Confusion over the new liquor law

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From the lowest to the highest food chain everyone enjoys a beer

Late last night I gone down to Elias Mall 24 hr-supermarket to do some errant. As usual, EM brethren were congregating at the coffeeshop. I thought I would just drop by to say hello. I do not usually join them in the night unless there’s an event cuz I need to wake up early the next morning to work.

When I sat down, I sensed something amiss. The usual EM kakis looked glum and gloomy. No beer bottles on the table. It’s unusual to see a clean table. No laughter or jokes. Uncannily quiet with a forlorn mood all round!

Someone passed away?

Answer is No.

When I asked them why were they not drinking as usual? All at once, just like the GPMG (General purpose machine gun), they started firing their response to my innocent question.

Apparently, last Friday (4/3/16) around 11pm, 2 uniform police officers came to “threaten” our EM brethren not to consume beer at the coffeeshop. 2 uniform police officers in their twenties – one of them is a female officer holding the rank of “naked” Sergeant (meaning 3 stripes without the Majulah Singapura crest on top of the 3 stripes. Lowest of the Staff Sgt and Senior Staff Sgt ranks), had threatened to summon them for drinking beer after 10.30pm. No explanation, no warning. Just ordered them to stop drinking and put away all the beer bottles at the coffeeshop premises or they would be summoned under the new alcohol law forbidding drinking after 10.30pm at a public place.

Of course, those EM kakis knew about the latest alcohol law which forbids drinking alcohol at a public place. As law abiding citizens they obediently complied. Only now that they were complaining about the unreasonableness of the new liquor law. Questions were put to me by them such as what if they placed their last beer order at the counter before the 10.30 pm cut-off time? They knew that I was a police officer before. So they GPMGed me with such questions.

I told them to relax lah. Even after 10.30pm, they could still drink in the coffeeshop premises until 7am! It’s only that the coffeeshop counter cannot sell beer or any liquor after 10.30pm as specified under the law. Still they refused to believe what I told them. They said that the 2 police officers specifically ordered them to stop drinking beer around 11pm last Friday at the same coffeeshop.

Out of desperation, I goggled the new liquor law and showed them on my mobile phone. Straightaway, they requested that I WhatsApp to them a screen shot so that they could show it to the police officers in case they were “threatened” with summon again. I told them no need lah. Just tell them to go ahead and issue summon. Let them make themselves the laughing stock for not knowing the law as professional law enforcers!

As this point, Douglas aged 70 yrs; a retired pensioned police officer all his life remarked that nowadays these young police officers are highly educated with high pay and ranks but know “nuts!” In his own words, even the little India mini-riot also couldn’t handle properly, went scattering around hiding inside the ambulance timidly as shown on YouTube for the whole world to see! They only know how to come to Elias Mall coffeeshop to “act tough” and “bully” law abiding citizens drinking beer peacefully without causing any nuisance or trouble at all. Those were the words from a veteran officer of the law who has seen much “terror” in those early days.

I believe most of us are not against the new liquor law. Actually it’s a good law with well intention. Let me elaborate.  I still recall in the late 80s and early 90s when I was attached to SOC, we had to take turns to standby almost every evening near to Golden Mile complex especially on weekends and payday! There were this category of foreign workers (the number has since reduced much with another category taking over them) consuming cheap hard liquor such as “Tiga Bintang” or “Wu Jia Pi” gathered in groups inside Golden Mile complex carpark and around the common areas.  Often, intoxicated with alcohol – late in the evening when alcohol in the blood stream reached optimum level with chattering hitting high decibels, they would gang clash resulting in bottles flying about resulting in bodily injuries and even deaths! That’s when we came in to control the situation. That category of foreign workers were tough hard laborers with a penchant for hard liquor and violence. Normal police officers were outnumbered and couldn’t handle them. Only specially trained SOC officers could do the job. Those were the days when there was no alcohol restrictions law or liquor control.

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The above explains why the new liquor law was passed in parliament after much deliberations. It is to target drunk hooligans for the havoc they wreck whilst under the influence of excessive alcohol. It is also another useful tool for the police to act before the situation gets out of control. As such, I feel that it’s a good law with good intention. It was widely debated in parliament before it was eventually passed into law.

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Minister's thinking on the new liquor law when it's hotly debated in parliament

The minister also explained that if you were to sit at one corner by yourself after 10.30pm enjoying a can of beer, the police will not go after you! Link But did the officers on the ground get the message? Did they know the intent and purpose of such a law? Or like the 2 young police officers’ – holding the “naked” Sgt rank, manner of using the new liquor law terrorizing innocent law abiding citizens in the neighborhood coffeeshop acceptable? Were they humane or people-centric when they treated EM brethren in such high handed manner? As it is, the police image has taken a hard beating recently in the light of it’s handling of the 14 yr old offender until the Minister had to make a parliamentary statement. Do we need such officers to go around throwing their weight without knowing their power limits and what the law is all about before they carry out their duty?

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The new liquor law is clear yet police officers on the ground are confused and not sure

In the meantime, our EM frens’ dejected mood turned for the better after hearing me out! Some of them started circulating screenshot of the new liquor law stating that they could drink after 10.30 pm at coffeeshop premises just in case if the 2 officers were to turn up again! Link

Posted in Langgar | 4 Comments

Happy CNY 2016 – Year of the Monkey

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Greeting from Wilson.

Today is the 15th day of the 1st lunar month. It is also the last day of CNY celebrations. After today, no more distribution of red packets or lion dances. Chinese usually celebrate CNY for 15 days on the first lunar month. CNY celebrations are now officially over. It’s back to business as usual. In mainland China, the madness of going back to the cities from the villages is now reversed. Before CNY, it was mass migration of millions from cities to the villages to celebrate CNY with folks back home. It will never happen here cuz we are such a tiny country without any hinterland. We do not have vast countryside with villages. Maybe in our case, some Chinese up north making their way back here to start work after CNY. 

月儿几时圆?
提灯问青天!
元宵十五夜;
家家庆丰年!
给您全家拜晚年!
家好运好人也好!
幸福美满更团圆!
祝您元宵节快乐!

Today is also my good friend Lohcifer’s birthday. I would like to wish him all the best. May all his wishes come true. I’ve known him since 2008 for about 8 years. I must say that our friendship has matured and blossomed notwithstanding our differences at times. I hope we could remain as friends forever with me leaving before him so that I won’t miss him. I would rather he misses me! Link

Others celebrated CNY but I kept working. My night relief took 6 days off by paying half of the taxi rental to celebrate CNY. I had to drive longer hours to cover the balance taxi rental. I did not mind at all cuz there was huge demand for taxi especially on the first 2 days of CNY. I was glad to play a small part – like all other transport workers to keep moving people around our island state during the long Chinese New Year weekend holidays. 

I started driving today around 7am till about 11am when I decided to take my meal break. I’d just dropped off a pax at airport from Ridley Park. Suddenly, I remembered my favorite Indian Banana Leaf Curry rice at Carpmael Rd. Every year, I would go there to present a red packet to the stall holder. Since today is the last day of CNY, I wasted no time by driving empty cab from the airport to the place.

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When I reached the stall at the coffeeshop, every thing seemed normal but I did sense something was amiss. I did not notice the “daughter” of the original first generation stall holder and her helpers. There were 3 Indian men whom did not look like locals. I asked where is sister? He replied in halting English that “sister no more”! My heart jumped a little. “What you meant by no more?” “Oh, she retired already. She sold the stall to my boss already!” The smiling Indian man as if he had just achieved a successful coup d’etat asked me what is my order? I then briefed him on my favorite masala chicken, daal, chicken curry, 2 veggies and an extra hard boiled chilli egg. I then proceeded to order my drink and washed my hands thoroughly cuz I usually eat with my right hand. Before that, I presented him a red packet and told him to give it to sister. He quickly usurped it into his shirt pocket with an even broader grin!

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My Indian banana leaf curry rice aka "pukul mati" lunch

When I came back for the pukul mati i.e. Indian curry rice on banana leaf, he charged me $8.00. It cost much more than the usual $6.00 I paid for. If sister were still there, she would have thrown in extra fried fish or chilli ikan billis. Not in this case. The cooking standard has gone down. Service not that good anymore. No more personal touch. Usually the daughter would greet me warmly with some exchanges. Not anymore!

Sadly, the stall holder has sold off the business lock, stock and barrel to another Indian operator. The name of the stall will be changed in due course. I’ve been patronizing this particular stall since 1990 when I was an investigator at Bedok Police station from the original first generation stall owner till the daughter taking over and shifting 3 places around the vicinity. More than 25 years have lapsed and the family running the said stall have finally called it a day. Nothing lasts forever!

Through the years, on every CNY I would present a red packet to the old lady of the stall. She would keep all the red packets collected over the years and showed them to me and others whenever I visited them around CNY. The spirit of “give and take” persisted on with the daughter always giving me extras in return for the few dollars in the red packet. I used to tell them the red packet is meant for luck. I wish her food business would flourish with more customers. They are honest local Indians who believe in returning in kind. The “推” and “拿” moves in tandem to give life its meaning with complete fulfillment. For without the “推” and “拿”, it loses the joy of living. Our Malay friends would connote it as “tarek” and “hulur”. Yup, in life we tarek and we hulur. It’s a 2-way process that synergies our warm relationships and bond us together as humans. As I was trying hard to finish my pukul mati under this new ownership of the same particular stall, I realize there was none! I do not think I will ever go there any more. 

After frequenting the said stall for more than 25 yrs, it has finally come to an end. I could only wish that the daughter would remain fit and healthy enjoying her retirement. Hopefully I could meet her some day and personally wish her well.

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2 days before CNY, on 6/2/16 (Sat), we had a big reunion dinner at EM coffeeshop. 2 tables with more than 30 of us having the biggest feast of the year to usher in the CNY – Year of the Golden Monkey. Each of us paid $50 to Alan Taxi whom organized the said dinner. It was a great success with so much drinks (sponsored by members) and food. We even had BBQ of fresh seafood by the side of the coffeeshop. One of our members who is an Executive Chef in a 6-star hotel sponsored us with tons of abalone, huge fresh prawns, Peking roasted duck, scallops etc. It was truly a gathering to be remembered for a long time.

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On the 1st day of CNY, early in the morning before I even woke up from my slumber, Datuk Freddie as usual delivered 9 pieces of rabbit fish aka CNY fish to my flat. The figure 9 connotes “longevity” or “everlasting” in Chinese. Fish which is a must for CNY symbolizes “extra” or “abundance”. My good friend has brought everlasting abundance to my humble abode by hand delivering 9 pieces of fresh rabbit fish. This time round, he attached a red packet to the packet of fish. This is the 7th consecutive year he has done so! I hope Datuk Freddie will dutifully carry on this yearly tradition bringing joy and happiness to all his relatives and friends. Myself and Lohcifer are amongst the beneficiaries. Thank you Freddie for all the fishes throughout the 7 years you have personally hand delivered to me in your luxury sedan. Link

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The 9 pieces of CNY fish from Freddie

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Freshly steamed Teochew style

Last year, it was about $60 per kg which he bought from the Senoko wholesaler fish market. This time, it cost only about $10 to $15 per kg. Perhaps, it’s a reflection of the bad times ahead or maybe more fish in supply? Let’s pray for the best in the year of the monkey.

As usual, I gave a red packet with 2 mandarin oranges to my night relief drivers for luck when they took over my shift. I’ve driven 2 CNYs on this taxi. Hopefully I could drive for another few more CNYs before I call it a day!

On the 6th day of CNY i.e. 13/2/16, our taxi course mates gathered at the usual Kallang HC for our annual gathering to catch up. Sadly only 8 of us turned up with the rest not in town or occupied with other events. Some of them have already given up taxi and moved on to other jobs. Amongst other things, we discussed about taxi vocational license about to expire by Jan 2017. By end of this year, it’s time for another medical checkup, taxi refresher course and paying up whatever we owe to CPF medical account before we are allowed to renew in order to earn a decent living plying the streets in our taxi. Link

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Only 8 of us out of the original 40 trainees in our TVL class turned up!

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About 2 hours later, we took a group picture for remembrance. Like all Singaporeans crazy over the huge Toto jackpot prize, we decided to cough out $10 each to pool our share. Uncle Lai was the in charge. Last Friday, the results came out and we won only $40. We unanimously agreed to continue with the group Toto share and let it roll over to the next draw! Only 2 persons won the 13 million grand Toto prize. One of our EM members disclosed to us that his friend’s friend aged only 39 years is one of the 2 lucky winners. The God of Fortune favored him over all the others to make him an overnight multi-millionaire!

As for me and the rest of us, life goes on. I’ll still drive taxi as usual and keep a look-out for those monkeys hiding in the bush. Better be careful and watch out or we will suffer when our hard earned takings for the day are all donated to them!  

Posted in Langgar | 4 Comments

My nephew the newly minted police officer

Last Saturday (16/1/16), my nephew graduated from the 3-month residential Police Officer Basic Course (NS) at Home Team Academy. He was amongst the 600 over National Servicemen enlisted to serve in the police undergoing the 3-month training. There were 36 of them in his squad. My nephew will turn 19 soon. How time flies. I could still vividly remember carrying him in my arms when he was just a baby. I still have that photo underneath my glass table top in the living room. My son is 2 years younger than him. Like all male Singaporeans, he will have to serve his NS obligation after his studies.

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But my nephew is unique. I believe he’s the only one in his squad who is a “foreigner” even though he was born here. Nearly 9 yrs ago (maybe about 8 yrs), my brother brought his family over to Vancouver. My nephew was midway in Sec One then. Being a patriotic Singaporean, he flew all the way back by himself from Vancouver to serve his NS. His parents and 2 other siblings are still living in Vancouver. He did not complain at all. In fact, he was looking forward to his NS stint here. After his 2-year NS obligation, he shall go back to Vancouver to complete his university education. He posted his picture on his FB in his crisp brand new fitting police uniform with corporal rank on his shoulder. We are proud of him.

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Before the commencement of his 3-month residential basic police officer training, there was a reception for parents and friends. Only my mother and her god-daughter attended the reception. I sent them there. On the day of his graduation on last Saturday, my mother and her god-daughter also attended. I was there to fetch them. Home Team Academy is situated in one ulu corner of the island and taxis are hard to come by. When I was waiting to fetch them, there were tons of pax desperately wanting to jump into my cab! I had to lock my cab doors to prevent my taxi from being hijacked. Taking the bus or MRT is not so convenient cuz he had to bring back lots of personal belongings home since he had to vacate his barracks. He will report to the Land Division for duty.

I did not attend both receptions – before and after the training. I only fetched and sent them there. I heard from my mother that the food especially on the graduation day was fantastic. She enjoyed tremendously.

My nephew’s police training brought me back to memory lane. I became quite nostalgic when I pondered over my own police training more than 30 yrs ago at the old Police Academy. In Mar 1983, I got myself signed up as a regular and undergone 6- month of police officer residential training then. I joined with a full A level certificate with distinction in GP. There was no opening ceremony before the 6-month course or ending ceremony when we graduated! It was a quiet affair. We were merely informed of the Land Divisions to report the following day. Some of our squad mates just adjourned to Whitley Hawker Centre under the Thomson flyover across the old Police Academy.

In those days, the old Police Academy only belonged to the police. We did not share the facilities within PA grounds with others. Now, it’s the Home Team Academy – the police force is only part of the Home Team. Some of the buildings in PA are antiques inherited from the old colonial days. The sprawling PA grounds including the parade square are full of lush greenery with huge ancient trees spread over undulating hills and slopes with winding pathways and narrow roads. Even the carpet grass lining the sides of the pathways and roads were carefully manicured and trimmed. Mind you, there were no cleaners or gardeners in PA. All done by trainees. That was the first impression when I went for the interview at the gymnasium. It was so blissful and serene on PA grounds even though there would always be lots of movements, buzzing with activities of recruits and even senior officers having their courses. Sometimes, we would get officers from other neighboring countries attending courses here.

Now that we are quite well off, the government could afford to throw a feast before and after the 3-month residential training for parents and friends of the trainees. Those instructors must be very delighted for the extras. Let me state categorically that I’m not against the government spending money on such occasions. Whenever I see money spent, I got worried. I drive taxi everyday and I notice that almost every corner of Singapore it’s always renovation and construction. Almost every major road, there is bound to be digging and road works. Widening and construction of roads – for example along Braddell Rd near to Toa Payoh and nearly every housing estate there is either upgrading or some form of construction going on – like building more and more shelters, link ways, fitness corner parks etc. All these on top of the digging of tunnels for the so many expanding MRT lines.

One prominent blogger mentions with the aging population, more will have to spend on them. He even suggested setting up a Ministry to look after the increasing aging population which will become a huge burden and headache. But with a sluggish economy and bad times looming ahead, could the seemingly limitless spending power on public infrastructure (mentioned earlier i.e. roads and housing estates), defense (more high tech weapons like more sophisticated drones or costly F35 fighter jets?, multi-platform warship or aircraft carrier?), medical (more hospitals and subsidies for the aged poor), workers (workfare payouts, future skills credits etc) and the list goes on and on … be sustained? We know that once it is given, it is always very difficult to take it back. When the rolling good times are over, the things we take for granted like those NS receptions mentioned above, may have to be scaled back drastically. So long as these goodies keep coming, no one is going to complain. The problem arises when it’s not coming anymore! If there’s a dip in revenue, expect GST to go up to 10% or even15%!

Back to my memory lane, life was simple then in those good old days. Our pay was low but we enjoyed our life then. There was no swimming pool or air con in my schools. Only the small library had air con. Yelp, no computers also. When I was in team policing, the police cars also got no air con. It was just a simple patrol car with only a built-in walkie talkie set. Now that our schools or ITEs (those days it was Vocational Institutes) have some of the best facilities in the world. Who pays for these? The parents and also the government of course. Question is – Is the money worth spending? Have we trained a younger generation better than those in my generation? Some depict them as the “strawberry” or “durian” generation. I hope they are better than us in terms of commitment and loyalty to our nation, not self-centered individuals.

I was quite sadden to notice that the two Malay words “Setia Dan Bakti” removed from my nephew’s group photo only to be replaced by “Training Command!” It’s quite obvious that those recruits were trained by Training Command isn’t it? Why must it be highlighted? I do not see the logic. Just look at those officers sitting on cheap plastic chairs and the plain concrete structures behind them. Every police officer going through the basic course will have a group photo taken before they graduated. If you take a closer look and compare with my group photo taken more than 30 yrs ago, you will sense the history and proud heritage of the police force. Sadly, not in my nephew’s case.

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I told my nephew on the way back home that I also had a group photo taken like him more than 30 yrs ago when I was undergoing the police basic training in PA. There were 26 of us in the squad then. We set off together as equals (police constables) when we graduated. We then set off individually finding our own paths in life.

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Some ended up as failures in life whilst some became very successful. It could be due to fate, circumstances or luck that they ended up what they are today I really don’t know. Just to randomly quote few of them – one of them became a famous singer-musician. He wrote a Mandarin song “等你等到我心痛” https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NIT1XbiE3Pw&autoplay=1 It only became a hit when one of the 4 Heavenly Kings sang it. One became a top criminal lawyer. Another shot himself on the head with his service revolver. Many including me left the force. I told my nephew to frame up the group photo and keep track of every one of them as the years pass by. The same could also be applied to your school graduation class or whatever graduation courses you may attend.

As one grows older and the finishing line gets nearer, accumulation of memories also grows in tandem.

“Life … is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

― William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Posted in Langgar | 2 Comments

Taxi and Private Hired Car debate rages on…

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Is it acceptable for them to tout for pax at taxi stands?

Since MOT spoke about the need to look into some of the valid complaints by orthodox taxi drivers on his blog post dated 2 Oct 15 – which I also touched on when I blogged about the importance of taxi vocational license, taxi has become a hot topic hogging the headlines almost every other day! Some of the recent taxi cases hitting the headlines include 2 “seow char bo” using high heel shoe to hit an old taxi driver or some ang mo punching taxi driver over parking space etc. Just recently, we heard that LTA imposed thousands of dollars fines on taxi operators (except CDG taxis) not able to meet LTA’s KPI.

The evening “mosquito” papers are always quick to highlight any story about taxi. When Uber went around the taxi stands to tout for passengers, they put it on their front page to catch readers’ eyeballs. When our ex-general went around talking to “stakeholders” in the taxi industry, they were also quick to print the story. As such, we could say that taxi is one hot local topic generating much debate.

As the taxi debate rages on generating so much controversy in the social media on FB, twitters and blogs that even main stream media also jumping into the bandwagon, LTA still remains silent. Not a single statement or whimper made to date. LTA just prefers to stay at the sidelines watching the taxi drama unfolding.

As I watch the taxi drama unfolding before my eyes, I note that the debate about our taxi drivers could get emotional. For example I read one ang mo describing our local taxi drivers as the worst cab drivers in the world. From start to finish on his article, he was bashing our taxi drivers incessantly like no tomorrow saying things such as he could not get taxi during changing shifts and that taxi drivers always ask which way to go? Which actually he’s asking for your preferred route!

Everything is the taxi driver’s fault notwithstanding the 101 rules set by LTA which orthodox taxi drivers need to adhere when operating their taxis. One example he cited is that he could not get taxis at ION but lots of taxis at Wisma Atria after 5pm due to the extra $3 city charge. Yup a few dollars matter a lot to taxi drivers. Who doesn’t want the extra cash? Blame LTA for setting the rule instead of the poor taxi drivers.

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Why is he bashing local taxi drivers? How he blames everything on our local taxi drivers without reservations?

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As far as I’m concerned every tourist I ferried praises our taxi drivers for their professionalism and integrity! Our taxi drivers are so much better than many countries in the region.  Not sure why this expatriate hates our taxi drivers so much? He had nothing positive to say about our taxi drivers.

Alas! NTA has spoken and a formal letter with the following list of recommendations to MOT! Still LTA prefers to keep quiet. Silence is golden as they say.

1. Assurance of commuters’ Safety and Security
2. Ensure Fair Competition amongst service providers offering point-to-point transfers
3. Embrace new technology and evolve business model for Greater Efficiency on the use of our transport assets

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Unresolved question: Can Uber car pick up pax at taxi stand? LTA need to make a stmt. Even LTA officers are not sure!

Let’s look at the latest taxi hot news hitting headlines. Recently, there was this elderly Uber driver got assaulted by the duty LTA officer when he tried to snap pictures of the said Uber driver picking up pax at Bugis taxi stand. I saw the video on social media that went viral. As usual, my mentor Lohcifer – the self-proclaimed taxi expert had this to say when he WhatsApp me with the news story.

“My two cents’ worth:

(1) Passenger is a moron for asking Uber driver to pick her from taxi stand. She’s the same idiot who posted a video of the altercation online. Sigh, too many stupid people walking around with smart phones posting videos of perceived wrongs. If you have the balls, stop the fight or right the wrongs, instead of posting videos to social media and hoping wrongdoers will be shamed. What a cop-out mentality!

(2) Uber driver should have known better – he rents a regular car each day to be a Uber driver, so he jolly well knows he’s not a taxi driver, and he’s not supposed to pick up anyone at taxi stands.

(3) According to Sunday Times report, driver actually provoked LTA officer to book him.

(4) LTA officer struck the first blow was provided by a cleaning service. Ramky Cleantech Services outsource their cleaners to LTA to become enforcement officers? What the fuck?! Not even rent-a-cop, more like rent-a-cowboy-wannabe. How was this allowed to happen? Bastard needs anger management training, among other shit. And the head of whoever agreed to such an arrangement ought to roll.”

I ever fetched one middle aged local Chinese lady who lived in the US for quite some time. She decided to return home after her retirement. She had her own car but she used taxis whenever her car broke down. She told me that she used Uber twice in the US. It’s quite common over there. The first time was a professor from the university and the second time a doctor! I could not believe what she told me. Yup, they used their luxury cars to fetch pax via Uber 3rd party app. Reason being that those professionals drive Uber to de-stress and to meet interesting people. That’s the difference between our Uber drivers and them. Co-incidentally, our good natured and ever cool DPM recently has been talking about job respectability.

Just 2 weeks ago, in our taxi WhatsApp group our members have been discussing about the morning taxi talk show hosted by FM 95.8. It seems that the radio station had invited one local professor to the Mandarin radio talk. According to the professor (I did not say that), our government’s level of competency has dropped! Why let so many 3rd party taxi apps inundate the taxi industry then only they decide to do something about it? Why didn’t they foresee the issues and problems created as a result of the laissez-faire attitude adopted by LTA – pls refer to NTA’s letter of recommendations. The good professor went on to say might as well leave it as it is then. Why now only they start looking at those issues plaguing the taxi industry?

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Many pax are not aware or not bothered at all. They thought that accidents won't happen to them!

The thing that struck us in the WhatsApp taxi group is what the learned professor said is that this government is always fire-fighting. They failed to nip the problem at the bud. Think about the controversy when RWS sent out free buses to the HDB heartlands to ferry gamblers to their casino. That led to lots of hue and cry. Why did LTA allow such nonsense and then decided to scrap those free buses? What about those private schools mushrooming leading to lots of foreign students being swindled tons of school fees then only the relevant authority decided to act by regulating those private learning institutions? Why didn’t they foresee the problems in the first place? We wonder what those in authority were doing all these while? I would say it amounted to gross negligence and dereliction of duty! Surely it affects our aspiration to be an education hub in the region when such malpractices happened losing our brand name & reputation to foreign students.

Like what our learned professor said on FM95.8 radio talk show, the same is repeating in our taxi industry. As we speak now, the taxi industry is dominated by the orthodox and unorthodox players running parallel on 2 sets of rules. Actually, one set of rules meant for licensed taxi drivers and no rules for the other group of 3rd party apps drivers! What a langgar situation we are stuck now. Our MOT realized such a langgar predicament. That is why he blogged about the taxi industry on the 2nd Oct 15 – two days after he was sworn in to office!

Let’s see whether our brilliant MOT could solve this persistent taxi irritant where it has become the talking point in almost every channel of media whether on the print media, social media or on air! We shall await eagerly for his slew of solutions to these seemingly unsolvable taxi issues since time immemorial!

Posted in Langgar | 2 Comments

The importance of Taxi Vocational License

This amazing country has a powerful tool to control almost every profession in every industry from the lowest food chain to the highest. Yup, I’m referring to the issue of “license” by the relevant authority. If you are a professional e.g. Doctor or Lawyer you will need a license to practice. If you swindle your client’s monies entrusted to you or prescribe medicine indiscriminately, your license may be revoked. Without a valid license, you will not be able to earn a living in your chosen profession.

Before you start selling cooked food, you will need to go for medical check-up and apply for a license. If you do not maintain a minimum standard of hygiene as a hawker selling cooked food, NEA may revoke your license thus forcing you to close shop. Even selling tobacco products to the under-age will have your license taken away. From these few cases, you will agree that licensing is an effective way to control and regulate almost every profession in the country.

In those good old days, there was not much control or regulations as far as illegal hawkers or pirate taxis were concerned leading to chaotic situations. Anyone could just set up a stall selling cooked food any where as they like then. This is still being practiced in some 3rd world countries. Not any more in our highly regulated country where everything needs a valid license from the proper authority. Without proper health checks, hygiene was an issue not to mention the indiscriminate setting-up of stalls along the streets and back lanes. We have more or less eradicated illegal street hawkers. But pirate taxis or “pa wong chia” have resurfaced and mutated in new form under the cover of new technology in our new economy!

Whatever mutations the modern pirate taxis evolve in the so-called new economy, certain things can never and should not be changed. The interests of the consumers (passengers) and those existing taxi drivers holding valid taxi vocational license must be safe guarded. Let’s look at the rationale of taxi vocational license.

Like I mentioned earlier, licensing is a powerful tool to control and regulate a profession. There are one hundred and one rules and regulations in the rule book to discipline errant taxi drivers. If there is a complaint by passenger to LTA, the taxi driver will be investigated. If the complaint is substantiated, the taxi driver may have his license suspended or revoked affecting his livelihood. Even if the passenger directs his complaint to the taxi company, the taxi driver may be sacked. He will have to look for another taxi company to ply his trade earning a decent honest living.

Every 3 years, taxi driver will have to go for a refresher course and a complete medical check-up before his taxi vocational license is renewed. If he does not pay his medisave voluntarily, his taxi vocational license may not be renewed. When I drive my taxi, I have to be careful not to invite unnecessary complaints from passengers. I’ll not do nonsensical things to jeopardize my rice bowl. On few occasions, I was offered extra cash to fetch more than the legal limit of 4 passengers. I declined. I told my passengers it’s against the law. I do not want to take unnecessary risks for getting caught by enforcement officers.

Taxi vocational license is indeed an effective means of control to regulate and discipline taxi drivers. Almost all foreigners and tourists are impressed by our local taxi drivers. We follow strictly to the taxi meter fare, do not over-charge and are courteous to them. They have been to many countries in the region and they all agree that our taxi drivers are reliable and trust worthy – the best in the world! Mind you, it does not happen by chance.

Just to illustrate the importance of taxi vocational license. Whenever I send pax to Jurong Island – a vital installation with tons of oil and gas, I was asked to surrender my taxi vocational license. Not my NRIC! Security is so tight that they snap a picture of me with my fingerprints taken all under the watchful eyes of anti-terrorist security personnel in army green camouflage!

The same thing happens whenever I enter Changi Airport cargo complex. They demand for my taxi vocational license even though I need not change pass. Obviously, my taxi vocational license (with valid date cuz they check) carries more weight than my NRIC.

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Do we want this to happen? The result of unregulated taxi drivers!

Imagine without the fear of having your taxi vocational license revoked, do you think that the reputation of our taxi drivers could be so impressive? If I were to operate under UberX, taxi vocational license becomes irrelevant. If the passenger complains to LTA, there is nothing the latter could do to me. Unless, I commit a criminal offense, the police will not prosecute me. As such, I will operate my taxi business under UberX outside LTA’s taxi rules and regulations. It is as simple as that. Yet, many policy makers do not understand this simple rule of the thumb.

I would like to highlight some salient points of taxi vocational license. Before a citizen (only citizens could apply for taxi vocational license) could apply for the taxi crash course, he will need to write in to LTA for approval first. The applicant will be screened by LTA for any criminal records or past serious traffic offenses. Only after getting the LTA approval letter, the applicant can go for the taxi course. As such, before the Singaporean could go for the taxi course, he will need to go for a complete medical check-up and get approval from LTA first.

If you drive under UberX, you need not go through all these procedures. In fact, any body, not necessary citizens could drive UberX. The difference between a qualified taxi vocational driver and UberX driver is that the latter could not do street jobs – meaning they could not pick up pax by the road side. But with 3rd party taxi apps, unlike in pre-internet days it is no longer an issue. UberX drivers have become a major player in the taxi industry albeit without any form of control on them unlike those orthodox taxi drivers holding LTA taxi vocational license. That’s why existing taxi drivers complain about different levels of playing field in the same industry.

On the first day i.e. 1/10/15 the newly minted MOT visited train depots and crew stations. He uploaded some pictures taken during his visits on his FB. That tremendously boosted the morale of frontline staff. On the 2nd day i.e. 2/10/15, he wrote a blog about the taxi industry. From there, we could see his priorities in his new job. At least, he is humble enough to admit that he did not know that UberX drivers need not go for the taxi course to get qualified for taxi vocational license. He’s trying to put things right by highlighting this salient point on his blog. His subordinates had better take note of his thinking.

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MOT's latest blog on the taxi industry.

All these while, taxi drivers have been trying to highlight this vital point to the relevant authority i.e. taxi vocational license but to no avail. Even our PM publicly endorsed Uber and other 3rd party apps saying that it’s just sending pax from point A to point B. Is it so simple as that? Just like one smart alec ever mentioned driving trains is just “pressing buttons” only. If it is so simple, then just train a monkey to sit in the train driving cabin to “press buttons”. No need to spend months training someone to operate trains with yearly refresher courses and endless circular updates!

PM Lee has endorsed Grabtaxi and Uber. Watch 11:11 min of the video http://youtu.be/36-AxLUlkrQ

At last, we have an enlightened MOT brave enough to change course and change tact by publicly declaring that something need to be done to address this anomaly in the taxi industry! In the newly sworn in cabinet, there are 3 co-ordinating Ministers with 2 of them holding DPM rank. If there is another DPM post, the newly minted MOT could be the 3rd DPM! After all, he has already cleared up much of the HDB mess with enough flats for all and the housing prices are more or less stabilized. He has earned his dues and proved indispensable to the new team. PM made a wise move by appointing him as MOT!

My only worry is his health. I read somewhere just before the last GE that our MOT felt uncomfortable and giddy when he was attending to his constituents’ needs. He had to lay down to rest a while. He also publicly mentioned about taking frequent walks at Sembawang park to de-stress. Let’s hope that he could last the term and make some significant changes for the benefits of all before he calls it a day!

Updates…. 6/10/15

I was quite reluctant to include this part on my blog for fear of losing a fren. For the sake of our taxi industry, I’ll let the truth prevail. I’ll just say that my fren who was an experienced skilful taxi driver all his life in a moment of folly chose to work for a credit card syndicate.

My good fren committed credit card offences by cloning passenger’s credit card when the latter paid at the Point of Sale Terminal in his taxi. After some time, he was caught red handed. Convicted in court for the said offence and went in for more than a year. LTA revoked his taxi vocational license and he could no longer ply taxi as before. He’s gone over to UberX. The dark side accepted him with no questions asked. They welcomed him with open hands!

I’m quoting one known living example. What about others with different criminal convictions? Nobody knows cuz there’s no proper screening done on those crossing over to the dark side! It’s a nightmare and a time bomb waiting only to explode.

Read related article here.

Click here to read Confession of a new taxi driver.

Embattled Uber faces global crackdown.

Better safe than save!

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