Sunday, October 01, 2006

Cabbies Are Penang’s Real Rulers.

That is the NST headline today. I had posted on this subject some time ago and had then predicted that nothing will come out of the attempt to rein in the cabbies there or trying to enforce meters. It looks like what I had posted actually came true. The NST report here.

Forget about the promises by the state government and enforcement agencies. The Aug 1 deadline for taxis to use the meter has come and gone, but the ruling is good only on paper. Never mind that this rule was to have been introduced nine years ago, but was put off several times to placate the taxi drivers.

Finding a taxi driver in Penang who will take you to your destination and charge you by the meter is like finding a needle in the haystack. To add salt to the injury, enforcement authorities are just watching from the sidelines as taxi drivers continue to break the law with impunity.

The bravado of taxi drivers does not come as a shock to the people here as they have been hearing empty promises regarding the meter ruling since 1997. Seeing how taxi drivers keep on defying the law, one cannot help but conclude that something is wrong with enforcement.

The state government has all but given up doing anything about the matter. State Local Government and Transport Management Committee chairman Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan can only muster this answer nowadays: "It is out of our hands. Go and ask the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board (CVLB) what they are doing about it." The subject is something that Dr Teng, and even Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, prefer not to talk about these days. The state government has now even admitted on its official website that taxis on the island do not use meters.

The CVLB — which issues the public service vehicle permits to cabbies — has also reneged on its promise to crack down on rogue drivers. Its chairman, Markiman Kobiran, has admitted that no action had been taken against any taxi driver on the island although show-cause letters were sent to 55 of them. He said the CVLB had decided to give taxi drivers more time to abide by the ruling and would only discuss the matter at a later date. "It is not that we don’t want to take action but we are just giving them more time to follow the law. "We will act against the errant drivers soon." CVLB and Road Transport Department enforcement officers would continue to monitor the situation, he said. Asked just how long they would monitor the situation before cracking the whip, Markiman said simply that people should be patient with the cabbies. On the promise that CVLB would issue new licences should taxi drivers continue to flout the law, he said it was still an option.

The question now is: Why are the authorities reluctant to act? Although no one wants to admit it openly, those in power have privately indicated that it has to do with political interference. "We can easily solve the problem but every time the enforcement agencies get tough, the cabbies run to the politicians for help," a source said. "The politicians then get involved and we are back to square one."

Citizens For Public Transport (Cepat) co-ordinator, Dr Choong Sim Poey, said it was terrible that taxi drivers were given endorsement to continue flouting the law. "The CVLB and state government cannot continue taking the taxi drivers’ side." The last postponement of the meter ruling was in 1999.

Despite a fare of RM3 for the first one km and 10 sen for every 150m after that, taxi drivers say the metered rates will not cover their cost. Those in other states charge RM2 for the first one km and 10 sen for every 150m. Penang taxi drivers have previously boycotted using meters by staying off the roads. In 1998, some RTD officers were beaten up in Sungai Dua.

When it was announced that the meter ruling would be enforced from Aug 1, the Penang taxi drivers association said they would adhere to it. But several days later it made an about-turn and about 80 drivers left for a three-day holiday in Haadyai in protest. Penang Taxi Association secretary Osman Majid said they would discuss with the authorities a new system.

**** Once again political interference has doomed a good plan. Are politicians the root of all evil?

Related posts: Penang Cabbies Standoff - Who Will Triumph?
Don't Allow these Cabbies To Blackmail You.


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