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It looks like taxi drivers may have lost the champion of their cause. According to a Malay Mail Online report, Big Blue Taxi Services’ owner Datuk Shamsubahrin Ismail has had a change of heart and is now backing the legalisation of ride-sharing services.

He announced the turnaround after his company was supposedly robbed of RM8,000 by a driver three days ago. The driver, a man in his 50s and who had driven for Big Blue Taxi for six years, has since disappeared. “I have helped him out so many times and this is how he repays me,” Shamsubahrin said.

He had lodged a police report and will be taking the taxi company, which the missing driver had obtained his permit from, to court. The case will be filed under Section 43 of the Land Public Transport Act Section, which states that a company can be held responsible if a taxi driver is found guilty of any wrongdoing.

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Shamsubahrin claims this is the first time any taxi company is being brought to court under the section. “The existing law we have is already strong but Land Public Transport Commission must be more effective and proactive in ensuring that we don’t allow unethical and immoral people to work as taxi drivers,” he explained.

With regards to ride-sharing services, Shamsubahrin said that because taxi drivers were unfazed by the competition from Uber and Grab by refusing to change, he was urging the government to speed up the process of regulating them. “I support the approval of Uber and GrabCar services,” he stated.

This is a stark contrast to the stand taken previously. In October, he had said that the government’s idea of encouraging aspiring ride-sharing drivers with a RM4,000 rebate to purchase a Proton Iriz was a clear indicator of the government’s intention to wipe out the taxi industry in favour of ride-sharing companies.

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“You said you want to transform the taxi industry, but we saw nothing from the budget that was helpful to the taxi industry. Instead you promote the people to drive Uber,” he had then said.

He also took a swipe at the government’s initiative in handing out 12,000 individual permits to qualified taxi drivers, saying the policies appeared to be half-baked. “There is nothing concrete. If they want to really help and allow us to compete at a level playing field they should regulate Uber’s fares as well,” he said.