1,000 Indian shops shut to protest against foreign traders

Indian traders protesting near Little India in George Town, Penang.

MALAYSIA - The protest has cost them about RM20 million (S$7 million) in earnings. But the Indian retailers in Malaysia are willing to take the loss.

More then 1,000 Indian shops downed their shutters on Tuesday to protest against the Global Indian Festival, The Star reported.

The festival, the traders claim, gives foreigners direct access to the shoppers.

The Malaysian Indian Textiles and General Stores Association secretary R. Maheswary said the community was willing to take the loss because they want to send a strong message to the government.

Goldsmiths, newspaper vendors, restaurants, vegetable sellers and flower shops in George Town and Brickfields (in Penang), Lebuh Ampang (Kuala Lumpur), Klang and Sungai Petani (in Kedah) also closed their shops.

Klang's Little India was deserted as about 280 shops stayed shut, the report said. Ms Maheswary said the protest extended to Johor Baru, Malacca and Ipoh.

She said: "All Indian trades, namely textile, silver brass, handicrafts, costume jewellery, herbs and spices, have been so badly affected by the business operations at carnivals that some small shops have closed down and the bigger ones are on the verge of bankruptcy."

She said these expos and carnivals were first organised for foreign traders to exhibit their goods to local traders, but they began to undercut local traders.

Prove a point

Malaysian Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Penang branch president Mr N. Vasantharajan, who led the protest, said the traders were willing to forgo sales of between RM5,000 and RM20,000 each, following the closure from 9am to 9pm, to prove a point.

A state official who received a memorandum from Mr Vasantharajan, said he would raise their plight with Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.