A quiet Raya for foreign workers

(from left) Jamal with Md Belayet and Maslizam in Taman Impian Emas in Skudai, Johor Baru.

JOHOR BARU: This year was the third time Bangladeshis Md Belayet Sheikh and Jamal Hossein celebrated Hari Raya Adilfitri away from home.

Both men, 20, from Faridphur district in south-central Bangladesh, have been celebrating the festival with fellow countrymen in Johor Baru for the past two years.

“It is hard to be away from our families, relatives and friends but this is the sacrifice we have to make to earn a living in a foreign country, ’’ said Md Belayet.

Both of them are garbage collectors with SWM Environment Sdn Bhd.

Md Belayet joined the company a few months earlier than Jamal.

They are among hundreds of garbage collectors hired by the company in Johor to ensure the surroundings are clean and well-maintained all year round.

While others celebrate, they work during Raya and other major festivals such as Chinese New Year, Deepavali and Christmas.

“We got a day off on the first day of Hari Raya and it was back to work as usual on the second day, ’’ said Md Belayet.

Jamal said he cooked chicken and mutton briyani, and roti (flatbread) on the eve of Raya for Md Belayet and six other Bangladeshis living together in a hostel.

“I am a good cook and my friends always look forward to eating whatever I prepare, ’’ he said.

Jamal said this year’s Hari Raya was different as they stayed put in the hostel instead of going out to town to meet with their countrymen as they are restricted by the movement control order (MCO).

SWM Environment garbage truck driver Maslizam Urip, 42, said his family spent the first day of Hari Raya at his parents’ house in Bagan.

He said the family was careful to avoid large gatherings and followed the standard operating procedures with regards to hygiene and social distancing.

“This year we did not visit relatives in Batu Pahat. I had to come back to work on the second day of Raya, ’’ said Maslizam who has been working with the company for 14 years.

He said the amount of domestic waste collected throughout the four phases of the MCO had increased significantly as many people stayed home from March 18 until May 4.

Cleansing Unit worker Ahmad Hassan, 65, said this was the first time in his 23 years with the company that he had to wear the personal protective equipment (PPE).

Ahmad’s colleagues Ariff Mahfoz, 35 and driver Ismail Suratmin, 52, were tasked with conducting sanitisation operations covering Kampung Sinaran in Kempas, Larkin Sentral Terminal and Wisma Persekutuan buildings.

“We were sweating excessively just after 10 minutes of wearing the PPE.

“We have no choice but to wear it for hours when carrying out our duties, ” he said.

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