Authorities make a tough decision

Colourful decorations put up at the Deepavali bazaar along Jalan Ungku Puan in Johor Baru last year. — Filepic

JOHOR BARU: The usual festive atmosphere leading to the Deepavali celebration in downtown Johor Baru is expected to be muted this year.

This is because the popular Deepavali bazaar at Jalan Ungku Puan that draws a large crowd every year will not be held this time around to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Johor Indian Business Association chairman P. Sivakumar, who had earlier applied for some 34 stalls to operate at the Deepavali bazaar, said that he had decided not to pursue the matter further.

“We were awaiting official approval from the Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) but the increase in Covid-19 cases upset our plans.

“We do not want to give rise to a ‘Deepavali cluster’ that will cause more harm than good to traders.

“Shops may also be forced to close in the event of an increase in Covid-19 cases in Johor Baru, ” he said.

He added that the decision

not to pursue the matter further was made after the Federal Government announced a conditional movement control order (MCO) in Sabah, Labuan, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Selangor.

“Although the number of cases in Johor is under control, we should not take any chances.

“If a conditional MCO is implemented here, it would further affect businesses that are already struggling to survive.

“The decision was also made after listening to traders who were also worried about the increase in Covid-19 cases, ” he said.

Sivakumar hoped, however, that the local councils would allow shop owners to set up stalls at their respective shops in the downtown area during the festive season.

“These stalls will make up for the absence of the Deepavali bazaar and bring in more customers.

“The crowd will not be as large as in previous years due to the absence of Singaporean visitors and easier to control.

“All business owners will comply with the standard operating procedures (SOP), ” he said.

Sivakumar advised groups

that wanted to carry out cultural events during the festive season to instead conduct charity activities to help those in need.

“As we cannot carry out large-scale cultural activities due to the pandemic, extend help to those affected by the impact of the pandemic, ” he added.

Traders along Johor Baru downtown here said cancelling the bazaar this year was the right thing to do in view of the increasing number of cases.

S. Sures, 48, said he had been looking forward to it but changed his mind as he feared it may contribute to the rise in Covid-19 cases.

“I do not think the bazaar would have brought in huge sales as the border with Singapore is still closed and locals are also afraid to visit crowded areas.

“I will focus on attracting customers to my shops here instead of putting up a stall as this would also incur more costs, ” said Sures who owns several shops selling traditional Indian clothes in Johor Baru.

Another trader here, who also sells traditional Indian clothes and textiles, echoed the same sentiments, adding that he feared any increase in Covid-19 case would affect the public and businesses here badly.

“It is better to avoid taking such risks. As half of our customers previously were Singaporeans, I believe the bazaar here may not contribute to better sales.

“Customers also are taking safety precautions and avoiding crowds, ” he said.

Johor Indian Petty Traders and Small Businesses Association president D. Ravindran, who had applied for a Deepavali bazaar in Tampoi, involving 30 stalls, said a final decision would be made in the next few days.

“An MBJB enforcement officer said it was not approved yet and we have not received any official rejection or approval letter.

“We will have a meeting with MBJB soon to know the status of the Deepavali bazaar, ” said Ravindran.

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