LETTER | Malls stuck between a rock and a hard place

Wai Han

Modified 5 Jun 2021, 1:17 am

LETTER | We are a team working in the retail industry overseeing mall operations and in the past 24 hours, or for the worse half of the past year, many of us have not had a restful sleep over the constantly changing and perplexing rules of the game called the movement control order (MCO).

It is an understatement to say that malls have transformed from spaces of leisure, entertainment, fun, and cheer into hollow halls sown with discord and fear, perpetuated by half-truths spread by social media and not helped by ambiguous official guidelines.

Ever since the first MCO was announced last year, we have been strictly complying with all government-issued mandates despite the last-minute announcements and sudden rule reversions.

We have endeavoured to maintain the highest standards of safety and cleanliness at our premises, though a single unfounded comment could always easily shatter that well-preserved facade.

We have exhausted most available resources to us to retain a semblance of a healthy retail ecosystem in the new normal by continually reinventing ourselves and our roles in the face of hundreds of struggling tenants urgently needing assistance.

But nothing is ever enough.

Not when we become the target of all recrimination and blamed in the court of public opinion whenever we choose to be transparent over a positive case at the premises.

Not when we’re left in a defenceless position whenever the government issues an order demanding our closure over a Hotspot Identification for Dynamic Engagement system (Hide) list that blindsided our operations and tenants.

Not when stimulus packages offered thus far have not been significant enough to buttress our operations, even though the retail ecosystem in Malaysia feeds thousands of Malaysians.

When there is ambiguity in the position of the shopping mall as a necessary distribution centre of essential services and goods, the negative impacts that afflict staff, tenants, and shoppers are incredibly significant.

Not only were we not given enough time to obtain the necessary approvals to operate, but the various ministries have proven themselves incapable of adhering to their own timelines by virtue of utilising antiquated systems that none can agree upon.

As mall managers, we are thus stuck in the awkward limbo of not being able to open by virtue of not being an essential service yet remain accountable to our tenants who do fall under that essential category.

We believe the government can do better. The ministries have to speak to one another and arrive at an agreeable consensus on appropriate procedures that can be enforced before announcing them to the nation.

We have been wading through a fog of confusing directives, and we yearn for clearer days ahead.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.