THEIR DAYS

New Straits Times - - News -

even been men­tioned in his­tory books, mak­ing them an icon on the is­land state.

Few re­alise, how­ever, that it is a dy­ing trade and that the tr­ishaw ped­allers live in ab­ject poverty.

Many sleep on the streets and are de­pen­dent on hand­outs from non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions, as well as the gov­ern­ment.

“I crave for a proper place to stay. I can’t re­mem­ber the last time I had a good night’s sleep,” Ah Seng said, when ap­proached in Kom­tar re­cently.

“What else can I do other than this? At this age, no one will hire me, so I have to con­tinue ped­alling this tr­ishaw.”

Ah Seng pays RM20 to the tr­ishaw owner daily and gets about 10 rides per day.

“On a good day I may get 20 rides,” he said, adding that the money was used to pay the tr­ishaw rental, buy food and some ne­ces­si­ties and pay for the oc­ca­sional re­pairs needed for the tr­ishaw.

Another tr­ishaw ped­aller, Tan Wei Hock, 66, said he charged RM5 for each ride of about a kilo­me­tre.

Tan sta­tions him­self at Le­buh Acheh and plies the route from there to Le­buh Ca­mar­von, Gat Le­buh Ar­me­nian and Le­buh Vic­to­ria.

“Some­times I ask for RM10, but it ap­pears that the lo­cals tell for­eign­ers not to pay us more than RM5,” he said, adding that most of their pas­sen­gers were tourists.

“There are days when we are not able to get a sin­gle pas­sen­ger,” said Tan, who, like Ah Seng, also lived on the streets.

Tan said they got the oc­ca­sional free food from NGOs, but on days when busi­ness was good, he liked to spend his hard-earned money at nearby food stalls.

Another tr­ishaw ped­aller, Ang Fat, 64, said he moved from Malacca to try his luck here.

“It is re­ally dis­ap­point­ing. I can­not seem to get enough cus­tomers con­sis­tently,” he said.

Ang Fat said one of the prob­lems was in the large num­ber of cars on the is­land com­pared to Malacca, and also the four-wheeled bi­cy­cles which were be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar within the in­ner city.

“I heard that the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties plan to ban those bi­cy­cles. I hope they do it soon be­cause they are bad for our busi­ness.”

Some of the tr­ishaw ped­allers sleep in their tr­ishaws, which are cov with plas­tic sheets at Jalan Pe­nang, in Pe­nang. Al­most all the tris ped­allers are home­less.

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