Indonesian taxi drivers shout slogans after they chased a taxi driver during a rally in Jakarta
Jakarta - AFP
Thousands of Indonesian taxi and motorised rickshaw drivers staged a violent protest Tuesday against Uber and other ride-hailing services, blocking major roads in the capital, clashing with drivers from app-based rivals and setting tyres alight.
The protesters adorned their vehicles with signs saying "stop illegal taxis" and staged a noisy rally in front of parliament, in an upsurge of anger at ride-hailing apps after weeks of simmering tensions.
As convoys of vehicles brought downtown Jakarta to a standstill, the protest turned violent, with taxi drivers jumping up and down on vehicles that refused to take part, drivers working for app-based services coming under attack, and some fighting back by hurling rocks.
Anger has been growing among taxi drivers worldwide at the challenge presented by US company Uber, one of the world's most valuable start-ups, and a flurry of other app-based services that typically offer cheaper fares than traditional transport operators.
"I want them to shut down Uber, GrabCar, Go-Jek because they are ruining us," said Dudin Suhendri, a 58-year-old Jakarta taxi driver taking part in the protest, naming several popular ride-hailing apps.
He said his typical daily income had fallen from 300,000 rupiah ($22) to just 100,000 rupiah because of the increased competition.
The demonstration came after weeks of rising tensions between traditional public transport operators in the sprawling, traffic-clogged metropolis of 10 million and a flurry of new ride-hailing services.
- 'Unfair competition' -
Traditional taxi, motorbike taxi and other public transport drivers are angry that the new services are offering rides at lower prices, claiming they are not paying taxes, and are operating without official permits.
"Why should thousands of people who didn't pay tax, get a permit, or undergo car checks roam the roads freely while we have had to fulfil those duties?" said Yohannis Rorimpandey, a protester who works for Blue Bird, one of Indonesia's biggest taxi groups.
Uber and other app-based services currently operate in a legal grey area in Indonesia, and there is an ongoing debate in the government about how to handle them.
Indonesian law gives a narrow definition of "public transport", which does not include the ride-hailing apps, and the transport ministry has sought to ban them.
However the communications ministry has refused to block the services, saying that it is committed to supporting the growth of the digital economy, and President Joko Widodo has also backed the apps.
Jakarta police estimated that up to 6,000 drivers were involved in Tuesday's protest, and 6,000 police were out on the streets for the protest.
There was chaos for morning commuters in the heaving capital as protesting taxis and motorised rickshaws parked en masse on several main thoroughfares, with many stuck on blocked roads and late for work.
There was little sympathy for the protesters among the millions in the city who have come to rely on the apps.
"Must it be anarchy? This only scares passengers and makes them prefer app-based taxis," said Twitter user Petricia Yuvita.
And there was no sign that the government was ready to give in to the protesters' demands.
"You can't defy technology, it just needs to be regulated," said Vice President Jusuf Kalla.