MALACCA: Labelled as Banda Hilir’s ‘gypsies’, a group of touts are marring the image of the city as Malaysia’s top tourist destination.
They unlawfully solicit parking fees from motorists and even had the audacity to criminally intimidate those who refuse to pay.
Often under the influence of alcohol and drugs, they demanded between RM2 to RM4 from the vehicle owners as parking fees.
One of the examples which is dubbed as ‘gypsy paradise’ is the public parking bay near the Malacca River Cruise office off Jalan Bendahara.
Located within the tourist belts, checks by Starmetro showed that the touts would surface after dark on weekends and public holidays to prey on the unsuspecting motorists.
When approched, one of them had the guts to produce a parking ticket which he claimed, is an official receipt.
Later, our reporter found out that the so-called bill was picked up from thrash thrown elsewhere.
It is learnt that this was also how they earned to support their drug and alcohol habits.
The carpark is operated by a private company from 7am-7pm, after the attendants are done for the day, the gypsies would take over.
To get a clearer picture on the issue, we asked one of the supervisors on duty who said that such had became a perennial issue.
“We reported this to the police and also raised the matter to the city council.
“But no action was taken. If they continue to harass motorists, especiall those out-of-town visitors, this would give Malacca a very bad first impression,” said the supervisor, who declined to be named.
He added that the group of touts had occupied the area for at least a year and nothing could be done to solve the problem.
“This is a social issue and if the government is to do something, the best course of action is to send them to welfare homes.” he said.
Apart from the parking lot workers, we also spoke to a few motorists at the scene.
Businessman Che Zul Che Suza, 42, from Terengganu said he was not pleased with the situation at the Jalan Bendahara parking bay.
“Imagine a stranger in tattered clothes, reeking of alcohol approaching for money and hurled threat when you refuse to pay.
“The bum even threatened to damage my car,” he said.
Che Zul said he had already paid a RM2 to a parking attendant at the bay and was issued a receipt local authority.
“I had to repeatedly for a receipt but he kept on insisting that my car would be ‘protected’ if the sum is paid,” he said.
The fed-up tourist said he plans to travel to Malacca by bus in the future.
Further checks also showed that the local gypsies would hangout at parking bays at a new boutique hotel which is walking distance from the popular Heeren Street and Jonker Walk.
They work in small groups, directing traffic to public parking bays after office hours where the local authority has no jurisdiction.
Other than motorists, business owners in the area were also frustrated with the touts who are constantly seen harassing their customers.
Some alleged that they were targeted by the touts who had also damaged some of their guest’s vehicles.
Hotelier Jean Ng, said the parking bay at her premise is meant for staff members and guests.
“The parking bay is free for staff and guests and they need not pay a single sen.
“But the touts continued to solicit cash from our guests who park here even when we barred them from doing so,” she said.
Ng added such unscrupulous act is ridiculous and tantamount to daylight robbery.
As the gypsies continue to terrorise motorists here, the city council could not be reached for comment.