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The Straits Times
Sep 24, 2023
A five-minute car ride that she had taken dozens of times before turned into a nightmare for one Tada passenger when she was allegedly racially abused by the driver on Saturday.
Ms Janelle Hoeden, 46, booked a ride on the ride-hailing platform at around 2pm from her home in Pasir Ris Drive 6. The destination: her sister-in-law’s house in Pasir Ris Street 12.
Ms Hoeden, a telemarketer, told The Straits Times that she punched in the address and got a booking with Tada not long after.
She was with her nine-year-old daughter and was heading to Pasir Ris with cushions and bedding in hand as her sister-in-law had just moved in.
The only interaction Ms Hoeden had with the driver initially was when he got out to help put her bags in the boot. She declined help as the bags were light.
She said the ride started uneventfully and she was talking to her child when suddenly the driver got upset that part of the road was blocked due to construction of an upcoming MRT line.
“He started shouting at me, saying that I gave him the wrong address and wrong directions,” she said.
“He said, ‘You are Indian, you are stupid’,” added Ms Hoeden, who said it was then that she took out her mobile phone to start recording the interaction, which got progressively more heated.
In the video – uploaded on her Facebook page and an account by TikTok user Rhiley26746, and later shared by alternative news site Wake Up Singapore – the driver, a Chinese man, is seen accusing Ms Hoeden’s daughter of being less than 1.35m tall.
He repeatedly says that her daughter is under 1.35m, and Ms Hoeden can be heard replying that the child is 1.37m. He then calls the girl “very illegal”.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) states on its website that for safety reasons, all vehicles in Singapore must have booster seats or child restraints for passengers under 1.35m in height.
Taxis are exempted from this rule because they can be street-hailed, and it would not be reasonable to expect them to be equipped with booster seats and child restraints at all times, or to reject passengers with infants or children.
“In comparison, private-hire cars, which must be pre-booked, allow passengers to indicate if they require booster seats or child restraints at the point of booking. This gives private-hire car drivers sufficient advance notice to prepare accordingly,” the website adds.
Ms Hoeden, speaking to ST, said: “It seemed like he wanted a back-up for his case, that I had illegally taken this ride.”
She added she is fully aware of the height restrictions for passengers in private-hire vehicles.
As the ride continues, the Tada driver tells Ms Hoeden not to be “hao lian” (boastful in Hokkien), to which Ms Hoeden replies in Mandarin: “Wo bu shi hao lian”, which means, “I am not boastful”.
The driver then starts shouting at her while driving: “You are India(n), I’m a Chinese... You are the very worst kind...” She felt the driver was saying Indians are the worst kind of customers, she said.
A shouting match then ensues and Ms Hoeden corrects him, saying: “I am Singapore Eurasian, not Indian.”
In a second video posted by her, the driver is seen stopping at a block of flats before coming out of the car.
Ms Hoeden is heard telling her daughter to start recording as well.
She told ST: “As he was verbally abusive, I was afraid that he would start getting physical with me, so I told her to record.”
The driver is seen pointing his phone at her as he tells her to remove her items from his boot.
He then points his phone at her child, who hurriedly leaves the frame.
As he records Ms Hoeden and her daughter, he says repeatedly that she has given him the “wrong information”.
She repeats his car licence plate number as she continues recording. The video ends with a shot of the front of the car and the licence plate can be seen.
Ms Hoeden has contacted Tada.
“Whether I was tanned skin, or Indian, or otherwise, it’s unacceptable what he said – it was totally uncalled for, that he pulled out the race card,” she said.
Her child was also shaken after the incident.
“I did not give him permission to record my child,” she added.
In comments on Wake Up Singapore’s Instagram post that highlighted the incident, Tada Singapore said it was investigating.
“At Tada, we do not tolerate racism, discrimination, or abuse of any kind. Our team is investigating this issue. Thanks, everyone who brought this to our attention,” the comment said.
In response to ST queries, a Tada spokeswoman said the firm is aware of the incident.
She said: “Remarks or comments that insinuate racial differences are in direct violation of Tada community guidelines and are not representative of our company’s values.
“We have initiated an internal investigation to fully understand the circumstances and will take all necessary actions based on our findings.”
She added that Tada does not condone racist comments or remarks under any circumstances, and it is committed to resolving the issue promptly and fairly.