The growing mountain of items seized in raids across the capital city is now a serious problem for Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL).
As part of efforts to stem the spread of Covid-19, the local authority has been conducting daily operations to stop foreign traders from trading illegally in the city.
Enforcement officers have seized hundreds of thousands of ringgit worth of assets. The bulk of these will be destroyed or auctioned off to free up space at the city’s storage facility in Jalan Lombong in Cheras.
DBKL estimates that hundreds of mobile food stalls along with thousands of tables, chairs, traffic cones, green recycling boxes, bicycles and illegal banners and bunting were seized in raids since the movement control order was implemented on March 18.
“Most of these items were seized from foreigners and local traders who were doing business without a valid permit and for causing obstruction in a public area, ” said DBKL Enforcement Department senior deputy director Mohd Zulhainan Mohd Isa.
“Goods confiscated from illegal foreign traders will not be returned but disposed of.
“Local traders are given notice to collect their items after the fine is paid.”
The goods, said Zulhainan, were seized under the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 and Licensing Hawkers and Stall (Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur) By-laws 1989 and Section 101 (1) (v) of the Local Government Act 1976.
Cause of pile-up
Zulhainan explained that since January, 1,275 items were seized in operations carried out in Kuala Lumpur. Out of this number, 345 items were seized from illegal foreigners operating in city markets.
“The goods are from traders who operated on sidewalks, public walkways, highways and construction sites — basically places with foot traffic, ” he said.
Relating an incident involving an operator who rented out bicycles in Taman Tasik Titiwangsa without a permit, Zulhainan said rows and rows of the two-wheelers had been placed along the roadside, taking up parking bays and blocking walking paths in the area.
“We received complaints from residents and confiscated the bicycles.
“These guys are repeat offenders, ” he added.
Among the hotchpotch of items found at the DBKL depot were hundreds of tables and chairs confiscated from restaurant owners who used them to block parking bays and pedestrian walkways.
“Some of these items are not claimed as the restaurant operators simply block the paths again with other tables and chairs that they have in stock, ” he said.
Although DBKL has cancelled restaurant licences in the past for repeatedly causing obstructions, Zulhainan said the perpetrators continued breaking the law.
In addition, DBKL has come under fire from complaints of its officers being “cruel” for taking away livelihoods.
Zulhainan, however, maintained that the rule of law must be upheld.
“People see only videos showing DBKL officers taking away stalls and aunties crying as they feel they are being treated unfairly. We take it as part of the job, ’’ he said.
“What people do not see are instances where profanities are hurled at officers. Some even throw hot water at the officers.”
Some officers were slashed while carrying out their duties, he added.
“People also don’t see the mess left behind by the traders, the rubbish and gunk from food waste disposed into drains and pollute rivers as well as myriad environmental and social problems that follow, ” Zulhainan said.
Goods for auction
Another headache DBKL is saddled with is managing the staggering amount of goods seized in raids.
Keeping track of the items in inventory is no easy feat and each item must be accounted for.
Nevertheless, the amount of money spent on carrying out raids is equally staggering as the manpower, logistics and vehicle fuel could have been put to better use.
Perishable goods such as vegetables, fruits, meat and fish, which are not claimed within 24 hours by locals and foreigners, are destroyed.
Other items seized from local traders, which are not claimed within 30 days, are auctioned off or sold as scrap metal.
“The owners will be given three chances to claim their items back; the first notice is for seven days, the second notice 14 days and the third and final notice is 30 days.
“After the expiry of the 30-day notice, a special committee will vet the items and decide on the auction process, which is usually carried out three to four times a year, ’’ he said.
He added that the total amount auctioned off was RM570,000 in 2019, RM5.5mil in 2018 and RM2.6mil in 2017, but the figure included other goods and not just confiscated items.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the city has not been able to carry out auctions this year.
What’s in storage
Dried turnip remnants on a wooden chopping board on a mobile food stall indicates that its owner probably had to abandon his or her business hastily.
The vendor was likely preparing rojak when DBKL enforcement officers raided the area where the stall was.
The ice shaver left at the stall was one of hundreds at the storage facility.
Items ranged from cendol carts and burger stalls to speakers, recycling boxes, toy cars and car wash equipment that were either abandoned or seized during raids from all over the city this year.
When StarMetro visited the store recently, there was a foul smell of rotting fish in the air, but the compulsory wearing of face masks made it bearable.
Zulhainan explained that the stench was from fish seized from illegal foreign traders operating at markets.
According to him, foreign and local traders were allowed to take away perishable items during raids but sometimes they do not want them and so DBKL must remove the goods as they could not be left at the site to rot.
Once taken to the storage facility, the perishable items will be handed to waste company Alam Flora to be disposed of in a sanitary manner.
Local traders are allowed to collect their confiscated items from the storage facility from 8am to 4.30pm (every day, including Saturday, Sunday and public holidays). The compound rate is RM300 while the storing fee is RM15 (for seven days) and after seven days, it is 50sen a day.