Ugly protest in Jakarta over app-based ride services

Taxi drivers protesting against ride-hailing app services on a main street in Jakarta yesterday. Many called for a ban on services like Uber and Grab, calling them "illegal" and said they halved the incomes of regular cabbies.
Taxi drivers protesting against ride-hailing app services on a main street in Jakarta yesterday. Many called for a ban on services like Uber and Grab, calling them "illegal" and said they halved the incomes of regular cabbies.PHOTO: REUTERS

Massive traffic jams as thousands of cabbies, bajaj drivers flood the streets

Thousands of angry Indonesian cabbies and three-wheeled bajaj drivers flooded the streets of Jakarta yesterday to demand that the government ban app-based transport services such as Uber and Grab, causing massive traffic jams.

Flying Indonesian flags and waving large banners, at least 12,000 drivers from the Land Transportation Drivers Association protested noisily outside the state palace, Parliament, and the Information and Communication Technology Ministry.

"Shut down the apps. Ban Uber, ban Grab. They are illegal. We want fairness," they shouted.

Violent scenes flashed across local news channels, showing angry mobs hurling rocks at their competitors in bright green uniforms and jumping on cabs of fellow colleagues who refused to join the protests. Photographs showing damaged vehicles and rival bikers being kicked were also shared on social media.

"This is what happens when you mess with us. We make Jakarta paralysed," bajaj driver Junata, 35, told The Straits Times.

CAUSING GRIDLOCK

This is what happens when you mess with us. We make Jakarta paralysed.

BAJAJ DRIVER JUNATA, on the cabbies and three-wheeled bajaj drivers flooding the streets of Jakarta

The Straits Times saw scuffles breaking out between police and the protesters on the streets. "Do you think this is your road? Get away from here," a police officer was heard shouting at protesters who were throwing empty water bottles at passing vehicles and blocking bus lanes.

Jakarta police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal said 83 people had been rounded up for questioning.

"They are at all corners so it's not possible to control them all. But if there's any anarchistic situation, we are all there," he said.

The violence is the latest in an ongoing conflict between regular taxi operators and popular ride-hailing apps which have exploded in popularity in the last two years, sparking protests by cabbies in countries such as France, Spain and Malaysia.

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. The authorities are also studying clearer markings on cars being used to pick up passengers.

In Jakarta yesterday, some of the protesters called the app-based services illegal as they "evaded tax", and said they halved the incomes of regular cabbies. "They are choking us, and slowly killing," cabby Hotman Pasaribu, 58, told The Straits Times. "If we don't stop them now, we will surely die. Who's going to feed our wives, our children then?"

Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan last November wanted to ban the ride-hailing apps, including motorcycle taxi apps Go-Jek and GrabBike, but was overruled by President Joko Widodo.

Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan said yesterday that Mr Joko "has instructed us to evaluate that there is legal basis (for the app services)." He said the app companies must apply for a licence and pay taxes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2016, with the headline 'Ugly protest in Jakarta over app-based ride services'. Print Edition | Subscribe