KUALA LUMPUR: Greed among locals and a lack of enforcement have turned wet markets into haunts for illegal activities.
Such markets have attracted immigrants who ply their trade, with little heed paid to the laws of the country and cleanliness.
Locals reap in quick profits by renting out their stalls at steep prices to foreigners, depriving those, who earn their living by the book, of the opportunity to run their business.
These are the common complaints in the more popular markets in the Klang Valley.
At a market in Selayang, foreign hawkers can be heard calling out customers with their distinct accents.
People setting up makeshift stalls outside the market building is also a common sight.
Poultry trader Arbaain Rawi, 55, claims that about half of the 700 operators at the market are foreigners.
He says he has been operating his stall for about 30 years and claims the foreigners have been trading there for about 20 years.
“Some of us have been working side by side for many years
but, now, you see many new faces.”
He says most of the foreigners rent their lots from locals and that there are those who pretend to be employees.
The monthly rental charged by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall per stall is RM30, but hawkers there claim the rent can go as high as RM1,500.
Arbaain says this affects those who run their business legally, adding that action should be taken against locals who rent out their lots.
Hawkers at the Selayang market have, since May last year, begun moving to a temporary site to make way for a new building in the vicinity.
The move will see the construction of new facilities for patrons.
“Hopefully, the authorities could put things in order with the new set-up and ensure locals are not deprived of business opportunities,” Arbaain said.
A regular patron, Shahrul Imran, 46, says many prefer wet markets because they offer cheaper and fresher produce.
“Most of these markets, however, are dirty. This is why it is important for the authorities to ensure cleanliness is not neglected.
“The large presence of foreigners is a cause for concern and it would be good to have security personnel in such places,” he said.
Plaza Sri Muda Market Hawkers Association chairman Chandran Muniandy, who has been selling poultry for more than 20 years, says if left unchecked, things can get out of hand.
He claims that there are 100 stalls at the market, but only five
are operated by locals, while the rest have been “rented out” to foreigners.
“Immigrants pay between RM500 and RM1,000 per month for the stalls. Some of the foreigners claim that they work for local owners.
“The authorities do conduct raids and that is when you see the foreigners flee, leaving their stalls unattended.
“This shows who is renting and who hires foreign workers.
“But, sadly, after a while, the same people will return to their stalls.”
Chandran says when it comes to cleanliness, foreign stall operators are not cooperative.
He says many of them do not follow the guidelines to run their business.
“Some even slaughter chicken in the market. The market has
no proper sections due to the large presence of foreign operators.”
Chandran urges the Immigration Department and local authorities to work together to find solutions to these problems.
Immigration enforcement, investigations and prosecution division chief chief Saravana Kumar says regular operations are conducted at markets.
He urges the public to lodge complaints on illegal immigrants as foreigners are not allowed to run petty trade in Malaysia.