Passenger tries to protect Uber driver threatened by cabbies in Kuala Lumpur

Taxis waiting for passengers outside KLCC.
Taxis waiting for passengers outside KLCC. PHOTO: ST FILE

KUALA LUMPUR - Video producer Mate Valtr and his girlfriend had just boarded an Uber taxi on Tuesday (Oct 13) night, when they were ambushed by four angry taxi drivers.

The taxi drivers had followed them to the car and began threatening the driver.

In an e-mail interview with The Malay Mail, the Czech Republic citizen currently living in Kuala Lumpur, said the cabbies started knocking on the car and pulling the door handle on the driver's side before he and his girlfriend managed to lock the doors.

The cabbies eventually opened the door, snatched the driver's car keys and yelled at him, Mr Valtr said.

"While aggressively pointing their fingers in front of his face, they accused him of being an Uber driver and warned that if they confirmed that he was an Uber driver, they would damage his car," he added.

Mr Valtr said he lied to the cabbies, saying that the driver was his friend. But the cabbies backed down only when the police arrived.

Mr Valtr claimed the cabbies "became very submissive, shaking hands with the officers, trying to sweet-talk them". No one was arrested.

However, Mr Valtr did not lodge a formal complaint about the incident.

"One big factor of not reporting was that I had my doubts that my complaint would have any effect as nobody was hurt in this case and there was very little tangible evidence of a crime by the side of the taxi drivers," he said.

"I hope that the authorities will come up with tougher penalties that will be taken more seriously by mob taxi drivers like those from my case."

According to a tweet by Mr Valtr on Thursday (Oct 15), Malaysia's Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) had contacted him to request information on the case.

According to The Star, SPAD said it was looking at ways to regulate the car-sharing service, which is not technically legal in the country,  without banning it outright.

Earlier this month, taxi drivers around KLCC caught seven Uber and GrabCar drivers, three of whom were handed over to the police.

Datuk Shamsubahrin Ismail, adviser to Malaysia's private executive taxi company, Big Blue Taxi Service, said SPAD was not effective in stopping Uber or GrabCar, forcing taxi drivers to take matters into their own hands.

Uber's general manager for Malaysia, Mr Leon Foong, said the company strongly condemned the threats and intimidation tactics currently being directed at its drivers. The company has called on the authorities to take immediate action against those responsible.

Mr Foong added that the car-sharing company was committed to providing access to safe and affordable transport for commuters and at the same time, creating thousands of economic and entrepreneurship opportunities for the citizens.