Apart from trending in memes and dominating conversations at dinner tables over the last few days, the Go-Jek “Kidnap” crisis has garnered widespread media attention. Mr Kamaruzzaman, a private hire driver for Go-Jek Singapore, is behind the video which has since gone viral. Companies, including ASUS and Caltex have since capitalised on this social media gold – even the Singapore Civil Defence Force poked a little fun at it.
Mr Kamaruzzaman Abdul Latif had originally uploaded the video with the following caption.
“After few day of thinking. I guess i better to let it out. Pax accuse me of kidnapping her just bcoz of E.R.P….. i have already make police report & report to gojek. Be care to all phv driver. Blk 251 Bishan St 22 to 1 Coleman St @ 7.10am …..how to avoid ERP? She keep telling that i trying to cheat her. I ask her tell me if she know how to avoid ERP but she cant direct me to where should i go to avoid ERP.”
In the video which has since racked up hundreds of thousands of views across various social media platforms, Mr Kamaruzzaman is seen in the foreground dealing with a rider in the back seat (known as Ms Jovina) who throughout the video hysterically accuses him of “cheating” her. The fiasco seems to stem from the fact that Mr Kamaruzzaman had incurred additional Electronic Road Pricing charges that are conveyed directly to Ms Jovina.
He says that he will then convey her to the nearest police station to settle the dispute, to which Ms Jovina accuses him of kidnapping. Arriving at an Aetos (auxiliary police) location, Ms Jovina gets out of the car, accusing the driver of locking her in the car and ‘kidnapping’ her, and makes the outrageous (and very viral) claim – “is it because I’m Chinese?”.
He has since been cleared by Go-Jek Singapore, much to the adulation to the many who have paid rapt attention to the case since it had gone viral. Posting for the first time since the case, Mr Kamaruzzaman announced on the Go-Jek Singapore Community Group.
She has to be in the wrong, doesn’t she?
Morally, the public has decidedly sided with the driver. Eking out a living is difficult enough without the added stresses of having to deal with unreasonable and abusive passengers. Much of the online community was irked by Ms Jovina’s demanding tone and wild accusations of Mr Kamaruzzaman being a “cheater” and attempting to “kidnap” her, along with her claim that he had specifically caused trouble for her due to her Chinese race.
Amidst the exchanges shared on social media and forums, several allegations have been made regarding her culpability in this case.
The Singapore Penal Code defines defamation as the following:
Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs, or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person, intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter excepted, to defame that person.
Since the rider called Mr Kamaruzzaman a “cheater” in private, and had not published anything with any intent to harm his reputation, it should be rather clear that defamation really isn’t one of the tails we can pin on her. Mr Kamaruzzaman had chosen to publish the video of his own volition.
Her allegation along sensitive racial lines that these had befallen her due to her Chinese race with her exclamation “is it because I’m Chinese” has to be also taken into context. Ms Jovina, having been conveyed against her wishes to an alternative destination, had hoped that the police (an Aetos officer in reality) would take at least a neutral stand on the matter. However, the Aetos officer can be seen to immediately side with Mr Kamaruzzaman, echoing his earlier statement that the doors are “auto-lock”.
In addition, the driver and the Aetos officer had earlier conversed in Malay, which reinforced the perception that she was ganged up upon – a possible explanation for her outburst.
By choosing to publish the video portraying Ms Jovina in a negative light, the opposite case could be made that Mr Kamaruzzaman had actively defamed her. This outcome, however, predicates itself on Ms Jovina choosing to pursue a legal case herself.
While Ms Jovina might have voiced her intent to evade the fare prior to Mr Kamaruzzaman starting to record, the footage has little evidence that she had any such intention. She did, however, mention her intention to not pay a “single cent” of the fare, but ambiguous statement could refer to the additional ERP charges incurred by the route chosen.
In fact, it was Mr Kamaruzzaman who chose to end the trip and not collect any fare, instead opting to convey her directly to the police station against her will.
The Singapore Penal code defines abduction as the following:
Whoever by force compels, or by any deceitful means induces any person to go from any place, is said to abduct that person.
The punishment of which amounts to imprisonment of up to seven years, and/or fines and caning.
Mr Kamaruzzaman’s actions technically could be construed as abduction – Ms Jovina had indicated her refusal, but he went against her will. While the public has defended him with statements amounting to the fact that if he were a kidnapper, he had chosen, absurdly, to convey her to the police station. That might be a mitigating factor in explaining the lack of intention in his action.
Instead of taking matters into his own hands, Mr Kamaruzzaman could have, with video in hand, raised a case to Go-Jek or to the Police if the passenger had made ungrounded allegations or had evaded the fare for the ride.
Mr Kamaruzzaman in his caption (seen above) had revealed the block number of Ms Jovina’s home, which in itself is a gross violation of PDPA requirements in the country. Especially intertwined with the social media furore including vigilante efforts by forum members to reveal other personal details of the rider, the negative implications of his actions are something that should not be overlooked, since they involve the safety of Ms Jovina.
So far, the rider has since deleted her Facebook account and has temporarily left the country to escape the wrath from the online community. Within online circles, her name and occupation have already been spreading, along with some personal photographs.
While videotaping internally on private hire vehicles and taxis has been a contentious issue for some time running, the Land Transport Authority has since allowed drivers to record footage inside the vehicle for the purposes of national security and to protect drivers in the case of allegations made by passengers. However, this was explicitly granted under the provision that drivers do not upload the footage on to social media or distribute it online.
This measure was made with concerns over passenger privacy, under the Personal Data Protection Act, or PDPA. Under the new legislations enacted last year, not exercising due concern for the privacy of their passengers could be met with a hefty fine – up to a million dollars for the ride-hailing firm.
It’s easy to jump to conclusions. In an interview with the Straits Times, Ms Jovina maintains her innocence, stating that Mr Kamaruzzaman had edited out the earlier part of the video that would otherwise corroborate her claim that she had informed him to take the route sans ERP, and that having disagreed, then requested to be alighted at her starting point or at any safe spot.
Mr Kamaruzzaman, on the other hand, had uploaded the video along with sensitive personal details of Ms Jovina’s residence and destination of her daily commute. He claims that he intended the video to educate other Go-Jek drivers that such misunderstandings occur. While Go-Jek has effectively absolved Mr Kamaruzzaman of any culpability, it remains clear that uploading recordings and personal details of passengers is against prevailing laws, and penalties are due.
While both parties seem to have played their respective parts in escalating the issue, the most important question remains: who has flouted the rules? For a functioning advanced society like Singapore, rule of law should be prioritised. Communication seems to be a major short coming in these kinds of issues, with both parties refusing to budge to understand the other, instead opting to escalate by calling the police or to embarrass the other online by uploading a video.
On the other hand, Go-Jek (and Grab, also) should take note of these shortcomings in order to achieve greater driver and rider satisfaction. Information pertaining to possible ERP charges should be included in the fare interface within the app, effectively averting such cases of passenger-driver misunderstanding.
A change.org petition has since been circulating, appealing to mitigate LTA action against Mr Kamaruzzaman.
Under present regulations, his breach of the Road Traffic Act having made an inward-facing recording and subsequently publishing the video online makes him liable to up to 21 demerit points and a fine of S$500.
Mr Kamaruzzaman has been summoned for an interview by LTA as result of a complaint. He is requested to bring identification, along with the recording and recording device.