KUALA LUMPUR, March 25 — Putrajaya’s decision to award 1,000 individual permits to taxi drivers yesterday is proof that Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) manifesto is sustainable and will not bankrupt the country, PKR said today.
PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli also said that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s promise to award more licences, on condition that the taxi drivers create “bai’ah” (co-operation) with the government, was a form of “political blackmail”.
“Secondly, it confirms that these programmes can be implemented and will not have dire financial consequences, as alleged by Umno/Barisan Nasional,” he added.
Najib’s announcement yesterday comes as part of his administration’s move to ward off potential voter backlash from some 80,000 registered taxi drivers nationwide, who have been angered by delayed reforms in the industry.
PR had previously promised to fix the problems that taxi drivers faced should it wrest federal power in Election 2013.
The current rent system, where cabbies are required to pay as high as a third of their income to lease taxis from companies often-politically linked, has been described as “modern-day slavery”.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Musa Hitam said recently that Malaysia would not go bankrupt if PR won federal power in the next general election.
BN politicians have, however, insisted that PR’s manifesto lacked sustainability and credibility, unlike the proven track record of BN, which has ruled Malaysia for the past five decades.
“So far, Umno/Barisan Nasional have failed to announce their own manifesto. Instead, Datuk Seri Najib Razak takes ideas from Pakatan Rakyat and baits the rakyat with promises of implementing Pakatan Rakyat’s programmes if Barisan Nasional wins Election 2013,” said Rafizi today.
“That’s why I’m not surprised why Datuk Seri Najib Razak does not dare to debate openly with (Opposition Leader) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim about policies and economic programmes. He does not seem to have any ideas or economic expertise because he’s always forced to rely on other people’s ideas, including Pakatan Rakyat’s own ideas,” he added.
Recently, a local pressure group representing Klang Valley taxi drivers 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.
With national polls expected to be held within weeks, the Najib administration needs to avoid colliding with key voter groups like taxi drivers as it could affect the ruling government’s chances at the ballot boxes in what is expected to be the tightest election race to date.
TEKSI had previously threatened to become PR ambassadors if their demands are not met by the government.
Najib reminded taxi drivers yesterday that Putrajaya had given out SPAD vouchers worth RM520 as tyre subsidies under the Teksi Rakyat 1 Malaysia (TR1M) initiative to help cabbies cope with maintenance costs.
He added that Putrajaya would continue a second round of such aid under “TR1M 2.0”, as well as a RM500 grant for drivers seeking to purchase cars and to be converted into taxis. The grant is available only for Proton’s Exora model.
There are nearly 80,000 taxis in Malaysia, with most of them plying Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Shah Alam and Klang, 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.
~ The Malaysian Insider