Why is little Tawau redder than red in peninsula, asks Sabah NGO

Tawau is a red zone, but so are Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. Yet, Tawau is under MCO while the other two are under conditional MCO – and the residents in the rural town are seeing red about this.

(FMT) – Sabah Human Rights Centre chairman Sherzali Asli said the government must understand that economic opportunities in the state’s east coast district are fewer than in the peninsula, given the huge differences in economic robustness.

However, he said the rules imposed in rural Tawau were much stricter compared to that in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur which are comparatively much denser and complex urban centres.

“Businesses (in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor) are allowed to stay open till midnight and the public is allowed to dine in at eateries albeit with SOPs,” he told FMT.

“Indeed, certain retailers selling Hari Raya-themed clothes and items are even allowed to open till 2am.

“This clearly shows a blatant lack of trust towards Tawau, which is less urbanised and has a much smaller population than Selangor and KL.

“Tawau and the many localities under the enhanced MCO should not be treated like adopted children as far as the imposition of SOPs for a red zone is concerned.

“People in Sabah, in particular Tawau, are desperate and the government should not use the same framework used in the peninsula here and expect it to work.”

As a consequence, Sherzali said residents in two Tawau villages have held demonstrations after the EMCO at their localities were extended. Traders have also voiced out against the lack of business opportunities as a result of these strict guidelines.

The villages in question are Kampung Muhibbah Raya and Kampung Baru Pasir Putih.

However, the Sabah government ended the EMCO at the second village yesterday after protests there.

He said the government must give the residents of Tawau and the many localities under EMCO some freedom to conduct their businesses, with appropriate SOPs to allow them to survive in these trying times.

“The government needs to handle the situation from a humanitarian and realistic angle.

“Yes, the virus can kill you but so will starvation.

“Impose the necessary restrictions if you must, but not to the extent that the people in Tawau, in particular the localities under EMCO, are increasingly deprived of their right to earn,” he said.

Warisan’s Merotai assemblyman Sarifuddin Hatta agreed with calls by Tawau food traders recently for the government to allow dine-ins even if the district is under MCO. The MCO is scheduled to end tomorrow.

Sarifuddin said he had met vendors who had been doing business without a proper trading licence in order to survive.

“These traders have been fined many times by the local authorities for selling their items without a permit but they don’t mind so long as they are able to earn some cash,” he told FMT.

“They have been selling items ranging from coconuts to chicken wings and nasi kuning by the roadside to feed their families.

“Many of them held proper jobs before. Now they have turned to these businesses to survive.”

Sarifuddin said the government should allow businesses to run as usual even if the MCO is extended but with stricter SOPs in place.

“Give the warongs a chance but, of course, they must follow the SOPs. If they don’t, then issue the appropriate fines for the violations they commit.

“I’m sure they are aware of the rules and understand they will be punished for flouting them.

“They will accept tighter SOPs as long as it they get an opportunity to earn some vital income,” he said.

Sarifuddin said the people will not expect handouts from the government if they could work to survive.