As CMCO extended yet another two weeks, Klang Valley traders left hanging by a thread

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin, Ashman Adam And Shahrin Aizat Noorshahrizam
·7-min read
Warung Perasan owner Safinaz arranges seats at her eatery in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur October 27, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Warung Perasan owner Safinaz arranges seats at her eatery in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur October 27, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 28 — Stall owners, traders, and even neighbourhood sundry shops who barely managed to stay afloat amid the pandemic fear another 14 days under the conditional movement control order (CMCO) could prove fatal to their businesses.

As Malay Mail went to the ground to speak to some of them, sentiments of helplessness, frustration and despair prevailed as almost all business owners lamented the drastic drop of income over the last few months, with some seeing a 75 per cent drop in revenue, while some were forced to release staff they could no longer afford.

Owners of these stalls and eateries also admitted how most of their daily collections are mostly gone by the end of the day, spent on home essentials and supplies for their shops — a situation set to be exacerbated by the CMCO that has now been extended until November 8.

For Safinaz, the owner of Warung Perasan in Kampung Baru, a modest zinc-roofed eatery located on the corner of Jalan Raja Alang, the business has deteriorated to the point where she was forced to release five staff.

“I have no customers at all. I have to do all the cooking myself now because I cannot afford to pay my cooks.

“I am not sure how I am going to handle the latest extension,” a seemingly dejected 38-year-old Safinaz told Malay Mail.

The mother of two said adding on to her stress are her seven and 11-year-olds, who have been missing school.

“My children are going crazy at home, they’re bored to death. I can’t even bring them out for lunch or dinner because of the two in a car ruling.

“They’re driving me up the wall at home,” she exclaimed, before letting out a sigh of frustration.

Even for those selling nasi lemak, Malaysians’ favourite breakfast, vendors are barely keeping their heads above water.

Muhammad Darwis speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur October 27, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Muhammad Darwis speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur October 27, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

“Business these past two weeks has dropped like lights to the flies. I can honestly say the only thing keeping us afloat has been the orders from Grab and FoodPanda,” said Muhammad Darwis, 25, who sells his nasi lemak just metres away from Safinaz.

Despite being one of the more popular nasi lemak franchises around, Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa business owner Abdul Halim Jamaluddin, 56, also admitted to depending on delivery services for revenue.

“I don’t know if my business will survive another extension of the CMCO. I don’t have anyone dining in. It's only FoodPanda and Grab riders.

“They’re the only reason we can still open for business, otherwise I would have to close shop like everyone else here,” he told Malay Mail.

Over in Bangsar, the work from home order issued by the government last week has only made the situation worse for the already struggling Atikah Abdullah, 41.

Managing to squeeze in an answer as she packed piping hot packets of her homemade nasi lemak at her stall along Jalan Telawi, Nur Atikah said the lack of office crowd was very obvious for her, as she had more than the usual amount of leftovers since last Thursday.

“We cannot afford to be throwing away the unsold food every day, for small-time traders like us every ringgit matters, especially when we are already scraping the bottom of the barrel; and the bottom pot the barrel is almost scraped off,” she told Malay Mail.

Nur Atikah Abdullah (right) serves customers at her nasi lemak stall along Jalan Telawi, Bangsar October 27, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara.
Nur Atikah Abdullah (right) serves customers at her nasi lemak stall along Jalan Telawi, Bangsar October 27, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara.

Nur Atikah said she still has debts from unpaid home rent from previous months, saying for her, it was an actual case of hand to mouth with her finances.

“I have two school-going children who are home alone right now, so whatever [money] I get, I make sure they have enough to eat for today, and then I can only start thinking about what tomorrow will bring and how to deal with it,” she said.

In Shah Alam, soup noodle stall owner Ismail Abdul, 40, said his daily collections have almost halved since the CMCO was reimposed and admitted feeling helpless, like most of the other shop owners.

Trader Ismail Abdul speaks to Malay Mail in Shah Alam October 27, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Trader Ismail Abdul speaks to Malay Mail in Shah Alam October 27, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

“Usually I make around RM700 to RM800 daily especially on weekends, but since we have seen cases in Shah Alam increase, I can only make RM400 to RM500 daily due to my customers’ fear of getting into crowded places like this,” he said as he prepared a bowl for a customer at his shop inside the Giant Hypermarket in Seksyen 13.

“But despite how it has affected my sales, I think the government is trying to protect the people by extending CMCO. Life goes one,” he exclaimed.

For Amirah Rosman, 24, who decided to open a cekodok stall in Section 14, Petaling Jaya after being let go at her previous job at a restaurant, she explained it was the only form of work she could make a living from as she looks to get her back on her feet.

“I was actually retrenched by a restaurant in Bangsar and only started my business for a month,” she said as she pressed together dough and chunks of banana into a batter.

“However, this is the only initiative that I can choose and I’m grateful the government still allows for stalls like mine to continue to operate otherwise I would have no other source of income,” she added.

Siti Zaharah Abdul speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at her food stall in Taman Melati, Gombak October 27, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Siti Zaharah Abdul speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at her food stall in Taman Melati, Gombak October 27, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

More than 45 minutes away in the semi-urban neighbourhood of Taman Melati in Gombak, despite running her stall for the last 29-years, these last few months have been the most testing for the owners of Warong Kak Ya, 66-year-old Siti Zaharah Abdul, and granddaughter Noordiyana Hamidy, 29.

Calling it a daily struggle to make ends meet, the extension of the CMCO is especially painful as they struggle to cover costs, said Siti Zaharah, adding that she hopes the pandemic will end soon.

Mat Desa Awang said he is worried if he'll be able to pay his bills and feed his family. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Mat Desa Awang said he is worried if he'll be able to pay his bills and feed his family. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Several metres away across the road, rice cake seller Mat Desa Awang, 69, said he is two months late on most of his bills, and does not know if he will have enough to settle the payments and feed his family of five.

While he fills the rice cakes with coconut shavings and brown sugar before steaming them, Mat Desa's voice breaks several times as he talks about his struggling business.

“Since this year I have not made back any of my costs; people have told me to close, but what else can I do to earn, so I have no choice but to do this business.

“My son runs a sewing and laundry shop and we are also late on payment for that lot.

“I have used up all my savings, there is nothing left, so with this latest extension, all I can do now is pray,” he said

Shafri Al-Rizan speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at the Alamanda Shopping Centre in Putrajaya October 27, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Shafri Al-Rizan speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at the Alamanda Shopping Centre in Putrajaya October 27, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Over in Putrajaya, 46-year-old Shafri Al-Rizan lamented how as the organisers of the now-cancelled Petronas Cub Prix racing event that was scheduled for this weekend, thousands of ringgit in losses would have to be absorbed.

Meanwhile Datin Norhaliza Mohd Noor, owner of a hair salon in the Alamanda shopping mall fears this could be her last month in operation.

“I have had to let go of key members of my staff because I couldn’t afford them anymore.

“I don’t think I will be able to keep my salon open by the end of this month even, let alone if they extend the CMCO again after November 9,” she said as her fingers fidgeted nervously.

Most businesses and industries, except the social and education sectors in both the Federal Territories and Selangor are allowed to operate under the now extended CMCO.

Businesses in the informal sector, however, have suffered after SOPs were announced that require most industries to enforce a work-from-home order on their staff for the duration of the CMCO.

The CMCO was enforced to curb the spread of Covid-19 within the Klang Valley, an area which collectively recorded 138 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday.

Malaysia in total recorded 835 new cases yesterday, with 28,640 total infections and 238 fatalities.

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