GEORGE TOWN: Foreign nationals managing and manning business premises in Penang is nothing new. In fact, there have been claims that it has been going on for the last 20 years.
However, recent developments have raised concerns about the growing presence of these foreigners, leading to questions about the enforcement capabilities of the government.
An investigation conducted in this bustling urban area has revealed the presence of shops owned by foreign nationals on Jalan Magazine, Jalan Gurdwara , Jalan Macalister, and Jalan Penang.
The majority of these traders hail from countries such as Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. They primarily sell everyday essentials and various goods to fellow compatriots or local residents, and many of them also run eateries.
One foreign trader on Jalan Penang explained that his store specialises in selling groceries. He claimed that he runs the business with his wife- a local woman.
On the other hand, a grocery trader on Jalan Gurdwara maintained that he was merely an assistant at the shop, and the premises were owned by a Malaysian.
Local residents have been seen patronising the mini-markets operated by foreigners on Jalan Penang due to the competitive prices, for instance, mangoes sold at RM6 per kilogramme.
A survey was also conducted in the vicinity of Jalan Rumbia, Bayan Lepas, near the Bukit Jambul Complex, which is known as a gathering place for foreign workers, especially on the weekends or holidays.
The area has become packed with the influx of foreign nationals. They seem to have gained a foothold in local businesses, although their legal status remains uncertain.
Local trader, Siti Asiah Jafri, 38, noted that these foreigners are not only dominating the business landscape but are also finding employment in the tourism sector.
"If you visit the beaches along Jalan Batu Ferringhi, you can observe them working as parking attendants and tending to pet horses that attract visitors, among other roles," she remarked.
"Perhaps this is because local residents are increasingly reluctant to work in this sector due to limited returns, providing an opportunity for these foreign workers," she added.
Meanwhile, an anonymous local hawker on Jalan Rumbia reported that nearly 70 per cent of the traders in the area are foreigners. They are known for their unique display of goods in baskets and selling fresh produce, such as vegetables, at competitive prices.
"When a significant number of foreign workers congregate in one area, concerns arise due to the potential for conflicts among them and other social issues," the hawker disclosed.
A factory worker known as Lily, aged 28, recounted a concerning incident where she was allegedly mistreated by a restaurant owner on Jalan Rumbia, rumoured to be of Pakistani origin.
According to Lily, she and her husband were engaged in a friendly conversation with the restaurant's waiter, discussing the quality of the food, which had reportedly declined.
Unexpectedly, the restaurant owner, purportedly from Pakistan, approached their table, grabbed their bowl of food and slammed it on the floor, instructing the waiter to discard it.
"His actions were very shocking, considering we were just having a friendly chat with the waiter," she said, remarking that she finds the foreigners here arrogant.