There are two sides to the story of illegal street vending (25.5.15)

THE issue of illegal street hawkers is frowned upon by the authorities but the problem still exists.

Be it in Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya or even in Klang, these stalls and trucks can be found almost everywhere – in housing as well as bustling commercial areas in vacant parking lots and road corners.

In the mornings, hawkers selling nasi lemak and kuih set up shop while in the afternoon, goreng pisang vendors take over and make way for burger stalls and food trucks at night.

For years, this problem has gone around in circles where fines are issued and items are seized but a few days later, the stalls pop up again.

StarMetro spoke to the authorities as well as street traders in an effort to find possible solutions to the issue.

1 A small stall selling tidbits at the corner of a fully parked street in the Petaling Jaya Old Town commercial area.2 A food truck operating from a parking spot in the busy Petaling Jaya Old Town commercial area, where cars are seen stopping just behind it to buy food, sometimes causing traffic congestion.3 An example of a stall set up permanently on a parking spot, not allowing motorists to park there even when they are not open for business.4 Stalls set up at Taman Eng Ann Klang, a busy commercial area which always lacks parking space and is congested throughout the day.

A small stall selling tidbits at the corner of a fully parked street in the Petaling Jaya Old Town commercial area.

What the authorities say

A check with a few local councils showed that the number of fines issued to these traders outweighs fines for other offences such as illegal dumping, dirty eateries and illegal advertisements.

Last year, the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) issued more than 2,400 compounds to street hawkers but only 75 compounds were issued for illegal dumping.

The Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) issued a total of 1,146 compounds to street hawkers – an astounding number compared to 21 for cybercafes, 48 for illegal workshops and 53 for illegal car wash centres. .

“There are no suitable sites for hawkers in busy commercial areas such as SS15 and USJ 10 Taipan.

“Most of them use parking bays to either park their lorry or set up their stall despite knowing that the area does not have enough parking spaces,” said an MPSJ spokesman.

Street vendors are not allowed to set up stalls in residential areas and this includes vendors setting up nasi lemak tables in front of houses.

A food truck operating from a parking spot in the busy Petaling Jaya Old Town commercial area, where cars are seen stopping just behind it to buy food, sometimes causing traffic pile up

A food truck operating from a parking spot in the busy Petaling Jaya Old Town commercial area, where cars are seen stopping just behind it to buy food, sometimes causing traffic congestion.

During a visit to a busy commercial area in Klang, StarMetro witnessed a scuffle between a street trader and a motorist.

The motorist said that the trader shouted at her to move her car away because she had parked on “his business spot”.

She argued with him saying that she had parked at a legal public parking bay but he refused to give in.

Currently, MPSJ and MBPJ do not have a licence which food truck traders can apply for, be it the lok-lok trucks or the hip, mushrooming mobile eateries.

Although lok-lok trucks have been around for many years, they still have to pack up and leave whenever authorities are close by.

The only hawker licence available from the councils is the temporary trader licence (lesen penjaja sementara), which does not apply to these moving vehicles.

However, the Klang Municipal Council (MPK) has found a way to licence themby allowing them to operate at busy commercial areas such as Bandar Bukit Tinggi in Klang, which is also an area with heavy traffic flow during the day.

“We decided to license them because we realised that there are more and more of such traders and they will not just go away. People love them,” said MPK corporate communications director Norfiza Mahfiz.

Currently, at the Bukit Tinggi commercial area, there are food trucks operating from council parking bays, which have been approved by the council.

MPK had set aside a few lots for these mobile traders based on the demand from traders and their customers.

An example of a stall set up permanently on a parking spot, not allowing motorists to park there even when they are not open for business.

An example of a stall set up permanently on a parking spot, not allowing motorists to park there even when they are not open for business.

“Traders can apply for the licence and we will assess the situation there.

“As long as they are not in the way of traffic or endangering lives, we will consider issuing the licence,” she said.

Norfiza added that issuing compounds and seizing items belonging to illegal traders did not solve the problem.

Sending them away to trade in a quieter neighbourhood will not be viable for the traders either.

“I think food trucks are cleaner and neater compared to stalls because they sell, pack up and drive away,” she said.

Last year, MPK issued 954 compounds and seized 687 items in a bid to get unlicensed hawkers to apply for a licence.

Possible solutions by elected reps

Bukit Gasing assemblyman R. Rajiv echoed MPK’s idea to set aside parking bays for the traders to operate at busy commercial areas.

“I think this is the best solution. There will be fewer illegal traders and more regulated ones,” he said.

In fact, he proposed this idea to MBPJ and spoke about it during the state assembly sitting in March but he has yet to receive a response on his idea.

“I’m trying to push for a change to ensure councillors and town planners remember they exist.

“The last I checked, these traders, which are also known as the informal sector, make up 10% of the business population here,” he said.

He further argued that single mothers or the less fortunate would need this licence to trade as they could not afford to rent a shop.

Rajiv proposed that one or two in every 100 parking bays at busy commercial areas should be turned into legalised spots for traders to operate.

He agreed it would be challenging to accommodate them at congested areas such as the PJ Old Town commercial area but suggested that town planners could include them in future developments.

MPSJ councillor Chia Yew Ken remains firm that no licences should be given as parking in SS15 and USJ 10 Taipan was already a headache.

For now, he thinks it is best these food trucks and traders move to less congested areas, where MPSJ will consider giving them a licence.

He said that trading at busy commercial areas could result in accidents.

“More than 10 different operators came to me because their items were seized by MPSJ in SS15.

“We gave them a choice to move to USJ 1 but since they declined, they would just have to bear the consequences,” he said.

Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh said MPSJ could better regulate traders by moving them around if necessary.

For example, if they were given a spot but there were no customers, then MPSJ could suggest another venue for them to trade.

Another way is for MPSJ to work with Resident Associations (RA), Rukun Tetangga and high-rise residence communities to legalise traders in residential areas.

Residents could also have a say if they want the stall or food truck to operate in their area.

“If the residents agree, then MPSJ can issue licences to the traders,” she said.

PJ Utara Barisan Nasional chairman Tan Gim Tuan said regulating hawkers was important.

“I think MBPJ can come up with clearer guidelines for both the street hawkers and food trucks to see how to license them,” he said.

Stalls set up at Taman Eng Ann Klang, a busy commercial area which is always lacking in parking spaces and heavy congestion throughout the day.

Stalls set up at Taman Eng Ann Klang, a busy commercial area which always lacks parking space and is congested throughout the day.

What the traders say

Street food is an important part of the Malaysian dining culture.

Most people prefer buying from these stalls as the dishes offered are good and cheaper than restaurants.

However, it frustrates motorists when the traders cause congestion, take up parking spaces or are situated dangerously by the roadside.

“We will not move anywhere else but sell in SS15 because this is where our crowd is and this is where we started,” said a food truck owner who only wanted to be known as Rafeie.

This unauthorised trader has had his truck seized five times in the past year, but returns to business after paying the fine.

“We tried applying for a licence but we’ve been told there is no such licence for us so we are still waiting for them to come up with one,” he said.

They had been given the option to trade in USJ 1 but declined because it was not profitable.

StarMetro received similar responses from other street hawkers, who said they did not like the idea of moving because of the lack of business.

Despite being a thorn in the side of the authorities, illegal hawkers will continue to thrive as long as there is demand.

Source: The Star

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