|Laman Webantu KM2: 6570 File Size: 7.6 Kb *|
MGG: Highway Robbery And Skullduggery At The Petronas Taxi Cab Rank
By M.G.G. Pillai
8/1/2002 1:59 am Tue
This is a tale of what happens in Malaysia when arrogance and
might replaces right and the weak; what happens when high ideals
and the belief in destiny cannot be sustained after the shouting
and the tumult. The arrogance of a cash-rich country, with its
huge oil wealth, took it on a spending spree, building white
elephants for no reason than its high cost or could enter the
Guiness Book of Records. But once built, it was left to wither.
Cronies made money out of it, only to lose it when they took that
to mean they have arrived and painted the world red. And the
government left to pick the pieces.
When Malaysia won the right to host the 1998 Commonwealth
Games, a fresh round of building stadia, high-speed rail between
Kuala Lumpur and the new, expensive, and now, largely irrelevent
and cavernous international airport at Sepang, and a modern light
rapid transit rail system for Kuala Lumpur. All were privatised
to cronies in a still-born mantra of private sector efficiency.
All have failed, all are back in government hands, the mantra
discredited, and the government picking up the pieces yet again.
Facilities promised then have yet to be delivered, like the rapid
rail link, and the inner city transport. As they fell apart as
soon as they were completed.
The tale I tell is of how one project -- of a taxi service
running on natural gas -- lapsed into high-speed robbery,
gangsterism, police reports, and the worst of the Malaysian
corporate culture. For the 1998 Games, Malaysia imported 1,000
Renault (Enviro 200 NGV) vans which run on natural gas for an
efficient taxi service, one that reflected the both brilliance,
panache and a commitment to the world's concern for the
environment. It was bought with the usual irrelevance to details
as service requirements or spare parts. The Renault franchise
holder in Malaysia was cut out of the deal, the wrong engines
chosen or delivered, no account taken for wear-and-tear or how
they would be serviced or maintained. The project ran into
trouble from the start. The man who brought it in, at the Prime
Minister's command, died in a helicopter crash.
Petronas, Malaysia's public cash cow, was lumbered with it.
It had no licence to run a taxi service. So it was farmed out to
a company called Eco-Transit, run by people who had none either.
Taxi drivers paid a large deposit and a daily rate and everything
went smoothly until Petronas, fed up with not being paid for the
vehicles, put the pressure on Eco-Transit. Eco-Transit had
signed contracts with drivers in which it passed off as owners
when it was not. It could operate only 200 of the taxis, the
rest for other towns and cities in Malaysia could not operate
because Petronas never got to put the natural gas petrol pumps
elsewhere. Unlike some of the converted taxis which ran on
petrol or natural gas, this only ran on natural gas. The
remaining 800 cars were first parked in the basement of the KLCC
and later at an open yard in Shah Alam. Some were cannibalised
for spare parts. The cars are brand new cars left to rot and
cost, I understand, RM138 million. It would probably take
RM10,00 each to bring it to service and run it.
The drivers realised something amiss was when they went to
top up gas at the Petronas pumps on 25 December 2001 and were
handed a leaflet, allegedly from Petronas, which read: "NOTICE TO
ALL ENVIRO 200 NGV TAXI DRIVERS: Petronas/Petronas NGV Sdn Bhd
(PNGV) had on 27 November issued a letter terminating the sale of
the Enviro 2000 NGV taxis to Eco-Transit (M) Sdn Bhd. Please be
informed that the ownership of the Enviro 2000 NGV taxis remain
with Petronas/PNGV and Petronas/PNGV intends to obtain the return
of all these taxis. You are therefore in possession of the
Enviro 2000 taxis which belong to Petronas/PNGV. Kindly return
the Enviro 2000 NGV taxis to Petronas/PNGV at the open space car
park, KLCC (next to the KLCC Assyakirin mosque). (Time 9.00 am to
5.00 pm). Petronas/PNGV will take further steps to STOP supply
of NGV to the Enviro 2000 NGV taxis effective from 27 December
2001." This pamphlet was handed out with a white slip which
read: "Any Enviro 2000 drivers who wishes to drive Enviro taxi,
please contact Sunlight Radio Taxi Services Sdn Bhd, Tel.
03-92001166 (Mr Lim)."
As any lawyer will tell you, this notice is not worth the
paper it is printed on. It is not a party to the contract
between Eco-Transit and the drivers. If it has a problem with
Eco-Transit, it shoud resort to the courts or negotiate with it
for redress. It cannot threaten those it does not have a
contract with. It certainly cannot refuse to supply gas to any
one who comes to it for it. Even if Petronas owns the vehicles
and the driver is behind in its hire purchase instalments. And
Mr Lim cannot advertise as he did for something he does not have.
But in Bolehland, might is right; and those with might would
break or misuse the law to threaten and establish their right.
It presumes Petronas has cancelled its contract with
Eco-Transit and signed a new one with Sunlight Radio Taxi
Services. It could not have. Petronas' one-month notice to
Eco-Transit expired on 27 December. So, how could Sunlight offer
the Enviro 2000 NGV taxis when it did not have them. Petronas,
whatever its legal position on the vehicles, have no right to
seize the vehicles without proper legal notice nor threaten
drivers nor threaten to supply the gas to Enviro 2000 NGV taxis
in a dispute with a third party.
The drivers, as expected, panicked. An action committee of
its cooperative met Petronas officials and got an extension of
the supply of gas until 10 January. Eco-Transit took steps to
organise its drivers when those who accuses it of double-dealing
refused to deal with it. The daily rentals are now paid into its
lawyer's account, the company is told, and legal action have
commenced. Meanwhile, Eco-Transit supporters among the drivers,
repossessors and others take strong arm methods to force the
drivers into its camp. This has led to drivers assaultied,
chased in the highway, police brought in. In the height of this
mess, the drivers attempted to get the Prime Minister's
attention: his aides brushed them off.
There the matter stands. Petronas lost its head. At one
stage, a senior officer told the drivers that it owns the taxis
and it can do what it likes. It behaved disgracefully. It must
explain how Mr Lim got into the act. And why these taxis must be
run by a company. Why can it not be sold to the drivers on hire
purchase and let them take care of it on their own? And what
happens to the goodwill money of about RM4,500 Eco-Transit
collected from the drivers when they took delivery of the taxis?
Sunlight now demand another RM5,000 of drivers to continue
driving their taxis. Would Eco-Transit return the deposit it
collected? Hardly, likely. No one has yet explained this mess.
This is not, as I said, an edifying morality tale. It is a tale
of highhandedness, arrogance, and the sworn belief in Bolehland
that the weak and the meak would fight back when their rights are
trampled upon. The Prime Minister's Office must ask questions.