Monday, 6 December 2010

MP for Kota Kinabalu, Dr Hiew King Cheu aganised the meeting for business owners on Saturday to voice their grievances

KK City Hall taken to task over spate of fires

By Queville To

KOTA KINABALU: The City Hall (DBKK) should treat the recent spate of fires in commercial centres here, as a ‘wake-up call’ to organize and clear the area of any obstruction, said irate shop owners and businessmen.

They want DBKK to ensure that the streets are free from any obstruction at all times so that emergency vehicles like fire engines can freely access the area in the event of a fire.

MP for Kota Kinabalu, Dr Hiew King Cheu aganised the meeting for business owners on Saturday to voice their grievances. He was accompanied by a group of Sabah DAP leaders, including its vice chairman, Edward Mujie and its youth wing head, Junz Wong.

Spokesman for the businessmen, Lee Thien Leong, who is also the owner of the partially-affected De Galleria Hotel pointed out that the losses incurred by him and his neighbour, S.L Letrik (Sabah) Sdn Bhd would not have been so severe if the night market had not blocked the rescue operation.

“Even the Fire and Rescue Department subsequently confirmed that they were prevented from coming in to put out the blaze due to the presence of the night market hawkers. They only managed to come in 45 minutes later from the fire station which is just 10 minutes away.

“If they had come in much earlier, they could have controlled the fire using their own water reserve while looking for the fire hydrants nearby,” said a visibly emotional Lee who estimated his losses to be in the region of a million ringgit.

The hotel which opened for business 16 months ago cost RM4 million to set up and he claimed that his hotel rooms were almost fully booked for this month.

Both he and the proprietor of S.L Letrik, Peter Chan estimated it would probably take them another six months before they could resume business. In the meantime, they still have to pay salaries of their employees, besides servicing bank loans.

Enough is enough

Lee also recalled that 10 years ago they had informed City Hall of the potential risk posed by the night market.

He added that this was not the first time a fire had broken out there but it was not as severe as the recent blaze.

“It was quite fortunate that no one died this time but there’s no guarantee that there will be no casualties the next time.

“We do not wish to cause any problems or hardship for the night market hawkers but we hope the DBKK will look into our concerns,” said Lee.

“We have endured this (night market) for 35 years. Enough is enough. We cannot afford to take any risks … we too are paying assessment rates to the DBKK besides paying income tax,” he added.

He called on Api-Api state assemblyman, Dr Yee Moh Chai who is also the state resource development and IT minister, to find a solution to the problem.

“I believe he (Dr Yee) too was at the scene on that day and he must have seen and understood the situation,” said Lee.

Foreign traders

The disgruntled shop owners also complained that that the night market was disrupting their businesses.

“Because of their presence, we had to close shop early at 5pm,” they said adding that unlike when it was first started 35 years ago, a majority of the hawkers now comprise foreigners.

The shop owners also suggested that DBKK to refurbish the area in view of the fact that it has slowly developed into a tourist hub, due to the presence of many budget hotels.