PORT DICKSON: Port Dickson was once a busy coastal town, bustling with activity and brimming with tourists drawn by the wide expanse of beach.
Now, though, much of the bustle is gone. Some attribute this to the fact that many of the shops close by 7pm – nothing stays open past sundown except for several Chinese restaurants and mamak joints.
But whatever the reason, the lack of activity has affected the trades of many, not least of all the taxi drivers in the area.
A veteran cab driver who wished to remain anonymous said the town centre was once a lively spot.
“Today, all of you are here because Anwar Ibrahim is campaigning for the by-election,” he said.
“Otherwise if you come here during the day, it is very quiet. That is one of the reasons the taxi business has been going from bad to worse.
“We depend very much on passengers who are tourists, but there are hardly any now,” he told FMT at the taxi and bus station in the Port Dickson town.
Taxi drivers in the area have been struggling to make ends meet, sometimes earning only RM10 a day. At most, they make RM50.
Although taxi drivers can go hunting for passengers, most of the time they end up dry.
“Tourists would rather go to Melaka which is next-door. Melaka has everything except the beaches. But what’s the use of having beaches that are no longer clean?” the driver said.
He added that there was hardly any life in Port Dickson, which didn’t even have a proper shopping mall.
Busu Abdul Hamid, meanwhile, has been driving taxis since 1969. He blamed the drop in passengers on Grab drivers, claiming that they were unregulated.
“The conditions set by the government are very strict, but I don’t see this being done for Grab drivers,” the 65-year-old said.
“Taxi drivers have three different identification cards to prove that they are legitimate drivers, but Grab drivers have none. And yet, they are monopolising the market.”
He said joining Grab was not an option for taxi drivers either, as their applications would be rejected once it was discovered that they were conventional cab drivers.
Busu, who is the deputy secretary of the Port Dickson taxi association, urged Pakatan Harapan (PH) to address the issue, saying cab drivers were relying on the new MP to bring about change, especially to the economy.
The association’s chairman Rosli Latib, 55, said they had written many times to the former Land Public Transport Commission, now known as the Land Public Transport Agency, but had received no response.
“Do you know that we get fined for not wearing collared shirts when we are driving our taxis? Do Grab drivers get the same fine?
“The government has to do more to ensure that we are all benefitting equally. We hope that Anwar, when he becomes the prime minister, will be able to do something.”
He added that the majority of taxi drivers in Port Dickson were ex-servicemen for whom the industry was their bread and butter.
Over in Lukut, taxi driver Kanna Subramaniam, 40, said he too was having trouble finding passengers.
“The problem with Grab drivers has worsened, to the point where some have been impersonating as Grab drivers. This has been making the taxi business worse here.
“Even the airport trips that we make have decreased. That is one of the destinations we depend on for extra income,” he said.
Kanna added that Port Dickson had not been fully developed despite its potential as a tourist destination.
“Barisan Nasional has not been doing much for the past 10 years, neither has PH. I hope by voting for Anwar, he will do something to seriously look into how to uplift Port Dickson,” he said.