Indonesia backs down from ban on ride-hailing services

President Joko Widodo rebuked Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan's move to ban services such as Uber and Go-Jek (above), just months after he had invited dozens of Go-Jek motorbike drivers to lunch at his palace.
President Joko Widodo rebuked Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan's move to ban services such as Uber and Go-Jek (above), just months after he had invited dozens of Go-Jek motorbike drivers to lunch at his palace.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA • The Indonesian authorities backed down yesterday from attempting to enforce a ban on ride-hailing apps and motorbike taxis after the move sparked online fury in a country where millions rely on the services.

Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan announced on Thursday he had ordered the police to properly implement an existing law that gives a narrow definition of public transport, meaning apps such as Uber and motorbike taxis known as ojek should be illegal.

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo yesterday publicly rebuked Mr Jonan, saying services such as Uber and Go-Jek are needed. Mr Jonan rescinded the order hours later.

The move by the transport minister was seen as another embarrassment for Mr Joko, who has struggled to keep Cabinet members in line since he took office last year.

Just months ago, he invited dozens of motorbike drivers employed by Go-Jek, whose lime-green colours are now ubiquitous in Jakarta, to lunch at his palace.

"Don't let the people be burdened because of regulations," Mr Joko said on his official Twitter account of the Thursday clampdown.

Mr Jonan rowed back, saying in a statement that online ride-hailing services could continue to operate until a solution to meet public transport needs is found.

This episode shows that Mr Joko is "unable to fully control his ministers", political analyst Firman Noor at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences told Reuters by telephone. "There seems to be relative independence at the ministries to make their own internal decisions that may not be communicated to the President."

The attempt to cripple ride-hailing services provoked an online outcry: within hours #SaveGojek was the top trending topic on Twitter in Indonesia.

"Thanks to President @Jokowi for his support to 200 thousand Go-Jek drivers and 8 million of our application users," Go-Jek founder Nadiem Makarim said on Twitter.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2015, with the headline 'Indonesia backs down from ban on ride-hailing services'. Print Edition | Subscribe