Sleepless over livelihood loss

Roadside hawker Then Yen Fatt@Then Yen Hoe, 58, (right) closing his fruit stall after getting a summons notice from the council at Medan Angsana 1 in Bandar Baru Ayer Itam, Penang. — Photos: ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

SOME 70 roadside traders in Medan Angsana, Bandar Baru Ayer Itam in Penang, are concerned about their livelihood following the frequent raids conducted by the Penang Island City Council (MBPP).

The unlicensed traders, who claim to have been doing business there for many years, are appealing to the council to let them carry on with their business at a field nearby.

Since the beginning of this month, each of them has been fined at least once for peddling without a licence there.

Some even had their stall equipment and goods seized during the raids.

The group’s representative S. Suresrajkumur, 41, said 76 roadside hawkers had been affected in the series of raids conducted in the past few weeks.

“With the council conducting such frequent raids, it is hard for us to survive. Our income has also dropped by almost 50% in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We met with Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh earlier this month, and appealed to him to come up with a solution for us.

“We really hope a win-win situation can be achieved, such as allowing us to set up stalls at the nearby field in Medan Angsana or a suitable location within the area, ” said the nasi lemak seller.

Single mother Suhana Saaibin, 50, said the enforcers would come at least thrice a week, and many of the traders were fined for illegal hawking.

“Seeing raids like this worries us. I have to earn to support myself and my 22-year-old son, ” she said during a press conference organised by Penang MCA on Wednesday.

Penang MCA vice-chairman Wong Chin Chong said many of the hawkers were residents in the area seeking an honest income.

“Many of them had their stuff seized by the council.

“Some have difficulties dealing with the situation and many could not find new jobs.

“We are appealing to the state and council to find a solution for them, ” he said when met at the scene.

Meanwhile, MBPP public health and licensing committee alternate chairman Nicholas Theng said the hawkers must understand that they could not just open up a roadside stall, apply for a licence and expect it to be approved by the authorities.

“To be a hawker, they need to find a proper place and then apply for a licence.

“We are doing all we can to help them.

“The raids were part of the SOP taken especially during times of the Covid-19 pandemic, ” he said.

Theng said they did not take action against old hawkers at the site with necessary tagging.

“We have conducted a census in 2010 and roadside hawkers who have been in the business before 2010 should have tagging.

“But over the years, there have been a lot of new hawker stalls mushrooming in the area.

“We have to look into the issue before coming up with a proper solution.

“As this involves quite a lot of hawkers, we will have to look into certain suggestions, even the one concerning the use of nearby land as some plots of land are not owned by the council, ” he said, reassuring that the council is working to find a solution for the affected hawkers.

Meanwhile, Ramkarpal said he had been compiling the list of hawkers affected by the moves.

“We are working to get more names of those affected.

“We will be meeting them to discuss the matter further, ” he said when contacted.

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