Pasar Karat shift still on the cards


Traders at Pasar Karat want to stay put at the original location in Lorong Petaling. — Photos: MUHD SHAHRIL ROSLI and LOW LAY PHON/The Star

THE plan to move Pasar Karat at Lorong Petaling in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur to an open space next to the Lee Lam Thye Market (also known as Penjaja Gallery Jalan Tun HS Lee) has received blowback from traders of both markets.

The Pasar Karat or flea market traders who have plied the trade for years at Lorong Petaling are reluctant to move as the new location cannot guarantee better business.

The wet market traders, however, fear that regular customers will stay away when they see the Pasar Karat traders move in.

The Pasar Karat traders started operating at Lorong Petaling about two decades ago from 4.30am to 9am daily.

The flea market is known for selling used goods, some with questionable provenance.

There were plans by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) in 2015 to transform Pasar Karat into an antique market but it did not materialise.

In 2016, DBKL legalised the traders by giving out temporary business licences.

Shoppers walking along Pasar Karat looking for a bargain on goods such as watches, clothes and shoes.Shoppers walking along Pasar Karat looking for a bargain on goods such as watches, clothes and shoes.

Following that, the traders formed an association, which DBKL appointed to manage the market.

Over the years, as Pasar Karat’s popularity grew among locals and tourists, many unlicensed traders jumped on the bandwagon and operated illegally along a pedestrian walkway in Jalan Sultan.

During a recent visit, StarMetro found apparel, accessories and used phones among items sold there.

Also spotted were used kitchen utensils, decorative figurines and household items.

Relocation objections

Despite protests by Pasar Karat traders on the move, DBKL issued an eviction notice on Oct 18 last year which required them to vacate the site by Dec 31, 2023.

They were required to start operating at the new site, Lots 102, 89, 90 and 91, next to the Lee Lam Thye market at Jalan Tun HS Lee, from Jan 7.

However, the relocation did not materialise as the new site was not ready for them to start operations.

In a statement, DBKL said the move to relocate the Pasar Karat was done on grounds of fire safety.

“Currently, fire engines have difficulty accessing the back lanes of Lorong Petaling as the space there was occupied by traders.

“At the same time, DBKL has received complaints from surrounding premises that the existing Pasar Karat is obstructing the back door of their premises.

“About 150 traders will be involved in the relocation and enforcement officers will ensure the traders are moved to the new site,” it read, without specifying a date.

Some traders removing items as DBKL demolished some of the illegal structures found at an open space next to Lee Lam Thye Market on Jan 4.Some traders removing items as DBKL demolished some of the illegal structures found at an open space next to Lee Lam Thye Market on Jan 4.

On Jan 4, DBKL demolished several illegal structures built at the new site.

“The open space was being used as an unlicensed carpark by irresponsible parties who also set up 16 illegal structures for trading.

“DBKL issued a notice of demolition on Dec 27 and gave the traders ample time to clear the site.

“In the meantime, eight traders who are occupying the site have been offered to be shifted to Lee Lam Thye market,” the statement said.

As for the Pasar Karat traders, most of them are unhappy with the relocation plans.

Saimon says the new site is not suitable for them.Saimon says the new site is not suitable for them.

Malaysia Chamber of Rural Industry Entrepreneurs (DUID) traders and hawkers committee chairman Saimon Syam said the group, which manages the Pasar Karat traders, said they wanted to stay put at the old place.

“We have been operating here for years and beautification works have been done to this area with a mural of Pasar Karat painted to identify the attraction.

“Locals and tourists know about us here and the traders can make a living here,” he said.

Saimon added that the traders did not adhere to DBKL’s deadline to vacate the area by Dec 31 last year because the new location was not ready.

As of Jan 7, the new site is still being upgraded by DBKL.As of Jan 7, the new site is still being upgraded by DBKL.

“The new location is not suitable for the traders as most of them are Muslim but we are placed next to a market where non-halal food and goods are sold.

“It is also too small to house all the traders.

“There were also plans by DBKL to change our operation time to the evening, but we disagree,” he said.

DUID Malaysia committee member Rostam Osman said a census would be conducted on the licensed Pasar Karat traders so that they would be given a place at the new location.

“Pasar Karat occupies two lanes and those operating at the roadside along Jalan Sultan are not licensed.

“They came from elsewhere and gave Pasar Karat a bad name,” he said, adding that the group would raise the matter with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Federal Territories) Dr Zaliha Mustafa.

Rostam says a census is being conducted among Pasar Karat traders.Rostam says a census is being conducted among Pasar Karat traders.

Meanwhile, Lee Lam Thye market traders also objected to the relocation of the Pasar Karat traders.

A noodle trader who wanted to be known only as Wan, 66, said moving the Pasar Karat traders here would cause problems.

“They will occupy the open space that we use as a carpark to unload our stuff.

“There is no other carpark space convenient for us.

“The private parking lot opposite the market is charging us RM5 for 30 minutes – it is exorbitant,” she said.

Beverage seller Oh Sooi Peng, 66, said they were not consulted on the relocation.

“We were only told about it less than a week ago and were not given a chance to give feedback on the plans,” he said.

However, business owners who shared the backlanes with the flea market traders were in favour of the relocation.

A businessman, known only as Wong, said traders would leave their things in the backlanes and obstruct the rear doors of the shoplots.

“The stretch of Lorong Petaling as well as the narrow lane connecting Lorong Petaling to Jalan Sultan are occupied by the traders, preventing vehicles from entering the roads.

“When Pasar Karat traders are not operating, they leave items in the backlanes and motorists who want to unload goods also find it difficult to access it,” he said.

Wong added that two abandoned shoplots that caught fire at 7pm on Dec 23 had raised alarm among business owners on the potential fire hazard.

“The fire engine could not enter via the backlane and had to park by the main road to put out the fire.

“Luckily, the buildings that caught fire were nearer to the main road,” he said.

Restaurant owner Tommy Yap, 49, said Pasar Karat traders had also blocked the rear exits of the premises.

“Chairs, tables and mats can also be seen chained to the Tenaga Nasional Bhd substation at the lane just behind our back door,” he said.

Yap showed StarMetro a letter dated Oct 3 by Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department’s Fire Safety Division deputy director Razali Mohd Nasir stating that stalls and items left by the Pasar Karat traders were blocking the back door and fire escape routes of the premises along Petaling Street and Jalan Sultan.

This letter was sent to Yap following a fire safety check on the premises in August.

“Right now, Petaling Street traders who operate from 10am are occupying the space in front of our premises while Pasar Karat traders are occupying our backlanes from 4am to 10am.

“Technically, both our front and back are occupied by traders all day long.

“Since we are not able to enjoy the facilities given to us, we would request DBKL for a 50% discount on our assessment charges,” Yap said.

Authorities’ views

Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun said Pasar Karat was not suitable for Chinatown.

“DBKL should consider cancelling their licence to operate in Chinatown,” he said.

Fong (centre) speaking to DBKL officers during the Jan 4 demolition.Fong (centre) speaking to DBKL officers during the Jan 4 demolition.

During a visit to the new site for Pasar Karat on Jan 7, StarMetro found that the place was still being upgraded by DBKL contractors.

As of Jan 13, Pasar Karat traders were still operating at the old site as work was still being done at the new site.

Federal Territories Pakatan Harapan chairman Tan Kok Wai said the relocation of Pasar Karat must be done for the benefit and safety of the shoplots and businesses.

“Should an emergency occur, it will be a potential death trap for occupants in the buildings.

“With the grand development of Merdeka 118 just a stone’s throw away from Chinatown, the area will become a top tourist attraction in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

“But the image of Kuala Lumpur tourism will also be marred by traders operating illegally by the roadside of Jalan Sultan and Petaling Street if they are allowed to stay put,” he said.

Tan added that he and Fong had explained to Kuala Lumpur mayor Kamarulzaman Mat Salleh that Pasar Karat was a cause of public annoyance and suggested that the traders’ licences be terminated.

“While the mayor had agreed to enforce the relocation, he said the new location will be a temporary site for Pasar Karat traders until a better site is found,” Tan said, adding that they would continue to follow up on the issue.

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