: Many have probably resigned to the fact that this year's Iftar (break of fast) during Ramadan could possibly be without the usual array of traditional delicacies, but some non-governmental organisations are backing the move to cancel this year's Ramadan Bazaars, saying that it is a wise decision to break the chain of COVID-19 infections.
Small and Medium Scale Entrepreneurs Association of Malaysia (Ikhlas) president, Datuk Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah said this was not the time to think about profits and losses as Ramadan bazaars, due to its large crowds, are clearly high-risk environments in terms of COVID-19 transmissions.
"We are not even sure if the COVID-19 pandemic will be over when the Movement Control Order (MCO) ends, so there will be people who will think twice of going out... food hygiene and safety measures may be adhered to, but not enough to prevent the virus from spreading throughout the period that the Ramadan bazaars are operating," he said when contacted.
With the MCO facing the possibility of being extended further to Ramadan, almost 99 percent of petty traders could face economic and financial constraints for the next three or four months.
Ridzuan said non-food traders are expected to face more losses during the MCO period compared to those selling food.
"Some have already ordered their stock of 'bundle' clothing from overseas, Muslim and Muslimah clothing from suppliers, tailors and textile wholesalers... it is a lot of money as it involves revolving funds, high rental and import costs," he said.
As an alternative, Ridzuan said the government should consider creating a platform or system to market the affected bazaar traders' products.
"E-bazaar sales for example. At the same time, bazaar traders should also have prepared realistic back-up plans should the Ramadan bazaars get shelved," he said.
Sharing Ridzuan's views, Women Association for Development and Innovation (Wadi) president Sukmamurni Abdul Manaf said the shift from traditional trade to online or e-commerce platforms must be seen as the best possible solution to the current predicament.
"The hawker and traders community, including women, are urged to initiate the Ramadan e-bazaar concept, but also remain mindful of the government's directives such as social distancing and contactless delivery.
"The government, meanwhile, is also urged to help boost the local food supply chain, perhaps through transportation and logistics incentives... we believe that even if the Ramadan bazaars get cancelled, traders will always be able to find solutions," she said.
Meanwhile, Federation of Malay Hawkers and Petty Traders Association (GPPPKMM) secretary, Mohamad Zamri Mohammed said, although there have been convincing suggestions by the government, including holding the bazaars in a more tidy, organised and safe manner, ultimately, it would still be subjected to MCO directives.
"Many traders are hoping for the Ramadan bazaars to continue, even if on a small scale as it is a tradition during the fasting month... e-bazaars sounds interesting though but there needs to be some assurance it can be done comprehensively.
For food trader, Kamarul Anuar Mohamed Nasir, 38, he has no choice but to accept the Selangor government's decision to cancel this year's Ramadan bazaar, this despite plans already made to set up a nasi penyet stall at the Bandar Kinrara Ramadan bazaar.
"I can't deny that I am disappointed over this as the Ramadan bazaar is sustenance for us traders, but I accept this decision if it is the best way to contain COVID-19.
"Although I have a restaurant, sales normally dip during Ramadan due to shorter operating hours... so now without Ramadan bazaars, I might try my luck with deliveries, besides take out from the shop," said the owner of the 'Tempat Makan Lesehan' restaurant in Seri Kembangan.
Meanwhile, checks found social media abuzz with discussions on the matter, with one netizen, @M_HarithRoslan saying that the ban on Ramadan bazaars would be pointless if shopping centres and supermarkets are allowed to operate and draw large crowds at the end of the MCO.
"Let's say MCO ends on 14th as scheduled, people are gonna flock to malls instead, unless current directives hold... current directives should continue even after MCO... no bazaar, no mall, no nothing... nak iftar di masjid atau padang pun tidak boleh, (to break fast at the mosques and on public fields should not be allowed either," he said.
To date, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Terengganu, Selangor and Kedah have decided to cancel Ramadan bazaars, while the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar had also decreed that it was not suitable and not an appropriate time to organise Ramadan bazaars due to the risk of close contact.