City council denies racism after Penang lorry hijack

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GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Island City Council has denied charges of racism or selective action in yesterday’s raid on an illegal seafood stall, which ended in the workers’ dramatic hijack of an enforcement lorry.

Council secretary Yew Tung Seang said there was no “pilih kasih” (playing favourites) in the enforcement, as alleged by the stall’s operators.

“We are merely enforcing the law. To counter allegations of racism, we will provide statistics that show we are colour-blind,” he told reporters here today.

In the 8.50pm incident, two seafood stall workers hijacked a city council lorry while recording the entire act on video.

In the clip, the two men claimed city council officers were rude and did not give early notice before coming over to seize their items.

They said the city council had never approved their application to run their business.

They claimed that the officers often acted on eateries operated by Malays, but left the Chinese and Indian ones alone.

In response to the alleged lack of notice, council licensing director Azman Sirun said the stall had been issued a plethora of notices since last year.

He said the first notice was issued on April 29, 2016, after the stall was found to be operating illegally.

Azman said the stall had been raided a total of four times since then – on June 3, Aug 8 and Nov 23 with the latest being yesterday.

He said the council had seized their tables and chairs before, as it was illegal to place obstructions in a public place under the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974.

Azman said the men had also gone against the council’s Hawkers By-Law 1979 by operating without a licence.

“As they were operating on government reserve land without permission from the Land Office, the council cannot issue them a licence to operate,” he said.

Meanwhile, on how the two men could have driven off with the lorry, council enforcement director Mohd Feroze Md Noor said the driver had been lowering a loading ramp at the rear.

At the time, he said, 20 council enforcement officers were at the scene, trying to diffuse the tension.

“The situation was very tense as they were confronting us. While our lorry driver was lowering the ramp, the two men got in and locked themselves in.

“Despite our repeated attempts at stopping them, they just reversed and sped off.

“We had to leave the engine on to lower the ramp. We will review our standard operating procedures in view of this incident,” Feroze said.