Big Blue Taxi chief apologises for calling Indonesians poor after remark sparks outrage among Go-Jek riders

Big Blue Taxi founder Datuk Shamsubahrin Ismail speaks during a press conference at Wisma Central, Kuala Lumpur on August 28, 2019. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana
Big Blue Taxi founder Datuk Shamsubahrin Ismail speaks during a press conference at Wisma Central, Kuala Lumpur on August 28, 2019. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 28 — Big Blue Taxi Services founder Datuk Shamsubahrin Ismail today publicly apologised to Indonesians for calling them poor, sparking an outrage among Go-Jek riders in the republic.

In a press conference today, the controversial figure in the local public transportation scene said that his social media platforms as well as his WhatsApp application were flooded with messages from Indonesians who expressed anger and dissatisfaction over his statement.

Shamsubahrin justified his initial remark, saying that he had only based his statement after reading news reports on the state of Indonesia’s economy.

“Indonesia is in my heart, the people of Indonesia are in my heart.

“I got a lot of texts directly into my handphone from the people of Indonesia, and also Go-Jek riders. I am also in the nationwide Indonesian Go-Jek riders (WhatsApp) group. I am in the nationwide Indonesian Grab drivers (WhatsApp) group.

“The issue which cropped up now is that I issued a statement saying Indonesians are poor because of reports from Indonesia.

“I apologise for the mistake in my statement, labelling Indoneians as poor, based off the reports which I received,” he said.

In a viral video which made waves in Indonesia, Shamsubahrin can be heard saying that Malaysia is a wealthy nation, where its youths are not destitute like their counterparts in Indonesia.

“If in Indonesia their youths are good, they would not go overseas to find jobs. Go-Jek is only for the poor like in Jakarta, Thailand, India, Cambodia,” Shamsubahin was heard saying in the now viral video clip.

Shamsubahrin claimed most Indonesians have accepted his explanation and that they want him to “come forward and build the relationship back”.

His previous statement had created an uproar among Indonesians, with a protest planned in front of the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta by the president of the Nasional Gabungan Aksi Roda Dua (Garda) Indonesia, Igun Wicaksono, and other Go-Jek riders.

Shamsubahrin also took Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman to task, questioning what type of future the first-term Cabinet member envisioned for Malaysian youths by promoting e-hailing rider and driver jobs.

“After that (Go-Jek) approval (by the Cabinet), Syed Saddiq said proudly that more than 100,000 jobs will be provided by Go-Jek for youths.

“My question now is, do we want our brothers, our sisters, or even our children to have that kind of future in Malaysia? My context was taken wrongly,” he said, adding that he had also previously called on the government to absorb the youth into the military, lamenting that this was however not reported.

“Why are we promoting lower wages?” Shamsubahrin questioned further, adding that the cost of living has been on the rise, unlike people’s wages.

Last week, Transport Minister Anthony Loke said the government would place greater emphasis on road safety, ahead of Go-Jek’s debut here.

He said that the report on the study and mechanism of the service will be submitted to the Cabinet within a month.

The highly-popular Go-Jek ride hailing company founded by Nadiem Makarim in 2010 is also running in Thailand and Vietnam under the names GET and Go-Viet respectively.

On August 24, Syed Saddiq said the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government will also help push homegrown motorcycle e-hailing service, Dego Ride, after meeting the boss of Indonesian firm Go-Jek and getting the Cabinet to agree “in principle” to restart the bike-hailing service.

Syed Saddiq in announcing Cabinet’s approval for Go-Jek’s operation here, previously remarked that ride-hailing service could aid the last-mile dilemma for commuters.

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