Recent remarks in the Dewan Rakyat by Teresa Kok on the government’s move to allow more people to operate stalls in Kuala Lumpur have drawn condemnation from petty traders, who say the Seputeh MP is being insensitive to the plight of low-income groups affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kok had questioned an announcement by Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa that his ministry would allow residents of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan to operate stalls and petty businesses in suitable areas for six months beginning Nov 15, saying Annuar was treating the city like his rural constituency of Ketereh.
“I am perplexed with the minister’s statement because it looks like he considers the federal territories the same as his Ketereh parliamentary constituency in Kelantan, where everyone can open stalls, tables and sell anything anywhere,” Kok said on Thursday.
Her comments echoed those of six associations representing big businesses, who claimed the hawkers have lower hygiene standards, and that their businesses would lead to pest and rodent problems in the cities.
The associations, representing the interests of mall owners, builders and retailers, also said the move was unfair to formal businesses which pay fees for licences and permits, unlike petty traders.
The Kuala Lumpur Bumiputera Traders and Hawkers Association said Kok’s remarks showed that she could not empathise with the plight of the urban poor despite being a resident of the city.
“It looks like an outsider like Annuar can relate more to the hardships faced by city dwellers who have lost their jobs than Teresa Kok,” the association’s president Rosli Sulaiman told MalaysiaNow.
He welcomed the announcement, saying it was one of many ways to allow people to find an alternative income as tens of thousands struggle with the loss of jobs since Covid-19 was detected in Malaysia earlier this year.
Mad Jan, who operates a kuey teow stall in Setapak, said easing restrictions on petty traders would help many people make ends meet after losing their jobs.
“I do not see it as a problem because everyone has their own advantage when it comes to selling food.
“The question of competition does not arise,” he added.
Hairul Samsul, who operates a burger stall at Taman Sri Rampai in Gombak, said it is incumbent on stall owners to ensure cleanliness in return for the opportunity granted to them.
“We cannot be in a situation where the public complains that these traders do not care about cleanliness and are a nuisance,” he said.
Rosli meanwhile said those looking to become petty traders would still have to secure the funds and capital to run their businesses, as well as adhere to a host of procedures and rules.
He said people from all races should be given an equal opportunity to run their businesses.
“As a representative of traders, I have had discussions with Kuala Lumpur City Hall on suitable sites for petty traders to open their stalls,” he added.