Malaysian taxi drivers' protest against Uber and GrabCar paralyses central KL traffic

Taxis outside Pavilion Kuala Lumpur.
Taxis outside Pavilion Kuala Lumpur. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Traffic in central Kuala Lumpur came to a halt on Tuesday (March 29) morning as taxi drivers staged a protest against taxi apps Uber and GrabCar along the city's main shopping belt, Malaysian media reported.

The demonstration followed a similar one in Jakarta last week when thousands of angry Indonesian cabbies and three-wheeled bajaj drivers flooded the city's streets to demand that the government ban Uber and Grab.

The Malaysian cabbies parked their red and white taxis along Jalan Bukit Bintang as a mark of protest against the perceived lack of action taken against the services, which they say have affected their livelihood, the New Straits Times reported.

The sea of taxis brought traffic to a complete standstill along some of the busiest roads in the Klang Valley where a tourist-friendly stretch of shopping malls are.

"We were there to protest against Uber and GrabCar," Malaysian Taxi Driver Transformation Association deputy president Kamarudin Mohd Hussain told The Star newspaper on the phone.

Mr Kamarudin said he was not the organiser of the protest but was there to support the gathering. 

The police spoke to the head of the protest group at 11.30am, advising the crowd to disperse, The Star said.

Mr Kamarudin and three other drivers were arrested, the report said.

A Land Public Transport Commission spokesman said they were aware of the issue and were going to come up with a statement soon.

The KL protest is the latest in an ongoing conflict between conventional taxi drivers and popular ride-hailing apps which have exploded in popularity in many countries  in the last two years.

In Singapore, private-car hire drivers such as those operating under Uber may soon be required to have a vocational licence, under regulations expected to be announced next month.