Time Malaysian cabbies play by the rules

MALAYSIA - Taxi drivers in Kuala Lumpur have to accept the reality that competition from the free Go-KL bus service is good and timely. Don't expect full support from the majority of us in the Klang Valley. In fact, many city folk strongly believe that taxi drivers have fleeced them for far too long.

From refusing to go to certain destinations or use the meter to taking circuitous routes to get from one point to another, these are horror stories of taxi drivers shared by many regular commuters.

Admittedly, there are good and decent cabbies doing their work honestly but, unfortunately, there are many others who take every opportunity to rip off their passengers. And when their targets are tourists, you can be sure that their notoriety will gain worldwide attention.

Which is why, in a recent ranking of the worst taxi drivers worldwide by LondonCabs.co.uk, the cabbies of Kuala Lumpur made it right at the top of the list.

Often, taxi drivers are the first to meet up with tourists, but some have badly tarnished the tourism image of Malaysia because of their attitude and cheating ways. One only has to surf the many travel websites to have an idea of what foreigners who have visited KL think of them.

Last week, an official from a taxi drivers' association called the news desk of this newspaper to voice his unhappiness over how the issue of the free Go-KL bus service in the Bukit Bintang area has been reported.

My colleague who took the call politely told the official that he should perhaps try getting a ride on a taxi himself and see if he can find anyone who is prepared to use the meter for travel within the busiest part of Kuala Lumpur.

To prove our point, the news desk decided to ask our reporter, Natalie Heng, who is of English-Malaysian Chinese parentage, to pose as a tourist from London.

Heng speaks and writes Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and English but is also able to speak like a BBC newscaster if she wants to.

She was asked to try out the taxis around Bukit Bintang where hundreds of taxi drivers staged a protest last week, bringing the city to a standstill for hours, over the free Go-KL City Bus service.

When Heng came back from the assignment, she had nothing positive to report as she related her experience to us. She was practically a victim of “daylight robbery” as almost all the drivers believed she was a foreigner with her Caucasian look and British accent.

In the Go-KL protest, some 200 cabbies gathered outside the Fahrenheit shopping complex during the evening rush hour. They parked their vehicles right in the middle of the road as they staged their noisy protest. They told reporters that their livelihood was being affected because the Go-KL bus service passed through the most popular destinations. They also complained about alleged harassment by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).

However, they did not say or, rather, acknowledge that the authority was finally enforcing the rules on those who break them as a matter of course. Certainly, they were surprised that in the court of public opinion, they had no supporters whatsoever.

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