Kg Manickam small traders lament lost livelihoods after abrupt demolition

Wong Kai Hui
·4-min read
Kg Manickam small traders lament lost livelihoods after abrupt demolition
Kg Manickam small traders lament lost livelihoods after abrupt demolition

Trader Mangalam Subramaniam has been renting a small shop to sell clothes in Kampung Manickam, Bangi Lama in Selangor for the past 21 years.

She has been paying rent to her landlord all those years.

Little did she know that her shop location was reserved by the Selangor state government and not owned by the so-called landlord. It was only when the land was resold that she found out about it.

"I have been here for 21 years. I have worked here for a long time. I have many customers.

"We didn't know that this place was a reserved land until 2019," she told Malaysiakini.

Since then, she has been asking for help everywhere, including from Amanah Sungai Ramal assemblyperson Mazwan Johar and Kajang municipal councillor Fauzi Hasim.

Then the demolition day came on April 6.

Unfortunately, Mangalam neither managed to keep her store nor move to a new alternative location before the demolition. All of her properties in her shop were destroyed just like that.

"I have been asking for help for a year... In January this year, my shop was confiscated and (Kajang Municipal Council) has locked it up."

"I couldn't work for two months," she told the press yesterday.

"I have to call my customers and explain to them that everything is inside (so I couldn't deliver it)."

When the excavators came in on April 6, Mangalam could only move some of her things out before the excavator bucket tore her shop down.

"All the clothes are wet and piled up like rubbish. It (the excavator) just tore everything down. What do you think we can do?"

On that day, the Hulu Langat District and Land Office and the Kajang Municipal Council had their joint enforcement demolished some stores and stalls in the small, quiet town.

A flower shop by the roadside owned by 46-year-old Letchumy Suppiah was also among those demolished.

Small traders Letchumy Suppiah and her husband
Small traders Letchumy Suppiah and her husband

This is despite they were allegedly promised by Mazwan that their shops would not be demolished before relocation.

However, Letchumy said she couldn’t contact Mazwan at all on the day when the excavators arrived.

"My flowers are all destroyed. When the excavator tore the shop down, everything is gone. All our things are gone.

"We are suffering," Letchumy's husband said, his voice low.

The next day, the small traders were visited by PSM deputy chairperson S Arutchelvan who held a press conference there.

Small trader Periyamma Alahan
Small trader Periyamma Alahan

Periyamma Alahan stood on the ground where her small breakfast stall once located, watching quietly all the journalists and photographers as they were shown around the demolished site.

The food stall that she relied on to make a decent living was also torn down.

Unable to express fluently in Malay or English, she explained her experience briefly in Tamil, with the assistance of translation by a passer-by.

Government urged to provide compensation

The three traders are among those who lost their livelihoods after the eviction and demolition of the shop lots, which had been operating for 40 years and included a mechanic, an eatery, a florist, and a tailor, among others.

According to Arutchelvan and information gathered by PSM, 12 of the 14 shops or stalls have already been demolished.

The remaining two are pending resolution of a land dispute in court, as part of its structure is on government land, while the other part is privately owned.

The demolition happened despite Mazwan claiming there was no urgency for the state government to retake the land.

Responding to this, Arutchelvan criticised the state government for cutting off the livelihoods of ordinary people during the pandemic.

"Everyone here knows that if this is a government-reserved land, they would not get the grant. However, this site is not urgently needed, Mazwan himself said so.

"Yes, it will be needed for development in the future, that is true, but they should let the vendors relocate first.

"This is really unreasonable, especially during the pandemic," he told reporters.

PSM deputy chairperson S Arutchelvan talking to the small gtraders
PSM deputy chairperson S Arutchelvan talking to the small gtraders

He also suggested that the state government provide compensation for the damage and also income subsidies for the affected small traders until they are relocated.

When contacted yesterday, Mazwan told Malaysiakini that he has urged MPKj to urgently relocate the traders to the local market area which he said was just 50m away from the demolished site.