By Md Izwan
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 13 ― A local pressure group representing Klang Valley taxi drivers today kicked off a nationwide “We Want Permits” campaign, hoping to pressure Putrajaya into offering unconditional taxi permits to individual applicants.
The group, which calls itself the Malaysian Taxi Drivers Claims Movement (TEKSI), railed against the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) for turning a deaf ear to their demands, despite purportedly promising to hold discussions.
“Until today, SPAD has failed to resolve the issue of individual taxi permits. The launch of today’s campaign is to pressure and urge the government against maintaining their silence or just ignoring our demands,” said TEKSI chairman Mohammad Ridzwan Mohamad Daud during today’s launch at KL Sentral here.
Today’s demands from local cab drivers joins similar complaints by private stage bus operators who yesterday alleged of “favouritism” by the government and an uneven playing field between them and state-owned operators.
With elections looming, such run-ins with key voter groups like taxi drivers could affect the ruling government’s chances at the ballot boxes in a general election that observers believe is too close to call.
Mohammad Ridzwan noted today that elections are nearing, and added that since the group’s meeting with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz and SPAD operations chief Azhar Ahmad in Parliament last October 31, neither party have contacted them on updates.
During the October meeting, the group had asked for unconditional individual taxi permits, the abolition of car taxes for the purchase of national cars as taxis, and permission for cars other than Protons to be used as hire vehicles, due to the high cost of repairs and less than satisfactory endurance.
“We already handed over the memorandum of our demands to Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz and Azhar Ahmad in October.... no attention was paid to all of our demands, while SPAD even failed to call us in for a discussion,” said Mohammad Ridzwan.
On the campaign, the TEKSI chief said as many as 5,000 car stickers have been distributed across the Klang Valley.
He added a warning that they planned to proceed with the campaign until the coming polls if SPAD or Putrajaya fails to resolve their issues.
“We also plan to hold ceramahs to explain to the public our woes,” he said, before adding that plans are also in the pipeline to distribute the car stickers nationwide.
Mohammad Ridzwan told several Barisan Nasional (BN) politicians not to issue populist promises for the sake of earning voter support from taxi drivers ahead of the polls.
He advised Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and several other BN leaders like Datuk Ahmad Maslan and Datuk Seri Rais Yatim against fishing for votes in such a manner, claiming the taxi drivers fraternity were “bored” with their “empty promises”.
TEKSI was formed last October after a number of Klang Valley cabbies banded together, angry that Putrajaya had been turning a deaf ear to their pleas to make it easier for them to own taxi permits.
Among their 11 demands were for unconditional awards of individual taxi permits that will enable them to be self-employed rather than employees of taxi companies, and revising the free GO-KL bus service, which the drivers claim has affected their business.
The group had previously threatened to become PR ambassadors if their demands are not met by the government.
There are nearly 80,000 taxis in Malaysia with most of them plying Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Shah Alam and Klang areas, but official records showed there were 79,571 registered taxi drivers and 1,303 taxi companies nationwide. These companies owned 31,978 permits or 48 per cent of the total taxi permits in the country.
Also present at today’s campaign launch were Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin and Kuala Langat MP Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid.
Both Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers promised that should PR wrest federal power in the coming polls, they would ensure the taxi drivers’ woes would be looked into.