JOHOR BARU: Gangsters have been extorting contractors carrying out upgrading works at Sungai Segget, which flows across the city centre, causing fear not only among those on-site but also the project’s implementer.
The gangsters, commonly known as “abang kawasan”, have been approaching sub-contractors and foreign workers since the project started about three years ago, said Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) integrity and governance unit vice-president Ahmad Faizal Ismail.
“However, the extortion and threats have increased lately, as the upgrading project is in its final stage and is set to be completed in the next few months.
“These thugs, usually from the same group, would approach the sub-contractors at the site to ask for protection money and threaten to vandalise the area if they did not comply.
“This is the feedback we received from the contractors and Irda has advised them to lodge a police report but they are worried about their safety, especially their foreign workers,” he said during a town hall session organised by the Johor police with community leaders and non-governmental organisations yesterday.
Ahmad Faizal said Irda was worried about switching off the lights in the area at night for fear that the individuals would act on their threats and vandalise the new facilities.
“Although no damages have been reported to us so far, we are bringing the issue to the police’s attention as we are worried that their acts will threaten the progress of the project, which is to beautify and uplift the city’s image.
“The workers also want to do their job without fear,” Ahmad Faizal added.
State police chief Comm Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, who also attended the town hall session, said that he would like to find out who those “abang kawasan” were and would take action against them.
“There will be no compromise as I do not want Johor to be like other places where they have gangsters conducting activities like collecting money at renovation or project sites,” he said.