BY BT REPORTERS
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN - MEMBERS of the public are turning to social media in growing numbers to appeal against the closing of Tamu Kianggeh, one of the sultanate’s oldest open-air markets in the capital.
Authorities have ordered Tamu Kianggeh vendors to cease operations and relocate to Tamu Gadong by the end of January 2016 despite their refusal, but the move was met with widespread resentment as Bruneians reacted online using the trending hashtag #SaveTamu-Kianggeh. When The Brunei Times visited the market yesterday, the vendors said they were touched by the outpouring of support on social media and from their customers.
“The past few days my customers have expressed their support and sympathies to me and every one of them agreed with my view on this issue,” said Hjh Seri Hjh Latif, who reiterated her refusal to move to Tamu Gadong.
Despite being told by authorities that the relocation would be in their best interest, she believed it would threaten her family’s livelihood as they rely on their stall “to put food on the table”.
“Even if the police came here to remove me from this place, I still refuse to move. We have even sent a letter signed by every vendor here to the authorities reasoning our opposition to the planned relocation but still we are being forced to vacate this place,” she said.
Hjh Seri, who sells dried food and traditional handicrafts at Tamu Kianggeh along with her husband, said they have tried their best to change the minds of the authorities but to no avail.
A handful of vendors also expressed growing frustration over the government’s decision to relocate them to Tamu Gadong and were still dissatisfied with the explanations offered so far by the authorities.
The planned relocation has seen the vendors unite in solidarity as they hoped to be allowed to continue peddling their goods at Tamu Kianggeh. “A lot of us here are old and can no longer walk properly. If we relocate, how can we carry ourselves and our goods from our houses in Kg Ayer all the way to Gadong on a daily basis?” said Hjh Isah Rais, pleading for the authorities to let them stay.
The home affairs minister told reporters on Monday that vendors were required to move to Tamu Gadong as the authorities planned to “improve cleanliness” in Tamu Kianggeh.
Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awg Abu Bakar Hj Apong said the market shutdown was part of the government’s move to beautify Bandar Seri Begawan. However, it is unclear what the area will be used for in the future.
When contacted yesterday, a Municipal Department official who did not want to be named said more information would be released in due time, but declined to comment further.
Sharing similar sentiments via #SaveTamuKianggeh on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, many Bruneians were bewildered over the market’s planned closure and called the authorities to reconsider the move.
Several users on Instagram were also up in arms over the shutdown of the historic market and called for Tamu Kianggeh to be protected as a cultural heritage.
“It’s important for us to preserve Tamu Kianggeh for future generations,” said 20-year-old@nsdsvnors, seeking clarification on the government’s decision to use the market for other purposes and urging the authorities to reconsider moving out the vendors.
In a sleepy area surrounded with abandoned buildings and cinemas, she pointed out the vibrant market is one of the few remaining attractions in Bandar Seri Begawan. “Tamu Kianggeh has been around since the 1960s and they were doing fine until this very day. So why (close it down) now? It’s not because the market ruins the beauty of the capital, it’s already beautiful,” she said.
Hakeem of Ricardo’s Catering, who uses the username @ricardosmexicandelivery, said the loss of Tamu Kianggeh would be a blow to the sultanate’s cultural heritage.
Like many Bruneians, the executive chef empathised with the unwillingness of vendors to move to Tamu Gadong.
He said the vendors, who are mostly elderly women whose families have been peddling fresh produce for generations, would strug-gle with the relocation. “The economical impact on their busines-ses will be different with existing competitors in Gadong. They might not be able to compete.”
Commenting on the vendors’ resistance against the clearing of Tamu Kianggeh, his wife and business partner Mari said it was “refreshing and liberating that there are people who stood true to their hearts and roots”.
The couple said they trust the judgement and planning of the government, but appealed for the market to be preserved.
Scores of users on social media expressed their disappointment over the decision to close Tamu Kianggeh, while some encouraged others to reminisce their memo-ries of the market by visiting the area before it is demolished.
“Learn about the less practised local traditions (or) pick up some local produce... If we can’t keep it physically, at least keep its memory alive,” said @mariahzaharaa.
Courtesy of The Brunei Times