KUALA LUMPUR, July 16 (Bernama) -- In a united show of protest, 'Little India' businesses across the nation closed shop today to send a message that they had had enough of putting up with an annual Indian sub-continent carnival which excludes local traders.
More than 650 'Little India' businessmen in Brickfields, Klang and George Town led their counterparts in Lebuh Ampang, Sungai Petani, Melaka and Johor Baharu to voice out against the carnival which offers goods from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Little India in Brickfields today was a drastic contrast to its usual bustle as some 250 outlets comprising saree and textile shops, sundry shops, grocery suppliers, Indian restaurants, CD stores, jewellers and wholesalers brought their shutters down for the day.
"We have made numerous complaints about this carnival over the years but no action has been taken.
"We want the authorities to put a stop to this carnival in order to save the local traders who are incurring continuous losses," Brickfields Business Community Association president Senator Datuk V. Subramaniam said at a press conference here.
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He said the carnival had been organised by a local company in every state for the past six years with the next one scheduled for Penang in August.
He also claimed that most of the goods offered had not been subjected to import duty and were of poor quality.
Meanwhile, a textile shop owner who had been operating in Brickfields for the past 10 years and who wanted to be known as only Vijayan, 48, said: "We have been suffering losses for the past six years but nothing has been done about it."
Another businessman, Ravi Kumarasamy Anjan, 50, said: "We compromised in the first year it was held but after six years it is too much. We have high overheads. I pay RM18,000 in rent monthly."
In KLANG, an estimated 280 restaurants, goldsmiths and textile outlets at the Jalan Tengku Kelana 'Little India' also joined in the protest.
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Secretary of the Malaysian Indian Textiles and General Stores Association (MITA), R. Maheswary, told reporters that she had personally complained about the matter to the relevant authorities but to date no action had been taken.
"Last Deepavali, businesses in Brickfields lost about 70 per cent of their usual sales while the Klang traders lost roughly 50 per cent," she said.
She claimed that these foreign traders made huge profits during the carnivals due to minimal costs and sent their money back to their countries while local businesses had to pay taxes, rental, loans, utility bills and other overheads.
Over in George Town, some 140 traders in the 'Little India' district also participated in the protest, particularly against a carnival scheduled to be held at the Penang International Sports Arena in Bayan Baru next month.
Describing the carnival as a very unhealthy competition, Penang Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry president N. Vasantharajan said: "We don't mind absorbing losses for a day but we want the authorities to realise that the carnival has been robbing us of our customers since 2009."
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The traders and their workers marched along Lebuh King and Lebuh Pasar with banners and placards shouting 'No to the Carnival' and 'No to Illegal Foreign Traders'.
Saree shop owner M.P. Alagirisamy, in his 50s, recalled losing thousands of ringgit in sales during the two-week carnival at Penang Times Square last year.
Meanwhile, state executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow, who visited the area, said the state government would investigate the traders' claims and find a way to resolve the matter.
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