Free Malaysia Today

THU, 24 JUN 2010 14:07

Patrick Lee

VIDEO INSIDE KUALA LUMPUR: Hawkers along Jalan Chan Ah Tong in Brickfields are unhappy over City Hall’s decision to give the area a RM35 million ‘face-lift’ and transform it into a new Little India.

As part of its plan, about 68 hawker stalls will be moved to a temporary site nearby, very much against their wishes, and then will be relocated at a new site which will cater for all hawkers in Brickfields.

While the hawkers could be forced to move out of their present site, they are also facing another problem when it comes to allocation of places at the temporary site.

According to one of the affected hawkers, Selvaraja Pillai (photo), only half of the 68 have been served with the temporary relocation notices thus far. Their fear is that the others would not be given a spot at the temporary site.

He also said the hawkers were not aware of the Little India plan.

“They did not seek our views or opinion,” he said. “We had to learn about it from the papers.,” he said.

Another hawker, tomyam seller Rosni Zain, said some of them had been trading in Brickfields for 30 to 40 years.

“I don’t want to move as my business might suffer as a result.”

Memo to PM

Jalan Chan Ah Tong’s hawkers have sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister, requesting him to allow them to continue their trade at the present site but they have not received a response thus far.

The temporary site is expected to be complete by July.

Although most of Brickfields falls under the Lembah Pantai contituency, this particular stretch is under the Bukit Bintang constituency, whose MP DAP’s Fong Kui Lun has an opposite view to that of the traders.

Fong felt that the relocation was a good idea.

“It’s a better place for them,” he said. “In fact, it’s quite a reasonable deal by DBKL, as the place is more hygenic.”

“Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan don’t have stalls by the roadside. Only Malaysia does,” he said.

Lembah Pantai MP unhappy

Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah said: “At the moment, only DBKL and Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Deputy Minister M Saravanan know the identity of the 68 traders who will be relocated to the temporary site.”

“We have asked them for the list, but they are not providing us with the details.”

“We’ve also asked for the blueprints to be displayed about two months ago,” Nurul said. “They had it up there (by the new site) on the first day, but it was taken down after a week.”

Nurul also questioned the government on how Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB) was awarded a direct tender to develop Little India.

When contacted, Saravanan said: “We gave it to MRCB because it is a government-linked-company (GLC), and is already taking care of the [Brickfields] road extension plan.”

He was referring to the traffic dispersal plan currently in the works. Developed by MRCB at a cost of RM110 million, the plan includes turning Jalan Tun Sambanthan into a one-way street.

90% of hawkers support the plan

Saravanan also mentioned that Little India’s development costs may go beyond the RM35 million as it was dependent on the needs of local residents.

“MRCB is developing Little India plan out of good will. This is a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiative on their part,” he added.

Disputing Selvaraja’s statement on not meeting with the hawkers and residents, Saravanan said that he not only met with local NGOs but also with Brickfields’ traders.

“I have met with business councils and traders,” he said. “Ninety percent of the hawkers agreed to development. We’re not taking away the lots. We’re just renovating them.”

When asked what would happen to the temporary site on the upgrade works in Brickfields are completed, Saravanan said, “We are only renting the site from MRCB for two months. The traders will then go back to their stalls at the new site.”

“After that, it is up to MRCB to do as they like [with the place].”

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who will in Malaysia in November on an official visit is scheduled to officiate Little India’s grand opening.

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