Pasar Payang hangs in the balance

East coast gem: The facade of the new Pasar Payang in Kuala Terengganu, built on the site of the original market.

KUALA TERENGGANU: Amidst the vibrant and bustling traditional food sections within Pasar Besar Kedai Payang (Pasar Payang) here, an elderly gentleman sits on a stool in front of his shop in the market.

It is quieter on this side of the temporary market complex.

“Mari tengok, nak. Sampin songket asli. (Come have a look, son. Original songket sampin here),” Abdul Kadir called out, softly pitching his handwoven Malay fabric or sampin songket to passersby.

The 75-year-old has been operating his business since his teenage years in the early 1970s and when the market was still at its old location.

In 2019, along with hundreds other vendors, Abdul Kadir had to relocate to the temporary market while the half-a-century-old Pasar Payang underwent renovations.

As the construction of the new building nears its conclusion, the market is expected to reopen its doors by year’s end.

The renovation of the market – which features crafts such as batik and food such as keropok lekor – has become a hot-button issue again as Barisan Nasional and Perikatan Nasional compete for votes in the Kuala Terengganu by-election.

Relocated stalls at the temporary market where vendors have been operating since 2019.Relocated stalls at the temporary market where vendors have been operating since 2019.

The market, which is in the heart of the old part of Kuala Terengganu, is a major tourist draw and a source of jobs and income for locals.

In fact, tour operators say that Pasar Payang often comes up as No. 2 on tourists’ to-do lists, after popular islands such as Redang, Kapas and Lang Tengah.

The area around the new and temporary markets also features an iconic clock tower.

Traders like Abdul Kadir welcomed the renovation, but are now worried that rental fees would be too high.

“We’ll move when the time comes. I’m just worried about the potential rise in rental fees at the new market. Moreover, my business has been experiencing a decline.

“Now, we pay just over RM100 per month. I’m afraid that when we move to the new building, it will be more expensive because it is more modern,” he said when met here.

The sentiment was echoed by a trader selling batik opposite his store.

Another 40-year-old vendor operating outside the market said he has been looking forward to moving to the renovated building.

“I just started my business here last year and I couldn’t get a space in the complex itself, so I rented a space here temporarily,” said the man who only wanted to be known as Ahmad.

Renovation work started during the time of the Barisan state administration between 2013 and 2018, but Terengganu was taken over by Perikatan’s PAS in the 2018 general election before it could be completed,

Barisan and Perikatan leaders have differing views on the renovation and what to do with the temporary buildings currently housing traders.

Speaking to the media during a walkabout at the new Pasar Payang premises, former Terengganu mentri besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman said the initial plan involved repurposing the temporary building into a convention centre upon the completion of the new complex.

This transition was planned as a way of generating revenue for the city council to operate the new Pasar Payang.

However, Ahmad Razif said the PAS-led state government had a different direction, planning to preserve both the existing and new buildings as Pasar Payang.

“The state government needs to know if the local authority (Kuala Terengganu City Council) can afford to do so.

“We can’t impose higher fees for the owners operating at the new building, we don’t want to burden them,” said Ahmad Razif, who had started renovations when he led the state from 2013 to 2018.

Perikatan’s Datuk Ahmad Amzad Hashim had a different view. He said retaining both complexes as functional markets would stimulate job creation and economic growth in the area.

“We have successfully extended the market, whereby the new building is now complete,” said Ahmad Amzad, who will be making a second bid for the parliamentary constituency after his victory in GE15 was nullified by the Election Court two weeks ago.

Ahmad Amzad will face Pakatan’s Azan Ismail.

“I don’t agree with converting the current temporary building for a different purpose. Let people stay there while more traders can start operating at the new building,” he said during a dialogue telecast live.

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