KUCHING: The popular app-based ride-hailing service Uber will start operations here on Sept 14 and this was confirmed by a reliable source yesterday.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing admitted yesterday that the entry of Uber into the city to provide alternative transportation for passengers will definitely have an impact on local taxi drivers.
“However, on a positive note, the competition can also encourage our local taxi drivers to enhance professionalism and improve taxi service in Kuching,” he told The Borneo Post when contacted yesterday.
On the legality of Uber operation, the Infrastructure Development and Transportation Minister voiced concerns about the mechanism and criteria for private individuals to use their own cars and register as Uber drivers.
“Uber is an app managed by an international organisation much like Google in which it can operate without having to register or apply for licence but my main concern is the authenticity of the driver,” he said.
“So I question how does Uber screen and verify before issuing licence to the drivers,” he added.
On the other hand, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri pointed out that the taxi transformation programme in Peninsular Malaysia was not applicable to either Sarawak or Sabah.
“As far as Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) is concerned, vehicles registered are only given permit to carry customers. Any other vehicles which are not licensed by CVLB are illegal,” she said in a reply.
Nancy also confirmed that so far, there was no application to CVLB for Uber to operate as taxis.
“Recently, there was a taxi transformation plan approved in principle by the Cabinet. There were some plans which might be of interest to some taxi owners who operate as individual taxi drivers,” she elaborated, but said the plans have not been proposed to both Sarawak and Sabah.
As such, Nancy suggested that that CVLB discuss the matter with taxi associations in Sarawak and Sabah before a decision is made to allow or disallow Uber to operate in both states.
“Nevertheless, the issue on Uber service will be monitored and discussed in board meetings as the board is serious when it comes to the safety and security of passengers,” she said.
She also said so far CVLB Sarawak has not received any complaint or reaction from taxi associations or the public with regard to Uber service in the state.
However, the issue of Uber service was discussed at the board’s meeting and the board was of the view that passenger safety and interest should be given priority by ensuring that they received the services of licensed taxis.
Meanwhile, Sarawak Taxi Owners Association chairman Tay Teck Ming said most of the more than 700 taxi drivers in Kuching were aware that Uber was making inroads into the city.
“We are opposing them from coming in not only for the competition it offers but the drivers are not professionals unlike us who have to go through strict procedure, screening and examination in order to be registered and get the licence,” he said.
He said the four taxi associations in Kuching would hold a meeting before raising the issue with CVLB.
Kuching Division Taxi Association chairman Chong Foo Seng, who echoed Tay’s sentiment, sounded frustrated.
“We don’t welcome Uber to Kuching and it is unfair for local taxi drivers obviously and the government ought to ban them from coming in,” he said.
Chong also questioned the unregulated operation of Uber which can put the safety and security of passengers at risk.
Uber Kuching Facebook page on late Tuesday started inviting drivers to register as Uber partners.
According to the Uber Malaysia Registration and Activation Facebook page, only Malaysians can apply to be an Uber driver, who must be at least 21 years old, have access to a four-door car registered in 2008 or newer, must have in-state auto insurance with the driver’s name on the policy and must have a valid driving licence and IC.
The Uber Malaysia team has in fact held an informal meeting to get feedback from its stakeholders, potential partners as well as the public on Tuesday night at a cafe in Wayang Street.
Uber has courted controversy worldwide with several places, including Peninsula Malaysia, witnessing taxi drivers demonstrate against the company, claiming it has jeopardised their earnings.