Taxi app protests turn violent in Indonesian capital
Tue 22 Mar 2016
Traffic chaos and violence has ensued in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta as thousands of taxi drivers gridlock the city’s streets in protest against competition from ride-hailing apps like Uber and Asian rival Grab.
The taxis are blocking central road systems and TV footage from the scenes have shown men setting tires on fire and jumping on top of vehicles. One reporter witnessed a group of drivers surrounding a taxi and forcing a young female passenger out onto the road with her luggage.
The protest is the second anti-Uber demonstration in Jakarta this month. Traditional taxi drivers are complaining that the competition they face from taxi-hailing apps is severely damaging their income as, unlike these competitors, they are obliged to pay higher costs and conform to local taxi regulations.
Many of the drivers protesting in Jakarta are from the capital itself, or other parts of Indonesia. Other protestors include family members and friends supporting the campaign.
One driver, Jeffrey Sumampouw, told The Guardian that over the last year his earnings have dropped by over 60%. “The government must defend us from illegal drivers who have stolen our income,” he said. “We almost cry every day because it’s difficult to get passengers.”
Uber has made significant efforts recently to expand its business into Asia, but it continues to face backlash from local governments, taxi drivers and domestic app competition. Grab, founded in Malaysia, now operates across the Southeastern region in countries including Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. Indonesian startup Go-Jek, a motorcycle-hailing app, has also enjoyed staggering success over the past year, becoming the most popular free app on iOS in Indonesia.
While the Indonesian Transportation Ministry argues that companies like Uber are illegal unless registered as public transport providers, the country’s Communications and Information department has allowed the firms to continue operating. Communications Minister Rudiantara said that “disagreements will always be there, however, in the end the public are the ones who choose and judge the service.”