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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Illegal bus operators are kings of the road in Sabah, Sarawak


By Patrick Lee

YEAR-END SPECIAL PETALING JAYA: Despite available laws governing transport in “developed” Malaysia, enforcement, lack of political will and backdoor licensing remain the bane of bus operators in Sabah and Sarawak.

In Sabah and Sarawak's land-locked terrain, illegal public transport operators rule the roost and legitimate tax-paying bus operators who service 16 government agencies just so they can carry out their daily business of shuttling passengers are being forced out of the industry.

According to the Pan Malaysian Bus Operators Association (PMBOA), it's just a matter of time before the legimitate operators go bust.

The PMBOA has 130 bus companies nationwide which are listed members. Of this, five bus operators service Sabah while 25 run routes in Sarawak.

Already they have sent a plea to the government to take over their businesses.

Said PMBOA president Mohamad Ashfar Ali: "We have many laws already in place, but the will to stop them (illegal operators) is another. It all boils down to enforcement.

"Most of the illegal operators don't use proper buses. These illegal operators go to the universities, estates and the markets. All you have to do is wait by the roadside and the car (or van) will come along.

"Mind you, these transporters are not the taxis who usually waited around hotels for tourists."

He also said that legitimate buses faced a lot of competition from illegal operators, who used regular routes to take passengers.

"The bus may (come and) leave a bus-stand at 10am, but an illegal driver (kereta sapu) will be there 10 minutes before, and they will tell the passengers waiting that the bus isn't coming," he said.

CVLB licensed illegals

Ashfar said what was most shocking to the PMBOA members was when they discovered that some of these van drivers are licensed by the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) to operate the same routes used by PMBOA members.

He said according to the government, the original intention of legalising the illegal operators was to bring them under governmental supervision.

But in most cases the plan had backfired.

On the streets and rough roads in Borneo it's survival of the fittest and the general perception of red tape and laws is, to put it bluntly, “for morons”.

When asked, most drivers of illegal public transport in Sabah and Sarawak said they did not know who actually was their boss. For the commuters, the whole operation smacked of “cartel-style” business.

Ashraf said he took PMBOA's concern over the illegal operators to then Sabah CVLB chairman (and late Batu Sapi MP) Edmond Chong.

He claimed Chong shrugged off his (Ashraf's) worries.

"When I asked him when (the licensing of vans) is going to stop, he (Chong) told me that there was a public demand for such public transport, so they had to regularise these operators," Ashfar said.

Incidentally, the CVLB has three chairmen; one each for Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia.

Asked if illegal operators were largely a problem in Sabah and Sarawak, Ashfar disagreed.

"You don't see it (in the peninsula) because you're not looking for it," he said.

"It (the illegal operator) could be in the form of a factory bus (bas kilang), a chartered bus, or even a tour bus. It doesn't have to be a rundown vehicle."

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