Fri, 21 Mar 2003

`Pak Ogah' offer unwanted services

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Traffic jams are not the only problem faced by motorists in Jakarta. Another obstacle drivers must navigate is the presence of the so-called Pak Ogah, the people who "regulate" traffic in the hope of a small tip.

Groups of Pak Ogah can be found at nearly every intersection, T-junction and U-turn in the city, except along the main thoroughfares.

Some are helpful, but most just make the traffic worse. They block cars to allow other motorists to enter the street, all for a price. Some of these traffic "regulators" are pleased with Rp 100, while others demand Rp 1,000. In some cases, if motorists fail to pay the Pak Ogah bang on their windows or scratch their cars.

Even though the Pak Ogah are not armed, most motorists are afraid of them and give them money just to avoid trouble.

And the number of these self-appointed traffic directors has increased rapidly over the past several years.

Riki, 23, has been working at the Gang Nabung T-junction in Palmerah Barat, West Jakarta, for the past three years. He and three of his friends collect money from drivers for their questionable help in directing traffic.

He told The Jakarta Post on Thursday that he usually worked from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

"In one shift, I can collect about Rp 20,000 (US$2.20) from drivers who require our services in making sure traffic is orderly," he said.

Riki said he became a Pak Ogah about three years ago, after he was unable to find any other work.

A native of Jakarta, Riki said there were not many options for him in the job market as he only graduated from junior high school.

"I frequented this T-junction and mingled with the motorcycle taxi drivers, who then introduced me to the neighborhood security head," he said, adding that it was this security head who posted him at the T-junction.

Riki denied that Pak Ogah extorted money from drivers, though even when Riki and his friends are not working traffic generally flows smoothly at this particular T-junction.

"It is up to the drivers whether they give us money or not, but most drivers tip us," he said.

He added that apart from directing traffic at the T-junction, he also helped provide "security" in the neighborhood, which at times has led to conflict with other groups of people seeking to provide neighborhood "security".

"The last time we were involved in a brawl it was with a gang from a nearby neighborhood who wanted to take over this T- junction and assume the privilege of collecting money from drivers," Riki said.

Riki reasoned that as a native Jakartan he had the right to earn a living in his hometown without any interference.