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Conversations In A Taxi
           
Of all places, you will hear the most interesting things in a KL taxi. I don't know if taxi drivers are as talkative elsewhere! I think, this experience is really reserved for passengers, who are from outstation or foreigners. Taxi drivers are strangely very chatty only if you are travelling to and from the airports and hotels. This probably is because they select which passenger they open up to. The topic of the day usually is a political controversy in the country. Especially vocal are the younger drivers, but the older drivers can be just as vocal. Although you don't learn much from short trips, a ride from Kuala Lumpur City to the International Airport does give full opportunity for a full expression of the views of taxi drivers in KL town and also helps to kill the boredom of the long, nearly 30 minutes drive from KLIA.

My latest encounter, was only from the hotel to the Court. When the driver discovered from my destination and dress that I was a "peguam" (lawyer) he asked my legal "opinion" on the latest controversy, the issue of banning of "cerama".

("Cerama" is a form of informal private social "meeting".) Whether the announced ban on ceramas was legal and sustainable in the light of the concept of "hak assasi manusia"- fundamental human rights? Who says the ordinary masses do not understand the concept of human rights?
I briefly traced for him development of the ban on public rallies, which started from sometime in 1976. As public rallies were first banned for the 1978 General Elections, which incidentally benefited the "established parties". The newer parties did not have the publicity and were deprived of a platform. The politicans, both Government and Opposition, resorted to "ceramas" which were supposed to be "private" meetings, and as time went on, became as big as public rallies, and had become public rallies, in all, but in name.Now, the Barisan government has decided to totally ban all rallies, including ceramas.

But, what was interesting was the depth of knowledge displayed by the "taxi driver". He reasoned that, the ISA was intended for use against the Communists! I disillusioned him, by telling him that the government had used the ISA (Internal Security Act) provisions against so-called "economic crimes" and that the provisions of the ISA was not so "restrictive". He referred to the freedom of assembly and freedom of speech guaranteed under the Constitution, and showed that he understood the legal definition of an unlawful assembly, which he said restricted a meeting of "5 or more persons".He rationalized that although he accepted that there must be laws to maintain public order, but there was a limit, and to ban "ceramas" constituted too much control. He said that there were already controls over publications, and now the government is talking about controls over the "Internet", -on websites. I found this to be something new, coming from this taxi driver. I had not heard about it- the licensing of Websites!

It is interesting, the things you learn from a "taxi driver" and how much they know. They are not all "drones" out there!

I had arrived at the Court, so I had to wish him, "selamat jalan!"

Unfortunately, with the introduction of the fast-train service between KL and KLIA, there will be less opportunities for conversations with taxi drivers.

            It is O brave new world -Shakespeare (in The Tempest).

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