Taxi drivers in Malé are today protesting against what they regard as “strict” and unfair new regulations which were to be implemented today.
Key concerns raised by participants included the issue of ‘taxi-top’ vacancy signs, and not having similar legislation for all land transport, including lorries and pickups.
Many held placards with statements such as ‘Insurance is useless’, ‘Establish equal policies for all land transport’, ‘Stop making medical reports of drivers, stop requesting police records of drivers’, and ‘Stop enslaving drivers’.
State Minister for Transport Ahmed Zubair has argued that drivers and taxi centers were consulted throughout the process and that their concerns were addressed.
Protesters demanded a change the regulation and called for the Transport Minister Ameen Ibrahim’s resignation.
The protest began this morning as a strike, and later turned in to a protest march with taxi drivers taking to voice their concerns.
Some taxi drivers who maintain the regulations are reasonable, refused to take part in the protest – continuing their service through out the day – were threatened by the protesters.
The Maldives Police Service confirmed reports of threats to taxi centers, and said that two people were arrested from the protest – one for trying to attack a police officer and obstructing police, the other person for stopping a taxi on the street.
A general statement written by protesters said the purpose of the protest was to oppose “the creation of strict regulations to make things difficult particularly for taxi drivers, and forcing to follow such regulations.”
Some drivers argued that the ministry should ensure the vacancy boards that fit their standards are available in the Maldives, noting that attaching such a board requires drilling a hole on top of the cars.
State Minister Zubair today said that the implementation of the whole regulation will not be delayed any further, saying that the ministry was not specifically targeting the taxi drivers, but was planning to introduce similar regulations for bus services and another for resolving the issue of parking.
Responding to the complaints about the vacancy signs, the minister said that magnetic boards were available and that, in order to give more time for taxis, the ministry has given another month (till May 15) to fix the boards.
He said the regulation would also allow for the penalisation of those taxis who do not provide the service.
Police today announced that action will be taken against those violating the new regulations – with the exception of the vacancy board placement – starting today.
Meanwhile Maldivian Red Crescent has announced that their medical emergency vehicles will be available for emergency transport during the taxi drivers’ strike. MRC transport contact number is 7917009.