Taxi drivers and those have applied for taxi licenses demonstrated in front of the Hulhumale Development Corporation (HDC) today.
The crowd of 25 held placards condemning the decision by HDC to allow the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company taxi’s to offer transfers from Hulhumale to the Hulhule Airport island.
The demonstration lasted for an hour and a half, before the drivers were called into a meeting with the management of HDC.
Ahmed Riza, who has been driving a taxi in Hulhumale for the last four years, asks “Why should a company be allowed to provide transport to Hulhule, while the taxi drivers who are working here is not allowed to provide that service?”
The demonstraters main point of contention was as of last week, the MTCC has been operating vehicles from Hulhumale to the Hulhule airport, while local taxi drivers are not permitted to do so. They say this will result in a loss of income for them.
“Before they were just operating the cars with just the company name, but now they have taxi boards, and it says ‘express service’.”
Riza reasons that since Hulhumale and the Hulhule airport is connected by a causeway, taxi drivers like him should be allowed to transfer people to the airport.
“There are people here who have applied for licenses for driving taxis, but instead HDC has gone ahead and given taxi boards to a company.”
Riza says the cars, which are used for the transfers, are even providing trips internally in Hulhumale and depriving the taxi drivers of business.
“The other day I caught a car taking a sack of coconuts, and the driver said it was his personal trip.”
The fact that MTCC is using cars is another factor that Riza and his co-workers are not happy about.
A previous service provided Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) used buses.
Providing a service
“MTCC only provides transfers for passengers and their luggage from Hulhumale to the terminal of choice at the airport,” says Hawwa Huzeyma, Head of the Transport Department of MTCC.
She says the company does not provide taxi services internally in Hulhumale. MTCC is the company that provides transfers to the airport for Male residents, and she says they are providing that service to Hulhumale residents now.
“We were asked by Maldives Airport Company limited (MACL) to provide that service, which they had been providing before.”
The company uses both buses and cars for their express service.
Deputy Managing Director of HDC Suhail Ahmed says some concerned taxi drivers met with him a week ago.
“They were asking to be given permission to provide transfers to the airport, I told them that I will discuss it with MACL and give them an answer today.”
MACL does not provide free access to Hulhule Airport and only authorised vehicles are allowed in.
“For security reasons and because there is such high traffic at the airport MACL has restricted access to the airport and I conveyed this to the demonstrators,” he said.
At the moment 14 taxis are licensed to operate in Hulhumale, and the demonstrators have asked for an increase.
“After discussing it with them, we have agreed to that and next week we will be announcing it,” Suhail said.
The number of the increase has not been decided yet, as the taxi drivers themselves can’t decide on a number, he added.
Suhail says the HDC had to give taxi boards to MTCC vehicles, as “problems arise” if they provide transfers without the board.
“MACL has given permission for the MTCC to do the transfers as that would be easier, but we will be discussing the issue raised by the taxi drivers when the head of MACL returns to Male’ next week.”