Maithripala Sirisena’s recent order to the Police Department to implement the law equally on everyone, specifically to politicians and VIPs when they approach security queues, or during normal travel on the road at rocket speed, with back up vehicles and blue-flash lights, blaring of horns and shoving every other motorist on the road to a side, to get their passage cleared in a most rude and indecorous manner, is accepted by the public as an apt decision.
As Tissa Jayaweera concluded his thoughts, the writer too is in complete agreement that the current DIG traffic will go on record books, if road discipline is brought back to civilian Laws and Rules away from the political culture, bearing in mind that it is through funds that maintain the uniformed services and giving all the luxuries to the Politicians as well who seem to be in cloud nine!
Pic credit: Ceylon Today, Google Photos