Penang traders in peaceful protest over eviction

By Opalyn Mok
Lai Kong Hooi says the state government does not care about the poor people especially traders at Jalan Kuala Kangsar market. ― Picture by Opalyn Mok

GEORGE TOWN, April 5  ― A group traders from Jalan Kuala Kangsar here held a peaceful protest at Komtar this morning after most were evicted and some relocated to the next road.

Lai Kong Hooi, who claimed to represent over 40 affected traders, accused the state government of ignoring the rights of the poor by forcing them from the century-old market site.

“This market has been here for more than 100 years and many of us have been trading at this market for a long time, not only recently,” he told reporters.

He claimed the state government and local council had refused to budge from its decision to relocate all the traders along Jalan Kuala Kangsar to another road and into the Chowrasta Market complex.

Lai said they have submitted a petition with 200 signatures as well as an agreement from over 30 shops along Jalan Kuala Kangsar to let the traders continue trading along the road in the mornings.

Today, he submitted yet another memorandum asking the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and the state government to allow the traders to continue selling along the road early in the day.

“We are only there for four to five hours, not the whole day, so why don't they allow us to sell there?”

“We can compromise by reducing the stalls to only be set up along one side of the road while those who have shifted inside or to the other road can remain there if they are happy with the arrangement,” he said.

He reminded the state government that the market is an intangible heritage that tourists come to see.

“Tourists don't come here to look at modern complexes or shopping malls, they want to experience local markets like ours that are different from theirs,” he said.

He also warned the state that the Chowrasta Market would suffer reduced trade if the traders were not allowed to continue trading along Jalan Kuala Kangsar.

For decades, the whole length of Jalan Kuala Kangsar had been closed to traffic in the mornings due to the rows of traders lining the street right behind the main Chowrasta Market building.

The morning market, which usually closes by 12pm, had been regularly packed and popular amongst locals and tourists.

The MBPP recently shifted 68 of the traders into the newly renovated Chowrasta Market and the shorter Chowrasta Road next to the market building.

When asked about the traders' complaints, MBPP secretary Yew Tung Seang said the plans to renovate the Chowrasta Market and shift the traders were mooted more than 15 years ago.

“We have held many consultations with the hawkers and traders over the years and we hired a consultant, Badan Warisan, to do a survey and this relocation is conducted based on the survey,” he said.

He admitted that there were traders who are against the relocation and some were agreeable to it.

Yew said the 68 traders who were relocated were happy with the shift and had no complaints.

“Business is very good,” he said.

He said the complaints now were only from the illegal traders who had set up new stalls at the roadside market before the relocation.

“There are only six of them, they do not have licences and they are new hawkers so we will not entertain them,” he said.