Business not as usual for PJ Old Town despite end of EMCO

A general view of the Jalan Othman wet market after the enhanced movement control order was lifted in Petaling Jaya Old Town May 21, 2020. — Pictures by Shafwan Zaidon
A general view of the Jalan Othman wet market after the enhanced movement control order was lifted in Petaling Jaya Old Town May 21, 2020. — Pictures by Shafwan Zaidon

PETALING JAYA, May 22 — The enhanced movement control order (EMCO) enforced on Petaling Jaya Old Town may have been lifted but it is not business as usual for most, especially market traders and coffee shop hawkers.

It will be another two weeks until the Jalan Othman wet market, or popularly known as PJ Old Town market, that is located at the heart of the township can resume operations, said market traders.

As for now, it is clean-up time for all traders who did not manage to do so when the market was shut abruptly by the authorities on April 27 after a trader tested positive for Covid-19. 

Fruit stall operator Bee Ching said that had the authorities notified market traders earlier or given them several hours to remove perishable goods, they would not have had to deal with massive losses and a major clean-up.
Fruit stall operator Bee Ching said that had the authorities notified market traders earlier or given them several hours to remove perishable goods, they would not have had to deal with massive losses and a major clean-up.

Rotten food galore

A fruit trader, who wanted to be identified as Bee Ching, said she lost 300kg worth of bananas which she had received the day before the market ceased operations.

“We didn’t get the announcement in time to clear the fresh produce which I had just received.

“We also haven’t been allowed to enter the market since April 27 until today (May 21),” she said.

Bee Ching added that, had the authorities notified market traders earlier or given them several hours to remove perishable goods, they would not have had to deal with massive losses and a major clean-up.

“They should have told us so that we could have transported the fruit out of the market at least.

“The bananas that I ordered, all 300kg of them, have melted into a puddle,” she said when met at the market today.

She added that other fruits that have gone bad included watermelons, honeydew melons, pears and apples, which had to be disposed of, as all had either turned to mush or fermented.

“I lost about RM3,000 and I still have to think about how to get rid of the stench from rotten fruits,” she said while cleaning up leachate-like liquid flowing from her fruit stall.

In another part of the market, traders manning the seafood section faced a different problem.

Tan said there were maggots everywhere as they did not manage to clear out the fish left in the market prior to the shutdown.
Tan said there were maggots everywhere as they did not manage to clear out the fish left in the market prior to the shutdown.

A trader, who only wanted to be known as Tan, said there were maggots everywhere as they did not manage to clear out the fish left in the market prior to the shutdown.

“All the fish left behind have maggots. We just threw fish worth thousands of ringgit away.

“The smell is unbearable, right?” Tan told Malay Mail when met at her stall.

Even dried goods were not spared at Vasanthi’s sundry shop located on the first floor of the market.

The trader, who has been in business for more than 20 years, said she had to throw out onions and potatoes.

“I have to think of how to clear out stock that has gone bad. I can’t sell it anymore.

“Already we have lost income in the last one month; now I have to fork out money to redo certain structures which the authorities dismantled without notifying us,” she said.

Sundry shop owner Vasanthi said she had to fork out money to redo certain structures of her shop which the authorities dismantled without prior notice.
Sundry shop owner Vasanthi said she had to fork out money to redo certain structures of her shop which the authorities dismantled without prior notice.

Demolition without proper notice

Experiencing a similar situation, vegetable seller S. Kuna said parts of his stall structure were demolished while some storage baskets have gone ‘missing’.

Acknowledging that some were self-modified, he said it was unfair that the authorities had demolished these structures when they were not obstructing the common walkway.

“There isn’t enough space to display fresh produce and that is why some of us made modifications by adding wooden planks to create extra layers that replicate a rack.

“They could have discussed it with us, to find the best solution, instead of destroying even part of the stall’s original structure,” Kuna said.

He added that this was the first time in 24 days that traders had set foot in the market and it was also the first time they had encountered a clean-up notice by the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) dated April 30 plastered all over the market’s pillars.

“Who is here to read the notice when they shut the market on April 27? They also did not allow us to enter the market.

“Subsequently, the entire area went into lockdown. Hence, the market was shut for a prolonged period of time,” he said.

The notice sighted by Malay Mail indicated that MBPJ had launched a clean-up operation and instructed market traders to refrain from displaying additional racks on the common walkway in the market, dispose of old and unusable refrigerators and clear out their respective stalls for sanitisation purposes.

The notice also said that MBPJ will remove or demolish modified structures and will not be responsible for any destruction of property or belongings in the midst of the operation, nor will it offer a refund for damaged structures or belongings.

PJ Old Town was placed under lockdown on May 10 after 26 Covid-19 positive cases were detected among market traders, workers and their family members.

A meat seller in the pork section, Victor Ang, also raised concerns over a disruption in pork supplies as the PJ Old Town market has customers coming from surrounding townships including Subang Jaya, Puchong, Shah Alam and many parts of Petaling Jaya.

“It will take some time for us to clean up the market not only from rotten goods, but also from rat droppings in many parts of the market, not to mention the rats that died in the market from poisoning,” he said, referring to rodents exterminated by MBPJ as part of its market-cleansing operation.

With the market closed, hawker Ong says he had to resort to buying supplies from other markets that are not in the same area, which means paying more for the supplies he needs to run his char kuay teow stall.
With the market closed, hawker Ong says he had to resort to buying supplies from other markets that are not in the same area, which means paying more for the supplies he needs to run his char kuay teow stall.

Hawkers affected too

Meanwhile, a hawker only identified as Ong said he too needed to throw out supplies he had bought for his char kuay teow stall prior to the town observing EMCO for the last 12 days.

“I had to throw out bean sprouts, noodles and chili.

“And with the market closed, I have to resort to buying supplies from other markets that are not in this area, which means paying more.

“We cannot increase food prices, but we have no choice but to still continue operations; otherwise, we will have no income at all,” he said.

Ong, who also operates a kiosk at the Royal Lake Club at Perdana Botanic Gardens, had chosen to halt operations there as business had slowed during the month of Ramadan.

“Hopefully, we can resume operations on May 24 (original post-EMCO date).

“Since the lockdown, we have reduced our meals at home from three to two to ensure that we have enough to sustain ourselves throughout the lockdown period,” he said.

The EMCO enforced on several sections of PJ Old Town including the wet market on Jalan Othman was lifted at midnight yesterday.

It was scheduled to be lifted on May 23.

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