A TOTAL of 13 jeep service drivers have received the one-off payment of RM500 under the Penang People’s Aid Package 2.0 recently.
The additional aid package, which was announced by Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow on May 6, was to ease the burdens of the vulnerable groups affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
In an interview with Buletin Mutiara team recently, the jeep drivers thanked the state government for its concern of their welfare and expressed hopes of a better future for the state’s tourism industry.
The jeep service is managed by the ‘Persatuan Penduduk Bukit Bendera’ in which the drivers themselves are Penang Hill residents.
Jeep service driver Mohd Fitri Ghazali, 33, said he became a part-time delivery rider for foodpanda after losing his income during the movement control order.
“Our service is heavily dependent on tourists, especially from foreign countries. Some 80 percent of our customers are international tourists.
“We charge our customers RM120 for a two-way trip and RM80 for a single trip. It is a big blow for us as we do not have any source of income now,” said Mohd Fitri, whose grandfather was a former jeep service rider.
“So, I decided to work as a part-time delivery rider to support my family since I am the sole bread winner. I have been a jeep driver for the past 14 years.
“I am thankful to the state government for the RM500. And it would be great if more incentives can be given to jeep drivers.”
Another jeep driver Ramesh Ponniah, 51, said he also appreciated the government’s aid at such a time like this.
He added that they do not only fetch customers up and down the hill but also act as an emergency response team.
“Apart from ferrying the customers, we lend a hand whenever there is an emergency. For instance, during a breakdown of the funicular train, when missing hikers are found or during a natural disaster such as landslide.
“Since Penang has become a green zone, the state government can consider allowing local tourists to visit Penang Hill. This will at least help us derive some income. We’ve to stay optimistic.
“We are putting our confidence in the state government to revive the entire tourism industry which has been badly hit. The most important thing is to rebuild confidence in our local tourists,’’ said Ramesh, who has been a jeep service driver for 15 years.
Beh Lim Ta, 43, said he hoped the trying times would quickly pass as people’s livelihoods are affected.
“First of all, my sincere thanks to the state government for the one-off payment as it gives us a slight relief.
“Aside from the incentive, we have also received provisions from the Air Putih assemblyman (Lim Guan Eng) and the Penang Hill Corporation. We thank them for their kind gestures.
“I also support the idea of attracting local tourists to Penang Hill. If the situation is prolonged, I will have to look for a part-time job,’’ said Beh, who has been a jeep service driver for two years.
Story by Tanushalini Moroter
Pix by Alvie Cheng