Cabbies who were like thugs

TRANSIT was again shocked when we took note of this article, describing harassment and assault by taxi drivers at the Bukit Jalil terminal.

Cabbies who were like thugs (The Star)
I AM a foreigner who is disabled. I normally use a wheelchair to get around.

As you know, Malaysia is not very wheelchair-friendly at the moment and I get about with great difficulty using a stick.

Recently, I had an operation and still have a wound in my abdomen.

At around 11pm on Wednesday, I arrived at the Bukit Jalil LRT station in Kuala Lumpur rather exhausted after a long day.

I tried to get a taxi to go to Arena Green a short distance away but the taxi drivers refused.

The first taxi said the distance was too short.

All the drivers were sitting on the ground chatting and smoking.

I then started asking each driver why they refused to take me and started writing down their numbers so that I could later contact any taxi regulating organisation.

When I got to the fourth driver, he angrily stated that he was not working and that I should not record his number.

I replied that in that case, there would be no problem as I would record that he was not working.

He reacted by threatening me, head-butting me, ripping my notepaper from me, then pushing me.

Before I knew it, I was surrounded by half a dozen drivers.

One punched me in the temple and I was head-butted a number of times by the original aggresor.

At this point, my Malaysian friend intervened placing himself between me and the drivers.

His use of the local lingo seemed to have a moderately calming effect.

Nevertheless, I was still punched, threatened and ‘advised’ in perfect English that they ‘were going lightly on me because I had a “stick’.

Brave men indeed!

I am, despite my disability which came late in life, very well travelled.

I am now retired because I can no longer work and travel is one of the few joys I can still indulge in.

It would be unfair to judge an entire country by the actions of a handful of cowardly thugs, and I would never do so.

I have had many pleasurable visits here and hope to have many more.

The purpose of my letter is simple – your countrymen should know, not just in their heads, but in their hearts too, that committing violent criminal acts on strangers is not going to make your environment the safe and progressive country the rest of you seem to be striving for.

FEARLESS,
Kuala Lumpur.

TRANSIT Says:

Fearless of Kuala Lumpur, who is self-described as disabled and normally using a wheelchair, writes of being harassed and assaulted by taxi drivers at Bukit Jalil – despite walking with a walking stick – simply because he stood up for his rights & the rules that taxi drivers are supposed to follow, and the laws that protect Malaysians. William Dennis of Subang Jaya responds with this letter.

The truth is, we do not want or need this nonsense in Malaysia but for some strange reason we accept it.

Are we gluttons for punishment? Are we simply weak. Or are we simply living in fear, hoping against hope that “stuff like this won’t happen to me”

Will Malaysians stand up together for their simple rights which are supposed to be enshrined in law, or are they simply going to watch others attempt to do it for them?

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25 thoughts on “Cabbies who were like thugs”

  1. I was shaking with anger reading this letter.
    How low is this country stooping?

    I am a foreigner myself and consider myself very, very well travelled. And never nor anywhere in the world have I seen such thuggish, gangster and hooligan behavior from Taxi drivers.

    Where’s the police? Where’s SPAD? Where’s the public?

    Shame! Shame! Shame! And attacking a disabled person??! Shame! Shame!

  2. If the taxi drivers want to be hooligans and gangsters, SPAD can join with the police or other security teams to “join” them. You must fight an eye for an eye. Many rude and uncivilised taxi drivers don’t deserve good and fair/justified treatments. All they need are some “legal” physical fists from someone for them to be “sober”. They will be sober once they end up on hospital bed. A few examples like that are good enough to give obvious and effective warning to other unscruplous taxi drivers.

  3. Hello All,
    I was surprised and pleased to find my letter to the Star reprinted here. I was unaware of your site and find myself pleasantly surprised to find it. I wish everyone the very best of luck with your goals (as stated herein).
    I am more or less obliged to use public transport as I can no longer drive. I am adamant that I will remain as independent as my disability allows me to and therefore I choose to continue using the very poor transport services that exist here. I do see improvements all the time- particularly at some train stations and in recently built public buildings.
    When I stayed in Penang the rule for cabs was simple- you bargained and that was that. Although meters should have been used, there was no enforcement and simply every cab operated without it. But, I never failed to get a cab, was never abused, indeed had many pleasant conversations and enjoyable jourmeys. Sadly, here in KL there are different rules.
    My KL friend tried his best to explain to me how things operate here and got quite annoyed when I argued back. He stated I should blend into the culture and I had no right to fight it. I argued that the reason bad things stay the same is because people accept them and will not fight. I fight. I always fight. The world is full of people who lie, cheat and attempt to rip others off. It is NOT right to permit others to behave like this- no matter what their culture is- not because they are wrong, but because WE are wrong to tolerate it.
    I’m sorry for being long-winded (although it is nice to get that off my chest!), but have thought this through? I may be vulnerable because I am disabled, what about our children and our elders? Should they continue to use thug-like cabbies for fear of being harassed verbally or physically assaulted? Few people complain, I surely believe that those who do are just the tip of the iceberg.
    So, cabbies- get smart! Be clean, be civil, keep busy. Retire young and rich. Stop fooling around – as my friend says – ‘DON’T PLAY PLAY!!’

    Best regards,

    Vinnie

  4. Hey fearless

    to be honest as much as I want to sympathize for your case, I can’t help but say that you like to “cari pasal”

    The thing is you look for problem so that problem bothers you. The problem here is that you feel vulnerable in the head and what you did could have serious implications towards the cabbie’s livelihood and thus his family. Not to mention something really bad could have happened to you.

    Could you live with yourself knowing that your actions made a working man such as the cab driver lose his job and thus lose his ability to put food on top the table for his children and wife or even worse, lose his freedom such that the tax payer’s money would be wasted on him to prevent him from taking part in the Malaysian economy.

    Of course all you wanted to do was fight oppression, show the cabbies whose boss, make em pay for their sins.

    The fact remains is that they are just normal people doing a mundane job and they get harassed by self-centered passengers, who think they are doing it for the greater good, which at times causes the cabbies to over react.

    Seriously, what did you expect to happen? Were you expecting them to be cowards and not dare beat up a cripple. You know, when Gandhi had his non-violent movement he was faced with violence. i.e. beaten up with sticks etc. So, what did you expect. Did you expect they wouldn’t dare go against the notion that beating a cripple is fundamentally wrong and shouldn’t be done. Or you did not expect that to happen because they would fear the law.

    Remind yourself that you are threatening their way of life and an accepted business practice hence culture. You were acting aggressive towards the cabbies by openly taking their numbers down. Showing that you were going to punish them for not wanting to serve you.

    Regardless, I guess your gamble didn’t pay off. Or I may be wrong and you might have exaggerated the whole situation and bias perceptions could have come into play. May be all they did was tap your head a couple of times and it made you feel small and weak. The psychological pain must have been immense. Thus, a need for retribution. You know, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

    That being said it must have been a terrible experience that you have just gone through and I hope that you recover. Next time however, I would strongly recommend that you bring along some journalists so that they can blow this story wide open. Thus, we can have some serious political action taken against them.

    BTW, I hope you take my post lightly, I sincerely tried toning it down, but I just loved this particular style of sarcastic writing. Hope I’m doing it right.

    Also I am not sure as to what are the rights of cabbies in Malaysia but I think there should be a taxi bill of rights. Taxi drivers should know their rights and so should passengers.

  5. Hi Sam,

    Your post was very disappointing to read. I think you make my point for me extremely well. Thanks for doing so-. This is indeed why bad things remain the same. Simply because many people do not actually understand what is right and what is wrong, having become accustomed to seeing it wrong. Hence the need for me and others to point it out, eventually everyone and every nation develops, that is how it goes. But it is on the basis of LEARNING, something we can only do with an open mind.

    Regards,

    Vinnie

    Cheers,

    Vinnie

    1. Vinnie, I think Sam was trying to be sarcastic with her post – not against you but the whole situation and the excuses that might be floated by certain people to justify their actions.

      Frankly, there are large numbers of social problems in Malaysia that go unrecognized, undiagnosed and untreated. Just last week a few politicians were defending a person (who claims she was suffering from depression) who allegedly (ok, it was caught on video but she’s still “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law”) stomped on a number of stray kittens and one of them was quoted as saying “it’s just a cat” – perhaps meaning to say that there are worse things happening in M’sia.

      Now, once we’ve gotten past that….

      Sam, there is a Client’s Charter posted to the rear window of every taxi – and ignored by many of the drivers (maybe because they cannot see it). A taxi bill of rights would amount to the same thing if it were just ignored by SPAD.

      Vinnie, considering the nature of the incident as you described it, I suggest that you do the following:

      1. File a police report at the nearest station (and if they say, sorry you have to go to a station in Bukit Jalil, don’t listen as their computer system has been upgraded).

      2. Send a complaint to the public transport regulator, the Land Public Transport Commission using their online complaints form or the email address aduan@spad.gov.my.

      For both the police report & complaint with SPAD it would be ideal if you have details like date, time, location, taxi registration number, taxi company name, etc.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  6. All I know is if you don’t know what is courtesy and you don’t show proper manner and courtesy to other people (passengers), you don’t deserve any courtesy and manner at all. You reap what you sow. What comes around goes around. Retribution is the word. 因果报应,礼尚往来,不往非礼也。I believe other people (passengers) also have their family members and beloved one, not just the taxi drivers. If this is what the taxi drivers want, this is what they will get. The thug and rude taxi drivers cannot expect the whole world forgive and understand them only as if they are the emperor or the king. All of us know the world don’t belong to taxi drivers only. It belongs to US (not united states ok)!! US!! All of us have our difficulties and problems to when it comes to earning a living for our family!!! Not just ONLY the F******* unscruplous, rude, no manner (没家教) thug taxi drivers have problems and difficulties to raise their children and take care of their family!!! Other people also have the same PROBLEMS and DIFFICULTIES too!!!

  7. I know my city well and take cabs only occasionally, but when I do I almost always know the usual routes to where I’m going. Even so I’ve had cab drivers try to take me for a ride, so to speak, on multiple occasions. Usually just letting them know that I know they’re going the wrong way solves the problem, but sometimes they get really argumentative, at which point I have them pull over and let me out right away. I understand they don’t make a lot of money, but I don’t make enough to give charity to scamming cab drivers, either. And if they get that angry at being called out on trying to rob me, then I don’t feel safe in a cab with them anyway. There are other honest cab drivers out there that I can give my business to.

  8. Actually, it is illegal for them to refuse service. If it is an operating taxi (with the red available sign on) and he refuses to take you, report him. He can have his taxi license revoked for things like that.

    While I generally agree that taxi drivers are incompetent and downright dangerous (almost got killed a few times back when I commuted by motorcycle), you do occasionally encounter a decent driver.

  9. Thanks to Jeffrey Ang,
    For bringing us all back to my original point- it is NOT acceptable for ANYONE to verbally or physically harass ANYONE else for ANY reason. That is why I wrote- I am tired of hearing unforgiveable remarks such as – ‘She deserved to have unwelcome sexual advances because she wore such a small skirt’ or some such similar badly thought out remark.
    There simply is NO justification of any sort for perpetrating random acts of criminal violence on another human being. And that is that.
    Condoning or excusing or tolerating violence, be that verbal or physical is to say that in certain circumstances bullying, harassment and intimidation is ok. It is not.
    When we are all completely clear about that, things will change. It is a matter of learning. For example, in many countries it is now unacceptable as well as illegal to smoke antwhere in the workplace or in public areas, it is also unacceptable and illegal to drink and drive. It is only a short time ago that many people regarded these activities as normal and acceptable.
    We need, as a society, to evolve.

    Regards,

    Vinnie

    1. Vinnie

      The first step is to file your police report and your report with SPAD. Then we can go out and start helping people’s attitudes evolve.

      Jeffery

      You are quite correct – we should not allow ourselves to be held hostage by taxi drivers – and the government should not allow this situation – but they did allow it since 1987 when the pathetic CVLB was created with less than 60 enforcement agents for the entire country.

      Where are SPAD’s supposed 500 uniformed agents, is what we want to know.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  10. Hi Moaz,

    Strangely, my friend laughed when I said that I would make a police report- he clearly knew (or thought he knew) something I did not about what would happen should I do so…
    But you know, we must DIG the ground and spread a little ‘fertiliser’ BEFORE we plant our need- not afterwards.
    That is what we do, everyday a little more, as we speak out and prepare people’s minds for new ways of thinking. Speaking to deaf ears creates no understanding- in speaking to listening ears there is a chance that over time our little idea grows from a mere whim to a sincere conviction.
    Then those are unthinking may learn to see that for example- cabbies attacking anyone, for any reason, whether or not that person is more vulnerable than others, IS NOT AT ALL ACCEPTABLE.
    That is all I am saying- the rest of Malaysia’s or the world’s social problems did not enter into my original letter.
    For balance- the last twenty or so cabbies I have dealt with since being attacked, were normal, friendly guys. It is the thugs and criminally minded we must flush out and shame- these are the elements of society that drag us down and make us as animals- wallowing in our own filth.

    Regards,

    Vinnie

    1. Hi Vinnie

      That’s why we need to identify and punish those few ‘bad apples’ – so file the police report and send the information to SPAD. Despite what some people may think, some action will be taken and more people will get the message.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  11. Hi Moaz,

    Sadly, as noted in my letter- my notes were ripped from me by the guy who head-butted me- leaving me with no specific data to report except for my anecdotal evidence. That would leave the authorities with no real information to work with, hence my failure to follow through on a police report.
    In my country of origin, I once had to complain to our Taxi Regulator regarding a driver who refused to take me to a HOSPITAL!! He was charged on a criminal charge. That is a reflection of the measure of standard expected. But, at home it took many, many years before enforced regulation was considered as ‘normal’.
    I am not so convinced that such a train is coming down the tracke here in Malaysia. Having said that, some years ago I bought a four-socket extension lead in a large well known store. When I plugged it in, it blew up. Being an electrician in a previous life, I examined the item and identified the manufacturing designfault which I reported by phone and follow-up email to SIRIM. One year later I received a reply by email stating that the product licence had been revoked by SIRIM. Question- how many shocks/injuries/deaths (if any) occurred during this time due to this badly designed, dangerous item?
    So, although the framework for standards and regulation might appear to exist, a change in our perspective is needed before that framework is of any use in practical terms. That change in our perspective may be brought about by persistent, consistent repetition of the message that certain activities simply are intolerable and inexcusable under any circumstances.

    Regards,

    Vinnie

  12. is it so hard for the enforcement officer to goes undercover and issue an immediate summons or revoke their lisence if they refuse to used meter? what are they afraid of? no one to drive the taxi. I think now days it’s easy to get someone to drive taxi so we need to use the law and tell the thugs cabbies “follow the book or leave” coz “satu pergi sepuluh mari”

    1. @Cairel

      The CVLB, the regulator of the past, only had 58 enforcement officers – and no authority to enforce anything except the use of the permit.

      That is why, once enforcement activities started to take place, CVLB had to join up with Road Transport Department and KL City Hall enforcement officers.

      We have been told that the new regulator, SPAD (Land Public Transport Commission) will have 500 enforcement officers. Unfortunately, we have not heard anything about these officers – including where they are coming from, what their uniforms look like (assuming they are uniformed) and where they are based.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  13. Guys,
    I don’t believe it takes more than a few enforcement officers to achieve a substantial alteration in Taxi drivers behaviour. The reason there is no change is because there is no will to change. I have long believed that the reason bad things remain the same is because somebody profits from the bad situation.
    A half-dozen plain clothes agents travelling at random times and recording the drivers behaviour would be quite sufficient. It only takes a Police summons or Fine in the post to let drivers know they are being watched. Cabbies do not live in a vacuum, they chat amongst each other. In half a day the word would be out that secret enforcers are acting as passengers.
    Why not turn the cabbies terrorism back on themselves, for a change?

    Regards,

    Vinnie

  14. I think that probably happens, but taxi driver associations probably have a secret list of name and photos of every single enforcer, and there being 55 of them only, it won’t be hard for taxi drivers to realize when they are being watched.

    1. As I recall in the papers from years past, the CVLB director reported to the public that:

      “An enforcement officer boarded a taxi from Pudu to a hotel early one morning. He was overcharged and at the end of the trip, the taxi driver told the officer that he ‘dah agak pegawai’ (he could guess that it was an officer). But yet, he still dared to overcharge the officer,” said Markiman.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  15. Greetings All,

    Having revised the postings briefly this morning I find the following conclusions-
    There does not appear to be an actual belief that things can change for the better here (both in the cabbies’ situation and in general in Malaysia).
    There seems to be a willingness to complain among ourselves but not follow through.
    The policies and politics we present around making things better seem to hide an inner drive to prevent change. I think this is because we all benefit to some degree from loose law enforcement and control. By which I mean that we do not really want 100% enforcement- because some day enforcing pedestrian bye-laws, rules of the road, tax compliance measures and so on may in turn be carrid out on us, therefore stopping our own little tricks.
    I further believe that this is a global phenomenon and it probably exists in all organisations- a culture where highlighting schemes and scams is prohibited in case the schems and scams WE benefit from are taken away.
    There is no real point in blaming cabbies for ripping us off and threatening or perpetrating violence on us, nor is there any real point in blaming the enforcement officers for being ineffective. The source of these problems may be traced to the policies that permit them- our laws and our politicians- and ourselves for voting them in in the first place.
    A French Philosopher, J M de Maistre (Thank you, Google!), said ‘Every country gets the government it deserves’- and truly, we do.
    If we want actual change, and I’m not talking about revolution- we need to be clear about what is right and wrong, what we are willing to stand up for and what price we are willing to pay for it. Too many of us grumble and do littel else. Most of us could not be bothered, it is after all much easier to bitch about the problem or bitch about people complaining about the problem.
    I day-dreamed earlier of a National Stop Cabbies Rip-off Day. A one-day only event where EVERYONE would be intolerable of dirty, broken cabs, bad mannered cabbies, un-metered cabs etc. Cabbies who did not flout the rules would of course not even notice, but the others- WOW!
    Dreams…

    Regards,

    Vinnie

  16. taxi touting / not using meter / refusing to take passengers is a common problem in developing countries. i had quite an experience when i was in delhi for a trip last yr. however, since i was there for an eye-opening experience, i took it all in stride.

    cabs in singapore are more orderly, clean (they don’t hv to use Proton), they will take you to where u want to go (unless they are changing shifts / they are hiding before 12 midnight so that they can hv a surcharge). reason could be that the rentals for cabs are not too low (abt $80-90 per day) so taxi drivers must work to make money n you rarely see taxi drivers refusing to take fares, and of course the fear of the govt (every taxi has a notice sticking at the passenger side that not using meter is illegal with number to report for LTA)

    to attain the service standard in singapore is going to take quite a while. but there is sthg i saw in Mumbai that is quite interesting – meter jammers. it is a campaign being run by the locals there where for 1 day – they will not take the taxi and autos (sthg like your toot toot in Bangkok). they did this last yr, with participants wearing black, handing out leaflets, and arrange for car pool for ppl whom participate so as able to reach from Point A to Point B. check it out – it is quite interesting and generate quite a bit of awareness http://www.meterjam.com.

  17. transit

    just to share some possible alternatives to taxis, we need to put a squeeze on the taxi operators by giving them a run for their money. A possible alternative is by using carpooling.

    car pooling is not new. it was introduced by ministry of transport many yrs back. but it did not work b/cos
    1) it does not match those giving rides with those taking rides. e.g. if i want to go from PJ to KLCC, my neighbour only wants to go from PJ to Bukit Bintang
    2) it does not provide any incentives to those participating. if out of goodness of heart, someone pays say RM 20. but sometimes amt is not large enough / after a while too many trips we may not want to carpool with the neighbour again if we had quarrelled with each other

    Today, with technology we can map routes better and communicate among ourselves better. E.g. send an SMS or trigger an iPhone app to a centralized car pooling operator to find a nearby transport. Admittedly, this would not cover all kinds of trips, more like those planned trips going to office and back, and not so much for an ad-hoc trip to buy groceries at Carrefour. But by doing so, we are telling the taxi operators that if they don’t shape up they are up to some stiff competition
    some countries has already started to experiment with a commercial basis of car pooling and I think any plucky entrepreneur in Msia might want to try to consider some of the e.g. below

    1) NuRide in US – concept : drivers post where they going and get points for participating. points are earned from sponsors for redemptions.
    Sustainability of the biz : i would think that employers, universities may want to participate b/cos by getting ppl to car pool, they can reduce number of parking lots which consumes space + money
    http://www.nuride.com/nuride/main/main.jsp
    2) Megacarpool in Delhi – concept : this puts a GPS tracking device at the car of the participating driver and then would therefore earn credit.
    Sustainability of the biz : This can be funded by the govt as a form of saving in terms of reduction of traffic
    http://www.megacarpool.com/

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