Sarawak government to assist badly hit school bus operators

Picture from The Star

By Emma Victoria

SARAWAK Transport Ministry is committed to help school bus operators stay afloat as schools were closed due to Covid-19.

Its Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin said the affected operators were welcome to submit their proposals, concerns and feedback via online or write-in.

“We are aware and understand their predicament and would like to meet them but have to comply with the SOPs as Kuching is still classified a red zone district, “ he told Borneo Post.

He said there were 791 registered bus operators in the state.

Earlier, Bintulu School Bus Owners Association chairperson Robika @ Kobika Lubok said more than 60 registered members in Bintulu were struggling to pay their bank loans.

“Most of us are now facing the risk of bankruptcy and may have to cease our operations soon as we cannot pay our loans,” she said.

She said some members were disappointed because they have yet to receive any of assistance announced earlier by the state and federal governments.

“We are facing problems collecting the monthly fees despite it being agreed that parents will pay full fees even if schools close (as it is unpredictable and out of our control). Some even accused us of ‘cheating’ by charging full fares,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Malaysian School Bus Operators Association had already lost close to a third of its 10,000 members to the effects of the MCO.

Its president Mohd Rofik Mohd Yusof said over 4,000 operators had already ceased operations and many were forced to sell their vehicles and close down their businesses due to the conditional movement control order (CMCO).

Many could not continue to pay for their loans and could not survive with zero income in the coming three months of  as schools are only expected to reopen on January 20 next year.

The federation suggested that there should be a moratorium on vehicle loans for school bus operators especially during the CMCO so that their buses will not be repossessed by the banks and financial institutions when they fail to service their loans.

Operators need between RM4,000 and RM5,000 each month to pay their loans and support their families so during the MCO, many have already dug into their savings to keep their heads above water.