PETALING JAYA: Several migrant activists are up in arms over the decision by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to charge non-Malaysians for the GoKL bus service, which was previously free for everyone.
Mahi Ramakrishnan, founder of Beyond Borders, asked why the government had made such a “divisive move” at the expense of foreigners, who rely on public transport.
“I would like to ask the government what it hopes to achieve through this new rule. What will we lose by allowing non-Malaysians to use the GoKL bus service for free?
“There are so many of them who do not earn very much. Others do not feel the pinch, but this expenditure could eat into the tiny sum that migrant workers make from their wages,” she told FMT.
She added that the new rule would also affect stateless people, and urged the government to reverse the decision.
Project Liber8 executive director New Su Shern said it was crucial for the government to take into account the various challenges that migrant workers face on a daily basis.
“They play a significant role in the progress of our economy and nation, contributing immensely despite receiving low pay and working long hours.
“Implementing charges for services like public transport only exacerbates their struggles. It does not alleviate them,” the human rights activist said.
Bar Council migrant, refugees and immigration affairs committee co-chairman M Ramachelvam said the rule was regressive and discriminatory.
Ramachelvam also said policymakers should recognise that migrant workers are an important and integral part of the country’s workforce, who make an invaluable contribution to the economy.
He said that many countries provide free transport services in a non-discriminatory manner.
DBKL had said it would implement the charge to non-Malaysians using the GoKL bus service in stages, through cashless payment.
It has yet to announce other details including the fee and the implementation date.
In October last year, then federal territories deputy minister Jalaluddin Alias said almost half of the passengers of the free bus service were made up of foreigners, and that the government would consider making them pay for its use.
He said the government would have collected RM9.2 million a month if it charged RM1 to the foreigners using the bus service.