Cabbies’ ex-lawyer seconds Nazri’s loo remark

The loud-mouthed minister (who was once was investigated in a scandal involving thousands of taxi permits giveaways to proxies) certainly did not mince his words when he likens the taxi drivers in Malaysia to that very inanimate thing that grosses all locals and tourists alike. Not as if TRANSIT, who champions for the greater good of the rakyat, prefers people up there who we elect to be content with the current disgusting, untenable condition of facilities shared by the public.

As the misbehavior of our taxi drivers have reached to a level labeled as ‘national disgrace’ by an internationally-renowned periodical, TRANSIT expects the government to take ownership once and for all to tackle the severe lack of transparency and accountability in both the issuance of permits and the operational enforcement by the CVLB.

Taxi drivers should shape up or forced to be shipped out, and the authorities should stop trashing curses and grouses and start banging their carrots and sticks… like the wise ol’ saying: sticks and stones may break the cabbies’ bones but names will never hurt ’em.

Here is the piece that appears on today’s The Star.

Nazri merely stating the truth

Wednesday December 23, 2009

SUCH was the indignation felt by the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Taxi Drivers’ Welfare Association chairman M. Manikam about the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri’s remark that taxi drivers are worse than public toilets that M. Manikam issued an ultimatum to the minister to apologise within a week or there would be a massive demonstration by 26,000 taxi drivers in front of his office.

That ultimatum is over. It now remains to be seen if M. Manikam will hold true to his word.

Earlier to this, Execu­tive Taxi Owners’ Asso­cia­tion chairman Azmi Mohd Yatim was so incensed by the minister’s remark that he not only demanded that the minister withdraw his remark and apologise but also called upon the Prime Minister to replace the minister.

However, the minister was not being insolent or disrespectful but merely stating the unpleasant truth about the bad behaviour of our taxi drivers. Not that our public toilets are any better.

Those flying into a rage and calling for the minister’s scalp should first be reminded that a survey published by The Expat magazine rated Malaysia’s taxi service as the worst among 23 countries surveyed.

In the survey, Malaysian taxi drivers were among others labelled as “national disgrace”, “extortionist” and “a threat to tourists”. So what the minister, who has a penchant for blunt words and straight talk, had said about taxi drivers cannot be construed as being disrespectful.

Just what is the problem with taxi drivers? The taxi fare has been revised. With effect from Aug 1 this year, the flag-down rate is RM3 instead of RM2. That is not all – the taxi meter also significantly jumps faster when the taxi is not moving or when caught in a jam.

In fact, after the fare increase, taxi drivers reported a 30% rise in earnings. Despite this, taxi drivers are still continuing with their usual shenanigans in ripping off passengers while providing sub-standard service.

The chairman of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Taxi Drivers’ Association and the chairman of the Executive Taxi Owners’ Association who are enraged by the ministers’ remarks should come to Johor Baru and witness the startling truth. To say only a minority of taxi drivers cheat is an understatement.

The fact is, the majority of taxi drivers in Johor Baru, despite the revised taxi fare, refuse to use the meter and continue to cheat the public by charging excess fares, refusing or being reluctant to return the change, choosing destinations, refusing to take passengers to certain areas, covering the meter with towels, calendars or calling cards or not using the meter, but informing the passenger of the fare after driving a few hundred metres and then asking the passenger to get out if the passenger does not agree with their demands.

Those who are demanding a public apology or threatening demonstrations just have to go undercover and observe and experience how taxi drivers in Johor Baru, namely around City Square, Taman Pelangi, Wisma Persekutuan, Larkin Bus Terminal, Skudai bus stand, Taman Tun Aminah bus stand or even Kip Market Tampoi cheat the public.

The reason most taxi drivers continue with their wayward ways is simply because policing and enforcement are grossly lacking. The Road Transport Department and the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board (CVLB), which are responsible for keeping errant cabbies in check, conduct only periodic operasi and more often than not complain about lack of manpower. So they instead wait for the public to complain.

Rightfully, instead of depending on the public to complain, the CVLB should go undercover and weed out the miscreant taxi drivers. How difficult can that be?

If the CVLB can be seen to be serious, uncompromising and start cancelling taxi permits and taxi licences of errant taxi drivers or their companies, the standard of taxi service will immediately show an improvement.

Then maybe the public toilets may be worse than the taxi drivers. Until then, it is the taxi drivers!

NORMAN FERNANDEZ,

Former legal adviser to a JB taxi drivers’ association (1989-90), Johor Baru.

TRANSIT Says:

Are you familiar with the acronym N.A.T.O.? It stands for “No Action, Talk Only” and is widely used in Malaysia to reflect people who just talk but do not do much.

Unfortunately, Minister Nazri is one of these people. Let’s face it, the CVLB has less than 60 enforcement officers. They do not even have enough enforcement officers to catch the plainly obvious “bad apple” taxi drivers who hangout at various points in the Klang Valley and do their best to fleece tourists.

With all their talk about commitment to improve public transport, the government did not even include money to hire more enforcement officers for the CVLB into the 2010 Budget.

Not to mention that the Government Transformation Program’s proposals for Urban Public Transport (created by a special “Urban Public Transport Panel”) have no suggestions about taxi service except that they express the hope that the new Public Land Transport Commission (which will have 650 enforcement staff) will be able rein them in – perhaps in 2-3 years when it is all organized.

Despite all the talk from Nazri, including promises that service would improve after the fares were increased, TRANSIT has yet to see any firm commitment or action, other than a few joint enforcement activities. Nazri hasn’t even called for more officers.

As for the promise that taxi drivers who do not issue receipts would not get their license renewed, what is the point of this statement? It is an insult to both sides because the good taxi drivers feel like they are “bad guys” while the real “bad guy” taxi drivers would not bat an eye!

Instead of passing insults (and doing nothing else), how about getting an allocation to hire a few hundred enforcement officers for the CVLB?

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