Falling on hard times forces some riders to take extreme steps

GEORGE TOWN: It’s not home sweet home but for some trishaw riders they will have to make do with living in their three-wheeled vehicles for now.

“I have been living in my trishaw for the past year, ” said Samsuddin Ahmad, 65.

He attributed this to a loss of income due to a lack of tourists.

There has been no arrival of international cruises or domestic travellers due to the interstate travel ban.

“There were months when I did not get any passengers at all, ” said Samsuddin, who has been a trishaw rider for about 40 years.

Many of his counterparts have also turned their trishaws into “homes” as they could not afford to pay for room rentals.

On rainy days, they would usually take shelter in corridors.

For those who could not sleep inside their trishaw, they would do so on cardboard boxes laid on five-foot way.

For trishaw rider Kong Fook Meng, 58, he is counting his blessings.

“Luckily for me, I stay with my 80-year-old mother.

“Sometimes, I will bring back food given by kind people so that she can enjoy them.

“Thankfully, we still receive some assistance from the state government and some NGOs, ” he said.

However, he is well aware of the hardship of other trishaw riders.

“Some of my friends can’t afford the rent on their room so they have resorted to living in their trishaw.

“They bathe and do their laundry in public toilets.

“My income has been unstable since the MCO was first imposed in March last year.

“Most of the time, we have zero income because outstation travellers are barred from coming to town, ” said Kong, who has been in the trade for about three decades.

Penang Trishaw Riders Association president Abdul Latiff Mohd, 74, said for the past few months, trishaw men had not been able to earn an income.

“We depend a lot on the tips given by our passengers, especially international tourists, ” he said.

And despite not having an income, they still had to pay the RM90 monthly rental for their trishaws, he added.

Upon hearing their plight, staff from the Penang bureau of Star Media Group (SMG) decided to distribute some food and daily essentials to them.

“We always come across needy people in the course of our work. Somehow, the dire straits of these trishaw men struck a particular chord with us, especially since most of them should be celebrating Raya soon, ” said Penang news editor Alex Teng.

He said every staff member chipped in to get food, drinks and some necessities.

“With Hari Raya approaching, we hope that this food aid will also help them during the festive period, ” he said.

The food distribution, which was held near Yap Temple in Armenian Street on Wednesday, was also done to mark SMG’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Present to hand out the goodies to the trishaw men were SMG client brand marketing general manager Simone Liong, administration manager Michelle Tang and assistant news editor Tan Sin Chow.

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