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Illegals not worried about impending blitz. WHY?

The answer is corruption in the enforcement authorities especially the police.

Why those foreigners shall afraid of any operation if they know “hangat-hangat tahi ayam” is Malaysian way and RM30 can settle with the police?

Stories by BAVANI M and JAYAGANDI JAYARAJ

THE broad smiling face of Bangladeshi worker Suman beamed at us as we asked about the price of a sleek-looking sling bag at the Chinatown shopping alley.

“For you I give a good price,” he said, still smiling.

Suman showed us a whole range of imitation goods hanging on small steel hooks inside the tiny stall that he was manning, and tried to impress us that as we were his first customers for the day, we were guaranteed a good discount.

Doing brisk business: Petaling Street traders have until June 1 to get rid of their foreign helpers or risk losing their licences.

We were taken in by his charming disposition, soft spoken and polite manner. There was no mistaking the genuine tone of his voice and the friendly manner of the way he carried on his business.

Embolden by his good manners we went straight to the point and asked where he was from and where he lived in KL.

“I am from Bangladesh, and I live in a room in one of the shophouses nearby,” he said.

After chatting with Suman for about 20 minutes and having paid RM30 for a sleek looking black “Gucci” sling bag, he started to talk more.

We discovered that although he looked close to thirty, Suman was only 21 years old and had four siblings back in his home country. He worked 14 hours a day, earning about RM40 each day.

Good price: Tourists trying to bargain for a handbag.

We felt comfortable enough with him to go right to the point and zoomed in on the reason for our visit to the popular shopping arena.

We asked if he had heard about the impending blitz that the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) was planning to get rid of illegal foreign workers in Petaling Street by the end of this month.

“Oh! I will just go away for a few weeks and then I’ll just come back,” Suman said nonchalantly.

“Aren’t you afraid?” we asked.

“This is nothing. The police harass us all the time and we are used to it,” he said. “Things will go back to normal after a few weeks. I will be back, and I will give you better discount then.”

All set: A foreign worker getting ready to set up his stall in Petaling Street.

Down the road, we meet Sultan, another migrant worker from Bangladesh. He was manning a stall selling sunglasses. We tried a few shades before we started asking questions. But Sultan was sharp and knew immediately that we were reporters.

“Show me your IDs first and I will answer your questions,’’ he said. We showed him our Star tags and he thanked us politely.

Sultan is 27 years old and holds a honours degree in marketing. Poverty forced him to come to Malaysia in search of a job to provide for his family. He speaks perfect English and is the epitome of politeness.

We asked him what he thought about the DBKL raid and he answered: “It is nothing to us. Policemen in plainclothes are always harassing us and asking for money.”

“How do you know they are policemen?” we asked.

“They showed me their pistols,” he said simply.

According to Sultan, the “policemen” usually asked for RM10 to RM30 from each worker from time to time, but not all policemen are bad.

“There are some nice policemen and they have helped me, too,” he said.

“People say that you guys are rude, scold customers and harass the girls. It it true?” we asked.

“You should stick around and see how the customers, especially the foreigners, treat us,” Sultan said.

According to Sultan, customers use four letters words and foul language on them when they don’t get the price they want.

“They treat animals better,” he said. “In our culture, the customer is god. We cannot be rude to them and there is a difference between harassment and casual flirtation. There is nothing wrong in telling a girl that she is pretty or sexy.”

We also met 23-year-old Rush from Sri Lanka. He handled a stall selling watches. He lived in a room in a nearby shop lot and worked 14 hours a day, earning RM50 a day, and had half a day off each week.

Asked about the impending clampdown he said: “My friend had offered me a job in Sungei Wang. I will go there. It is ok.”

We met Bangladeshi Mohamad Khaleb after that. The 33-year-old commerce graduate said: “This is life. There is no way out.”

Mohamad said he earned RM50 a day, working 14 hours a day.

“If I return to my home country, I can only make RM250 a month for the same amount of time. What can I do with that money? Nothing! I cannot help my mother at home,” he said.

Mohamad, like all the other foreign workers in Malaysia, works to send money to support their families in their home countries. They work long hours with minimum wages and few off days.

However, most are hardly worried about the DBKL clampdown against them and look at it as just another job hazard to overcome.

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