Malaysia’s new government is looking into new rules for Grab and ride-hailing services in the country after a flare-up of protests from taxi operators.
Some taxi operators vowed to create a chaotic situation in Kuala Lumpur until Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigns. Others protested at a meeting with the PM in Langkawi, calling him to resign if he could not protect taxi operators.
This resulted in Dr Mahathir to state that he did not want to become PM but was called back by the people.
The news is some big taxi owners are behind the lobby to end ride-hailing services in Malaysia. They are not happy with the competition, which is a healthy one indeed. They are also dreaming of the days when they ruled the streets of Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere in a rogue fashion.
Many of them are still behaving like rogue elements under the Pakatan Harapan government. The question is will the PH bow to such pressure?
After the Pakatan Haparan won the May 9 polls, now the taxi owners and operators are asking for their ‘dues’, ignoring the fact that times have changed. Disruptions are here to stay and the internet is part of our lives for good.
But this did not stop the taxi operators from creating an ugly scene in Langkawi coupled with their threats to Dr Mahathir and the current Minister of Transport Anthony Loke to quit.
Dr Mahathir has made it clear: He wants a new deal for Grab and other ride-hailing services.
During the election campaign, Dr Mahathir said he was misquoted on Pakatan’s wishlist on e-hailing services. He said called for a review of the current legislation instead. Some local mainstream and internet media said he called for shutting down of Grab and other e-hailing services.
In a Twitter posting, the former premier said he had mentioned that the current legislation would be reviewed to ensure that the rights of both, e-hailing services and taxi drivers, are protected.
But what kind of review is the Pakatan looking into for taxi services?
Dr Mahathir at the dialogue in Langkawi reportedly said Grab would be required to use government-approved vehicles and pay taxes and road insurance similar to taxi operators to ensure fair play.
The Prime Minister said the matter had been raised at the Cabinet meeting and had ordered Transport Minister Anthony Loke to rectify the problem.
However, it is the taxi services that needs a complete review.
The list of complaints against the taxis in Malaysia is unending. They start with cheating taxi drivers, then there is the overcharging and the killing of the meters or fixing of the taxi meters.
Taxis are now given 100% protection at Malaysian airports, to the detriment of e-hailing services. This does not create competition. It is purely protectionist.
Foreign and domestic passengers are forced to take a taxi from the airport since Grab drivers are not allowed to wait in line with taxis.
Most of the taxis are dirty, with smelly drivers and rot in the back seat from vomits and so on. One does not get this treatment in Grab cars for example. Grab drivers in Malaysia tend to be well groomed and the cars are reasonably clean, some with perfume altogether.
Most of the taxis do not have proper air conditioning or the drivers lower the air-condition filtering in the car making it a furnace.
There are no officials who can corroborate these statements because they rarely check these taxis, do they?
They are simply the most shameful services in a new Malaysia.
And what about the promised competition from the Pakatan Haparan government?
Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Kamarudin Jaffar said the government wanted to provide equal opportunities between taxi operators and e-hailing companies to ensure fair play and competitiveness, reported the New Straits Times.
But the truth is the taxis are too expensive even for Malaysian standards, coupled with the dirty cars and the many rogue drivers operating them!
A taxi ride from KLIA1 to Kuala Lumpur can cost you a whopping RM200 or above, I was told. There have been reports of such abuses.
A ride to Ampang from KLIA1 cost easily RM170. Depends which part of Ampang you are heading to. I paid RM138 from KLIA1 to Ampang Point, while a Grab ride will be for a fixed price of RM65 plus almost RM10 for the tolls.
Pakatan Haparan does not need a rocket scientist to know that the local taxis need to be regulated, instead.
But with the PM calling for new rules for the e-hailing services – as he seems to be falling into the trap of taxi owners – the wish of the people to have better taxi services for the right value for their money might remain yet another ‘dream’.
And I have not touched on the virtual ‘mafia’ that is running the taxi booking services at the airports.