So can they open for business or not?

Family business: A hardware shop owner arranging merchandise in Chulia Street, Penang. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Three days into the movement control order, many businesses still unsure whether they are allowed to operate have decided to shut down temporarily while others are forging ahead and hoping for the best.

The decades-old hardware shops in a lane along Chulia Street here are all open for business although none of them has applied to the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) for approval.

“My family has been operating here for the last three generations and I decided to keep the shop open although I did not apply to Miti, ” said a store owner who wanted to be known only as Ah Choon.

“Even during the last MCO I did not apply for approval but kept my shop open, ” the 54-year-old said when met at his shop yesterday.

Another owner, Wong Chin Sang, 70, said some hardware shops nearby were closed because there were not many customers.

“I doubt any of the people here applied for approval as we are from the old school and will continue to operate, ” he said.

A picture frame maker along the same stretch, whose shop was partly closed, admitted he did not know whether he was allowed to open.

“I do not let anyone into the shop, and if the authorities come and tell me to close my doors, I will do so until the MCO is over, ” said Chiang Sim Poh, 66, whose family has been doing business there for the last 80 years.

At least six frame makers along the stretch were closed while another two who did not have any approval from Miti were open for business.

In Little India, jewellery shops were open but most of the textile shops were closed except for at least two which had authorisation from Miti.

Jewellery outlet owner Krishnan Manickam said his association had said they could open and showed his approval letter from Miti.

“I was told that all of us should apply individually to Miti which is much safer as it’s an authorisation that allows us to keep the outlet open, ” he said.

The manager of another jewellery store nearby, P. Vikneswaran, said his association gave the nod to operate.

“We did not apply to Miti and have been open for business as usual since the MCO was announced, ” he said.

Textile shop owner M.P. Alagarsamy, 77, said he kept his shop closed although there were some which were open during the MCO period.

“We are not getting the right information from the Malaysian Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry on whether we can operate.

“Thus, it is better to keep the shop closed, just as I did during the last MCO, ” said Alagarsamy.

State local government committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said those who were confused as to exactly what businesses could open during the MCO period should direct their questions to their local councils.

“Many are still confused and in Penang while we continue to follow the list of what (business) is allowed (to operate) and what is not, we will entertain enquiries, which will be forwarded to the Federal Government for clarification, ” he said.

In Johor Baru, some businesses have opted not to operate during the MCO period because they too were unsure if they fall under the “essential services” category.

Johor Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry secretary Datuk K. Krishnan said there needed to be greater clarity from the get-go.

“There is still a lot of confusion among business owners on what is considered essential, as there have been changes made to the list.

“To avoid getting into trouble for not abiding by the SOP, they have decided to close temporarily, ” he said.

Krishnan added that such confusion could affect livelihoods that had already been badly affected by the pandemic since last year.

Johor Indian Muslim Entrepreneurs Association secretary Hussein Ibrahim hopes the government will give them time to adapt to new changes following any future changes in SOP.

“We have been changing the way we operate our business with little time to prepare since last year and that has been challenging for us.

“We are willing to comply but we may need time to make the necessary preparations, ” he said.

Johor Baru Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Low Kueck Shin, however, said most businesses were able to prepare for the second round of MCO more swiftly.

“Unlike the first time, we now have experience in facing such circumstances and are more alert to announcements made by the authorities.

“Although the regulations during the second implementation of the MCO have been more relaxed than the first, most of the SOP are the same.

“The authorities are also better able to deliver the information to the public this time as they have experience handling such situations, ” he said.

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