Padawan council urged to clarify fees in night-market spat


KUCHING: After a week of trading verbal barbs, a group of Padawan night-market hawkers, unhappy with their new management, concede that they are willing to co-operate with the local council on the condition that their rent does not increase.

130 hawkers of the Batu Kawah New Township (MJC) night-market, represented by their leader Liew Ngian Chin, signed a petition protesting the increase of rent and maintenance fees from RM5 per night to RM19.

The hawkers also protested a proposed requirement by an incoming management company that their stalls be attended to five nights a week, or they would be denied a trading spot.

Hawkers currently operate at the MJC Thursdays and Fridays, trading elsewhere during the rest of the week.

Hawkers would also be required to move from their current premises, which they have been trading at for the past decade, to a new location.

“Our question to the chairman is whether the council has any plan to appoint a new private company to manage the night market,” said Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen, who is Liew’s legal representative.

“If so, what will the new fees be like? Would it be RM19, as people have said?” asked Chong, who is also DAP Sarawak chairman.

Chong also questioned the pledge by Padawan Municipal Council (MPP) Chairman Lo Khere Chiang that fees would be maintained.

Lo had also said the council had not collected fees from the hawkers since taking over the management of the market as MPP was still in the midst of re-registering them.

“If the council is not collecting fees at the moment, how long will that promise last? Is it going to be one year? Three years? Five? Or is it going to be one or two months?” Chong told the media on Saturday.

Liew, runs Triple S Enterprise, the management company that oversees 135 hawkers. Liew charges RM5 per night, RM3 of which goes to the Padawan Municipal Council for maintenance and disposal of refuse.

Liew’s contract was terminated in June, and the council officially took over on July 1.

In a press conference on Friday, Lo said the Padawan council would maintain fees at the current levels and denied plans of raising it to RM19.

Lo also told the media that the “issue has been blown out of proportion by the Opposition” and that “Chong wants to gang up with Liew” against the council. Lo is Barisan Nasional component Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP)’s state representative for Batu Kitang.

“All he (Chong) does is go and find trouble and cause all this nonsense. He should go and find out and understand the real situation first,” Lo had said.

Liew, today, denied the hawkers’ protest was politically motivated and said the council had acted against them first.

“Someone had drawn new (boundary) lines for the stalls, without telling us,” said Liew, who was present with Chong today. Liew had proposed the idea of a MJC night-market prior to its creation in 2008.

Although the hawkers had petitioned for Liew to stay as their manager, Chong said the group would acquiesce to the local council if Lo could guarantee there would be no increase in fees and that no private firm would take advantage of the hawkers.

“Before the creation of this night market, that part of MJC was a dead part of town. Nobody went there. Now that it has become a vibrant place, due to the night market, the council should not allow some third party to profit from the hawkers.”

Chong said the hawkers would be “most willing” to co-operate with the council and the very fact that the petition carried all their signatures only showed they were concerned about their livelihoods.

“Hawkers, they are not naive. They will not be easily misled by statements by any politician, including myself,” Chong said.

“Normally, it is not easy to get hawkers to sign some petition that goes against the wishes of the council. Not many would be willing to put their name to it because they are afraid of retaliation. So this is a genuine worry of these people,” he said.

“I urge Chairman Lo to respect the wishes of these hawkers. He may be an elected YB, but his position comes from the people, and he should respect the wishes of the people.”