Stall vendors living on the edge

National 3 minutes, 34 seconds

BRUNEI-MUARA

THEY have, literally, been living on the edge! Despite reaching a point where they should in fact, be leading a relaxed and retired life, both Hj Mohd Yasin Mamit, 55, and Abd Rahman Abdullah, 65, have been left to fend for themselves. Their dignity, self-esteem and hard work keeps them going despite the odds heavily stacked against them.

Both are running food stalls in a bid to sustain themselves and their families, showing no signs of throwing in the towel yet.

The Brunei Times yesterday spoke to the two vendors whose stalls are located near a bridge linking Kg Bengkurong to Junjungan – commonly used to commute from Mukim Lumapas, Kuala Lurah and Limbang to the capital.

Hj Mohd Yasin Mamit, 55, and his wife Norainah Mingas, 43, have been selling smoked fish at the site since 2006. They said they had sent a letter for permission to do business in the area to the relevant authorities, but have yet to receive a response.

“There was no reply (to our letter),” said Mohd Yasin, adding that unlicensed stalls in the area were demolished a few years ago.

“There was even a small restaurant with cemented structures and a fridge, but it was flattened a few months later,” he recalls.

Hj Mohd Yasin is aware their business does not conform to the law, but says he is left with few options on how to feed his family.

“This (business) is the only thing that supports us.”

He said he applied for other jobs after retiring from the military service, trying for three positions but only receiving one rejection letter, with no response from the other two.

His wife was a stay-at-home mom for most of her life before they started their stall.

Hj Mohd Yasin said they bought fish from local meat company, BMC, and brought water in buckets from their house in Kg Lumapas.

“We get plenty of customers for our smoked fish, even on rainy days,” he said.

The couple saw the area’s potential as a rest stop for drivers and tourists.

“Our hope is the area will be renovated and that we can continue selling in this area,” Hj Mohd Yasin said, adding they have observed heavy traffic in the area as well.

“Many cars drive through this road as there are more people living in Mukim Lumapas (now),” he explained.

The housing project under the Landless Indigenous Citizens Housing Scheme (STKRJ) in Kg Lumapas ‘A’ contributes to the booming population in the mukim.

Meanwhile, Abd Rahman Abdullah, 65, who owns the neighbouring stall also selling smoked fish, said he has been in the business for almost 15 years. He wanted to improve conditions of his stall, but feared it would result to it being demolished instead.

“My family and I renovated our stall four years ago to make it more presentable,” he said.

“However, to make (further) improvements now seems pointless as it can be flattened at any moment and they (the upgrades) are not cheap.”

The stall is now being run by his wife, Noraini Abdullah, 58, and their daughter Nor Haryati, 41, after Abd Rahman had broke his left hand. The mother-daughter team always begin their days early.

“We wake up as early as 5am to prepare the smoked fish as our main customers are parents returning home after sending their children to school (in the morning),” Noraini said.

Another peak time for them is between 4.30pm and 5.30pm when most people return from work. They also have customers from neighbouring East Malaysia.

“Our customers are not just the elderly. Young people and tourists from Limbang and Sabah also buy from us,” her daughter said.

With no water supply at the stall, Nor Haryati is left to do most of the heavy lifting jobs like carrying buckets of water.

Abd Rahman said the lack of facilities proves to be their biggest challenge, especially on windy and rainy days.

“Customers keep coming on rainy days, but when it is windy, the rain would spray the flames (affecting the cooking process),” he explained.

The family agrees they would operate a better stall with water supply if they received consent from the authorities.

“We know what we are doing is not approved, but our only source of income is from the sales we make here,” Nor Haryati said.

The Brunei Times