Parliament: Five Sungei Road rag-and-bone men likely to move to hawker centres in city area

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Straits Times journalist Melody Zaccheus spent a day at Sungei Road Flea Market hawking her wares and making friends.
The Sungei Road flea market's last day of operation is on July 10, 2017. The authorities have said the area will be closed "to facilitate future residential development use". PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Five of the 11 original permit-holders at the Sungei Road flea market have indicated interest in operating stalls at Golden Mile Food Centre and Chinatown Market.

All 11 vendors were given the option of renting stalls at selected hawker centres in the city area at subsidised rates after the market's last day of operations on July 10, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli.

He told Parliament on Monday (April 3) that, as a show of goodwill, vendors will have their rents waived for the first year and receive a 50 per cent rebate off their subsidised rent for the second year.

Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun asked how Sungei Road vendors have been helped, with the hawking zone due to be closed "to facilitate future residential development use".

Mr Masagos said at least one of the original vendors has been granted financial aid. Other vendors who are not original permit holders will be given information on financial and employment aid, as well as ways for them to continue their trade, he said.

The 11 vendors are from a pool of 31 rag-and-bone men who, "because of their chosen trade", were excluded from a government programme to resettle street hawkers in purpose-built markets and hawker centres in the 1970s and 1980s.

Mr Masagos said the authorities have accommodated hawking at Sungei Road until the area was required for redevelopment, despite it causing inconveniences like obstructing public roads.

Mr Kok also asked if the authorities would engage the Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods, which represents about 70 vendors, on possible alternative outdoor sites. He noted that, as the last free hawking zone in Singapore, the market is integral to the country's cultural landscape.

In response, Mr Masagos said the country's needs must be taken into account. The authorities also have "to be fair to the many, many other hawkers who have moved on" to hawker centres and markets.

He added: "The time has come and we have engaged enough. To meet them again is to almost promise that we will change our stance and that redevelopment will not start... There are alternatives. But should we put up another site like this which is deemed to be like Sungei Road but not at Sungei Road? I don't think this is something we want to dwell (on) further."

The association's president Koh Ah Koon, 76, has been rallying the public to sign a petition to conserve the market, or for an alternative site. He told The Straits Times he has collected 4,000 signatures so far, and will continue to canvas support for it.

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