Hawkers who hijacked city council lorry say their action was justified

The Penang Island City Council (MBPP) officers seizing tables and chairs from an illegal food stall for operating without a licence in Jalan Bagan Jermal, Tanjung Tokong, GEORGE TOWN: Two hawkers who hijacked a lorry belonging to the city council before enforcers could seize their tables and chairs believe they did the right thing. They drove it 2km to a police station, handed the keys to policemen on duty and lodged a report saying that they felt their action would prevent any fighting and settle the problem in an amicable way.

They claimed that Penang Island City Council (MBPP) did not give them prior notice and that they were dissatisfied with the strict enforcement. They also hoped that driving the lorry to the police would stop the council from seizing their stall furniture. But the police arrested them the same night, and they are under remand until tomorrow.

They will be investigated for using criminal force to deter public servants from discharging their duties. George Town OCPD Senior Asst Comm Mior Faridalathrash Wahid said an officer from MBPP Enforcement Department lodged a report after the Thursday night incident. He said investigations revealed that city council enforcers took action against the food stall because it was operating for nearly a year without a licence or permit.

The stall was on a service road along Jalan Tanjung Tokong, opposite the fire station and only about 200m from the popular Gurney Drive hawker centre. A video of them driving the lorry to the station went viral on social media while a second video soon emerged, obviously taken from inside the lorry while one of them was driving. The recording, taken by the other hawker, depicts them repeatedly shouting expletives and venting their frustrations on the strict enforcement.

They asked aloud how many Malay stalls the lorry had been used to seize, compared with other races. The unhappiness of the hawkers prompted the local assemblyman, Yap Soo Huey, to view the service road where the hawkers were operating yesterday. Yap, who is Pulau Tikus assemblyman, called on MBPP to list figures on their enforcement actions and denote their races.

A few hours later, MBPP issued a press statement that 158 enforcement actions were taken against Chinese-based businesses, 103 against Malay businesses, 31 against Indians and 13 on other races. Council secretary Yew Tung Seang told reporters yesterday that the MBPP enforcers followed procedure and denied that the council practised selective enforcement action against any particular community. He said MBPP issued a notice to the hawker on April 29 last year for trading without a licence and had since raided his stall three times on June 3, Aug 8 and Nov 23.

MBPP Licensing director Azman Sirun and Enforcement director Mohd Feroze Md Noor also denied the trader’s claim that no notice was given to him.

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