Spat at Bugis cab stand turns violent

Spat at Bugis cab stand turns violent
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Uber driver Goh Kok Ling had stopped at a Bugis Junction taxi stand to pick up a passenger on Friday night when a Land Transport Authority (LTA) enforcement officer started telling him off.

But the last thing Mr Goh, 59, said he expected when he stepped out to confront the officer was to be punched and then kicked when he fell, leaving him bruised and a tooth short. Passenger Amber Pek filmed the episode from inside Mr Goh's car and posted the clip to her Facebook page. It quickly went viral.

Yesterday, police confirmed that the 50-year-old officer has been arrested for affray, while the LTA sent out a statement apologising for the incident and also said it is helping Mr Goh and will be paying for his medical bills.

The LTA added that the Singaporean officer, who was contracted from an external firm, had been suspended and can expect the sack.

"We have also reminded all LTA enforcement officers that any violent behaviour in the course of carrying out enforcement duties will not be tolerated," the statement said. The Sunday Times understands that the officer is an employee of Ramky Cleantech Services, which provides traffic enforcement services.

The passenger, who declined to speak to The Sunday Times, had posted that she had called for an Uber driver to pick her up at the taxi stand, without realising that only taxis were allowed to stop there.

She claimed that when her Uber ride arrived, an LTA officer started to scold the driver rudely. The driver provided his details, but the officer "threw the first punch and proceeded to kick" the driver.

Mr Dew Francis, 23, who was waiting for a friend at the cab stand, broke up the fight. He believes both were to blame, explaining that the Uber driver was wiping his licence plate as he challenged the officer to issue him a summons. "I knew they were going to fight," he said.

According to the LTA's rules, "parking" a car at a taxi stand is illegal and a first-time offence carries a fine of $50.

Still, the Road Traffic Act makes it clear that immediately picking up a person or dropping off a person does not constitute "parking".

Mr Goh said Ms Pek was already at the taxi stand, waiting to get in the car, when he arrived. But the LTA officer insisted that Mr Goh was wrong to stop there.

"The officer said he would give me a chance, but he started taking pictures of my car. His tone was also very rude," said Mr Goh. That was when he got out of his car.

"I'm a driver. If an officer says he wants to give me a summons, of course I would be scared."

The former deliveryman has been working as an Uber and GrabCar driver for the past five months.

Mr Goh admitted that he was angered by the officer's words and actions. The video shows them manning up to each other, before the officer delivered the first punch and he followed suit. "He hit me, so of course I would retaliate. I fell to the ground. Yet, he still had to kick me in my rib cage," said Mr Goh.

He decided to drive Ms Pek to her Boat Quay destination despite his wounds. "It was not that far," he said. "But I started to feel giddy after she alighted, so I drove to the police station and the officers got an ambulance for me."

Mr Goh lodged a police report at the Kampong Java Neighbourhood Police Centre and was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital. He returned home after being checked.

He is now nursing a swollen cheek and has lost a tooth. Two other teeth are wobbly, he said. His ribs still hurt, although the doctor did not find any fractures.

An Uber spokesman said the firm is assisting Mr Goh and working with the authorities on the matter.

Mr Goh's son Ivan, 28, said someone from Ramky had contacted the family to apologise. The Sunday Times could not reach the firm's management. But the son, who is a car dealer, is worried about his father continuing to work as a driver.

"Getting frustrated with customers is part of the job. But even enforcement officers are creating problems," he said.

Still, his father said: "I've met some very good enforcement officers, too, who were very polite."

This article was first published on November 29, 2015.
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