Come Back With a Better Argument, Governor Tells Taxi Protesters

DENPASAR

Bali’s long running taxi dispute got another airing when Governor I Made Mangku Pastika told local operators that as long as there were legitimate reasons and correct data to base a decision on, the provincial government would issue further taxi licences.

Local operators and a taxi drivers’ association, the Bali Tourist Service Society (PJWB), say there are too many taxis and Bali Taxi – Blue Cabs, operated by Bluebird, part of the Garuda group – operates illegally because it is not a Bali company.

But at a meeting at his Renon office Pastika told PJWB chairman Oka Sukranita and others:

“There is no favouritism in giving permission for operating taxis in Bali and the cost is in accordance with the rules at Rp24,000 (US$2.65) a licence.

“Anyone who has filed for a taxi permit will receive it in accordance with the rules, and it doesn’t matter however many.”

Hundreds of drivers held a protest outside the governor’s office while Pastika met representatives inside.

Sukranita has complained that the government has issued permits for more taxis when, he claims, there are already too many.

“With the addition of the new taxis, it will affect our income, because it is difficult to find passengers. Please revoke the licences already issued,” he said.

Pastika told him: “Bali is a tourism destination so it should have the best transportation mode like taxis. Bali needs a good reputation in service and facilities.”

Of Bali Taxi, the target of violent attacks in Denpasar and Kuta in June, Pastika said: “The law applies to all. If there is a freeze on Bali Taxi that means that other taxi licences are also frozen.”

He told the PJWB it should open new renegotiations with the taxi operators again and try to find a consensus as to whether Bali should have more taxis or not, and then speak with one voice.

He said he was ready to meet PJWB members again after that.

The “taxi war” riots on June 7 resulted in at least 20 Blue Bird group vehicles being badly damaged. During the riots tourists were ordered out of Bali Taxi cabs on Sunset Road and elsewhere in Kuta, by rival drivers who blocked traffic and attacked the vehicles. Rubbish was set on fire outside Governor Pastika’s office.

Police took no action that day but – on the governor’s orders – then Bali Police chief Sutisna instructed police to find and arrest rioters who had caused wilful damage. Twenty-three people were subsequently detained.

The June riots briefly earned a mention in Australian travel advisories for Bali.

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