Taxi and Truck Drivers Send SOS [Archives:1998/13/Business & Economy]

March 30 1998

One of the main problems that has begun to acquire disturbing dimensions is that of the checkpoints spread throughout the link roads between our cities. In simple terms, the truck and taxi drivers are really furious and fed up with he extortion they face at these checkpoints. The purpose of these checkpoints is to provide safety and security to the people. But it seems that they have deviated from being protectors to exploiters. A soldier on duty at these checkpoints will shamelessly stretch his hand towards you asking for “Hak Al-Qat” (money for Qat) and once you give it to him, he will let you off even if you carry weapons, drugs or anything for that matter, for which the checkpoints are made. The following are some taxi drivers’ tales who had expressed their plight openly.
1- Abdu Assedra
The checkpoints along the road from Taiz to Sanaa are really a big problem. In fact, the soldiers working at these checkpoints have found us to be easy prey. When we stop at these checkpoints, a soldier stretches his hand towards us asking for Hak Al-Qat. But if we say “No”, this ‘No’ puts the fat into the fire. We are told “Ala-Jamb” which means to be out of the way. After that the process of investigation starts. We are stopped till the officer of the checkpoint comes. The intention is to make us surrender and dispense with “Hak Al-Qat”, though we are sure that we are not breaking the law.
In this way, the main purpose of the checkpoints has become charging bribes rather than the protection of the people. This is because if you give them what they want, they will let you pass even with missiles or tanks. So, this is not only our predicament, but also that of the whole country because these checkpoints have become bribe centers allowing contraband goods to move with impunity.
2- Saleh Mohammed Sa’ad
We are very fed up with these checkpoints, at which the soldiers only speak the language of money. They extend their hands and once we put some money on them, they draw back giving us a warm greeting and a sweet smile as a sign of very well, thank you, ok, you may go, ma’salama.
This is the daily routine we are accustomed to. But when we refuse to give them some money, we become targets to their high-handedness. They start asking for your driver’s license, customs card, tax card and the like. They even ask us to unload the goods from the back of our taxi or truck for checking. But if one wants to spare oneself all this trouble and be released at a single stroke, one has just to put his hand in his pocket, take some money and even throw it at the soldier on duty without the need even to stop at all. There used to be a checkpoint at Al-Huban for customs collectors but it was taken off. However, we are still at the mercy of some tax collectors, policemen and the like who really treat us as brigands.
3- Ahmad Ali Abdu
I think that my friends have more or less expressed our problems and sufferings resulting from these checkpoints. But I will try to shed some light on a relevant issue. By this, I mean the negative role of the transportation syndicate, Taiz branch. The people in charge of this syndicate do nothing to protect the rights of its members but are only interested in receiving our monthly subscription fees. I had an accident and according to the regulation of the syndicate, I should have been given some help. But unfortunately, I received nothing. Worse, whenever any member of the syndicate asks for his rights, he is subject to dismissal under so many uncalled-for pretexts. Doesn’t this behavior double our predicament?
4- Abdul-Malik Swedan
The problems we meet at these checkpoints are actually endless for we are subject to the humiliation of every Tom, Dick & Harry along the roads. We really can’t afford the demands of the people scattered along these checkpoints. I wonder whether to spend what we earn by hard work on our children or on these thieves. Besides, we are really very much disappointed with the people in charge of our syndicate. We have nominated a new administrative body but unfortunately they have done nothing for us. So many members of this society are in hospitals due to accidents and none of the syndicate staff has asked about them or even paid them a visit. When we ask for the protection of our rights we are liable to various penalties like discharge from the membership of the syndicate. So, we appeal to the Yemen Times to present our problems to the general public and the authority.
By: Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi, Taiz.