Wed, 28 Jun 2000

Unauthorized fee approved by mayor: Tanah Abang Union

JAKARTA (JP): The Union of the Big Family of Tanah Abang (IKBT) maintained on Tuesday it had legal grounds to impose a Rp 2,000 (23 US cents) daily levy on mikrolet (public minivan) drivers serving the Tanah Abang-Kebayoran Lama and Tanah Abang- Kebon Jeruk routes.

"We were established in 1997 upon the initiative of the Central Jakarta mayor to solve problems at the Tanah Abang market," IKBT chairman Yusuf Muhi told members of the City Council's Commission A for government affairs.

Yusuf, locally known as Bang Ucu, said the Rp 2,000 fee taken from M-09 and M-11 mikrolet drivers, who serve the route from Tanah Abang market in Central Jakarta to Kebayoran Lama in South Jakarta and the route from Tanah Abang market to Kebon Jeruk in West Jakarta, respectively, was used to pay local youths so they would not create trouble, such as asking for money from the drivers entering the area.

"We only want to help the drivers, but if they refuse the offer, it's okay with us," he said.

Yusuf was invited to the City Council after representatives of about 150 mikrolet drivers staged a peaceful demonstration at the council asking the councillors to put and end to the unauthorized fee.

While their colleagues were fighting for the abolition of the levy at the City Council, other drivers continued the strike until midday Tuesday, following a mass strike on Monday.

The strike forced thousands of people to seek alternative transportation, such as bajaj (three-wheeled motorized vehicles) and ojek (motorcycle taxis).

Ojek drivers were present at every bus stop, crossroads and along the streets served by the mikrolet, while bajaj passed the area frequently.

The move by M-09 and M-11 mikrolet drivers won the support of hundreds of M-10 drivers, serving the Tanah Abang-Jembatan Lima- Kota route, and who joined the strike on Tuesday.

"We hope the unauthorized fee will be halted as it costs us a lot," said Agus, a driver from Jembatan Lima in West Jakarta.

Besides the "official" levy by IKBT, the drivers also complained about other fees, such as those imposed by pak ogah (illegal traffic wardens), which IKBT had promised to curb once they applied the Rp 2,000 levy.

Central Jakarta Police deputy chief Maj. Iza Fadri, who was present at the hearing, supported Yusuf's statement.

"The police have arrested the illegal traffic wardens, but they will start asking the drivers for money again, once they are released," Iza said.

"The levy by IKBT is a solution to curb unauthorized fees in the area," he added, pointing out that the levy was adopted following an agreement between the drivers and IKBT.

The drivers' representatives, however, denied that there had been such an agreement.

"Why was IKBT granted the authority to impose the levy?" Dayus, one of the representatives, said.

"Why do the police tolerate such a levy?" he added.

Another driver, Habib Muklis, 31, said the levy was a burden for them since they only made between Rp 15,000 to Rp 20,000 a day.

"Pak Ogah often bang on or scratch our minivans if we refuse to pay," Muklis told The Jakarta Post.

Commission A chairman Binsar Tambunan also questioned IKBT's authority to collect the money from drivers.

"Don't solve one problem with another," Binsar exclaimed, adding that he vowed to question the mayor about his decision to let IKBT continue their operation.

Councillors then persuaded the drivers to go back to work while asking Yusuf to instruct his personnel to temporarily stop withdrawing money from the drivers until a better solution to curb illegal street wardens was found.

The drivers, however, insisted that they would only operate again if Iza could guarantee their safety from IKBT members or other illegal street wardens.

They eventually agreed after Iza gave his assurance that he had already deployed police personnel in the area.

As of 2 p.m on Tuesday, several M-09 and M-11 mikrolets were seen passing Jl. Palmerah Utara in West Jakarta and Jl. Jatibaru in Tanah Abang.

"Our friends from the City Council told us that we could start operating again," said Syafi'i, an M-09 driver. (08/asa)