Since many Indonesians were angry after being called poor, Shamsubahrin eventually assumed that Prabowo’s statement in the article was incorrect. “I, as the founder of Big Blue Taxi in Malaysia, apologize to the people of Indonesia for my statement. Now, I understand that they are not poor,” he said.
However, not long after apologizing, Shamsubahrin caused a new stir. In a different video, he said the people of Indonesia were not wrong. The Indonesian government is the wrong party for allowing Indonesian youth to join Gojek.
“The government in Malaysia follows the mistakes made by the Indonesian government. Why do we have to let our Malaysian youth work without a fixed salary by bringing in Gojek,” he said.
This statement angered not only online motorcycle taxi drivers, but also the Indonesian government. Drivers returned to the Malaysian Embassy to protest in more significant numbers, reaching up to 500 people.
The Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi even spoke up about the matter. He said the statement was inappropriate. “The Transportation Ministry has already expressed objections to the Malaysian Ministry of Transportation,” Budi said, as quoted by Detik.com, Monday (9/2).
Tight Competition in Malaysia
The government is aware that Datuk Shamsubahrin Ismail's statement, which is considered to have insulted Indonesia, is a personal statement. It is not an official stance of the Malaysian Government.
According to the Transportation Ministry, the Big Blue taxi owner’s refusal of Gojek's expansion into Malaysia was probably based on concerns of tight business competition in that country. “That is his fear as a businessman. Fear of competition,” Transportation Ministry’s Director General of Land Transportation Budi Setiyadi said in Jakarta, Monday (9/2).
The Communications and Information Minister Rudiantara said corporate competition between countries must be fair. “Malaysian companies can enter Indonesia, but why Indonesian companies cannot enter Malaysia,” he said at Pacific Place, Jakarta, Wednesday (8/28).
He regretted the stance of Malaysian businesspeople who shut themselves off from Gojek. The Malaysian ministers have permitted Gojek to expand into their country. Rudiantara also emphasized that Gojek is not transportation for the poor.
Nevertheless, he ensured the government would not retaliate by closing down Grab operations. “We did not close Grab from Malaysia. How can we close it? Southeast Asia knows one market,” he said.
The map of competition in the online transportation business is already tight in Malaysia. Initially, Myteksi (now Grab) and Uber spearheaded this business in Malaysia. However, many similar companies are competing now.
Based on the data from the Malaysian Transportation Ministry’s Public Transportation Agency (APAD), there are 31 online transportation companies operating in the country, including Grab and Big Blue. In Indonesia, the number is less than ten with Grab and Gojek as the two largest.