Morning and night market traders in Kuala Lumpur have been facing one uncertainty after another since the movement control order was first implemented in March 18 last year.
With the government’s standard operating procedure (SOP) often lacking clarity, these traders feel that they have been left out.
During the MCO last year, only indoor markets were allowed to stay open.
To soften the blow, open-air traders were given RM500 under the Wilayah Cakna initiative by the Federal Territories Ministry.
At that time, market traders understood that it was necessary to close in order to flatten the Covid-19 infection curve.
The problems started during MCO 2.0 in January, when outdoor markets were allowed to open but night markets were closed.
Night market traders could not understand why they had been sidelined as both markets operated under seemingly similar SOP.
The Kuala Lumpur Night Market Association appealed the ban, which the government lifted in February with the condition that night markets would have to strictly comply with the SOP.
This continued until the latest lockdown that began on June 1.
According to the National Security Council’s (NSC) SOP dated June 2, all markets are allowed to operate from 6am to 2pm, subject to the local authority’s approval.
In the case of Kuala Lumpur, it was decided that while indoor markets could operate, outdoor markets would remain closed.
The move by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has not gone down well with the affected traders, who lament that in Selangor, outdoor markets are allowed to open.
To make matters worse, even roadside traders in Kuala Lumpur, who are registered under the free trading zone programme introduced by Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa, have been allowed to operate.
Their reasoning is simple; if roadside hawkers are allowed to operate, why not outdoor and night markets?
After all, organisers of both markets had adopted a stricter SOP even before the lockdown, which included hiring People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela) personnel, implementing one-way traffic flow and making temperature checks and MySejahtera registration compulsory.
It is only logical that markets adopting the same SOP be treated equally.
Many traders I spoke to expressed their unhappiness over what they called “double standards”.
Most market traders survive on their daily earnings, and missing even a week of business would greatly affect their income.
Endless appeals to allow outdoor and night markets to open have been channelled to the relevant authorities.
However, the indisputable fact that Covid-19 infections must be reduced urgently continues to drown out their voices.
While market traders may seem rebellious in their push for the decision to be reversed, what they actually want is to be treated fairly.
As a start, NSC should come up with a clear decision on whether outdoor and night markets should be allowed to open, instead of leaving it to the respective local authorities.
This will ensure that all states are on the same page.
Local authorities can, however, be in charge of ensuring these markets comply with the SOP, failing which they will be ordered to close.
Kuala Lumpur Night Market Association secretary Charles James Roy recently suggested that DBKL allow night market traders to operate on roadsides (similar to hawkers under the free trading zone programme) as it should be workable and would improve their livelihoods.
A better strategy should be taken by the government in regard to market operations.
Should there be another lockdown, the plight of market traders, both outdoor and indoor, must be taken into consideration.
Meanwhile, four mobile vaccination trucks will make their way to Pasar Borong Kuala Lumpur tomorrow to vaccinate traders and workers there.
Some 1, 000 people at the wholesale market will benefit from the programme under the FT Ministry.
This also spells good news for business operators who will feel more safe when getting their supplies from the wholesale market.