Saturday, February 26, 2011

Handicapped Hawker Discrimination - Serious

NGO representatives protesting in support of Cha Seak Nee (in pink). — Pictures by Syed Putra Syed Abdul Rahman

PETALING JAYA: A group of stallholders, including a disabled individual, held a peaceful protest at the Taman Megah market in SS24, here, recently.

They were protesting because of a dispute with other stallholders over the allocation of stalls.

Last year, the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) had assigned the stalls by drawing lots in the presence of the traders.

In the middle of last year, 59 traders who had been operating their stalls illegally were moved to the new Taman Megah market. MBPJ issued business licences to them.

Cha Seak Nee said vegetable sellers had been harassing her and trying to get her to move to a more remote location.

There were claims that a disabled trader and a few able-bodied traders were given better stall sites than the vegetable sellers who were assigned stalls deep inside the market.

Wheelchair-bound Cha Seak Nee was assigned a stall that was built specifically for the disabled. The 39-year-old who sells frozen foods such as otak-otak claimed that she had been harassed by some vegetable sellers. She said they told her to move to another stall located deep inside the building.

Flower seller Daisy Rani, 45, claimed that she had been given a different stall number in her new business licence.

"My business licence which was issued last year by the council had the stall number 005 which I drew.

"However, recently, two MBPJ enforcement officers gave me a new licence with the number 015. I was told to move to my new lot.

V. Sundrum says the stalls were assigned by drawing lots last year

T. Anthony says the dispute will be looked into seriously because of the harassment

"The vegetable sellers are constantly tell us to move to our new lots because they want to occupy our space," she said.

Daisy has lodged a police report on the matter because she felt her rights had been violated by the council.

Wet spice seller V. Sundrum, 40, said the vegetable sellers had also told him to move to a another stall. He said this was not fair as the stalls were assigned by drawing lots last year.

Representatives of NGOs such as The Malaysian Animal Assisted Therapy For The Elderly and The Disabled, Independent Living and Training Centre and Malaysians Against The Discrimination of The Disabled were at the protest to show their support for Cha.

A memorandum was submitted to councillor T. Anthony. He said the matter would be looked into seriously as several stallholders, and in particular a disabled person had been harassed.

Anthony said the memorandum would be handed over to Mayor Datuk Mohamad Roslan Sakiman.

Taman Megah residents association chairman Francis Lee said Cha's stall was designed for the disabled as a ramp had been constructed in front of her lot.

Lee also highlighted the fact that Cha was only making a small profit and added that her business would be affected if she were to move to a more remote location.

Area councillor Tiew Way Keng said she had received reports from consumers and stall holders that the location of the vegetable stalls were unsuitable.

"I received complaints that the walkway was narrow. People have slipped and taken a tumble while trying to buy vegetables and fruits."

Tiew said she had asked the public and stallholders to submit suggestions and had given them three options -- retain the current stall allotments, move the fruit stalls to the front and move the vegetable stalls outside.

She said most stallholders chose the third option.

Tiew said Cha had also agreed to move to another lot.

"I spoke to Cha and she agreed to move. The council did not bully her. But now I hear a different story," she said.

Tiew said the council would handle the matter in a diplomatic manner.

Also present during the protest was Damansara Utama assemblyman Dr Cheah Wing Yin.

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