Miri’s durian dilemma at a ceasefire… for now

A seasonal fruit seller cracks open a fresh durian for customers at Tamu Muhibbah.

MIRI, Jan 21: The arrival of the fruit season here never fails to bring fruit sellers from nearby areas to the city to trade their wares.

Durian — the king of fruits — is arguably the star attraction for those eagerly waiting for its arrival to taste its fragrant, sweet, creamy flesh.

Here, in Miri, sellers come from as far as Baram, Long Lama, Bekenu, Batu Niah, Marudi or even Lambir to trade their durian, offering their best prices.

At certain locations where these sellers converge, it can seem like a funfair with all the durian vendors shouting out loud to promote their respective products and pulling all sorts of marketing gimmicks to attract customers.

In West Malaysia not too long ago, a durian seller became an instant viral sensation because of his buff body. A video posted on social media showed him flexing his muscles as he went about selling his durian. Credit should be given to him, as his effort paid off. People flocked to his durian stall to snap up his durian.

Unfortunately, there is no such ‘stunt-show’ here in Miri, if memory serves us correctly.

A seasonal fruit seller from Baram sells durians at the Pelita commercial area.

Durian can be a divisive subject matter. The public can be as equally passionate for or against it. For those who adore the king of fruits, even though the price usually skyrockets at the beginning of the season, they would still buy them anyway!

However, the arrival of the fruit season and the spike in fruit selling activities also brings a perennial headache for the relevant authorities, and it is not because of the durian’s pungent smell.

Recently, Miri City Council (MCC) came under fire by netizens on Facebook who accused the MCC of breaching its Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) against unlicensed seasonal fruit sellers at Tamu Muhibbah.

During an operation earlier this month, MCC enforcement unit seized durians and other fruits from the unlicensed fruit sellers there in a raid.

Apparently, some traders did not comply with the rules and regulations given by the relevant authority, by operating without a permit.

They also placed their durians at prohibited locations (parking lots) and disrupted traffic flows.

The raid created consternation amongst the fruit sellers and netizens.

Thus, the finger-pointing and blaming began, even though the sellers had been informed earlier to apply for temporary permits that cost between RM50 to RM150 per lot from MCC’s Public Health Section located at the 1st floor of the Urban Transformation Center (UTC) Miri building.

The commotion on social media over the raid forced MCC to clear the air through a press release. The public outcry fell silent after that.

A brief check by the DayakDaily yesterday at various locations found that most of the fruit sellers selling durians it met have applied for permits.

Although the number of durian sellers was not much as at the beginning of the season, most of them adhered with the rules set by the MCC.

In Tamu Muhibbah, for example, seasonal fruit sellers were displaying their permits and they were carrying out their trading in a more organised manner which did not interrupt traffic flow.

“For me as a permanent fruit seller here (at Tamu Muhhibah), it is a good move made by the MCC (referring to the raid), because it is unfair for those of us who pay for the permit,” said one of the permanent fruit sellers at the Tamu Muhibbah who wished to anonymous when met by the DayakDaily.

Some seasonal fruit sellers have moved to the compound of a mall at Jalan Miri Airport.

At another location, the DayakDaily met three seasonal fruit sellers from Baram selling durians at an open space provided by a shopping mall in Riam.

According to them, they moved to the location after being told by friends and relatives that the mall was offering the open space outside its building for seasonal fruit sellers free-of-charge.

“We have been selling our durians here (at Riam, Jalan Miri Airport) after the Tamu Muhibbah incident. We brought our own fresh durians all the way from Baram,” said one of the durian sellers Unyang, 54.

The DayakDaily learnt that most of the seasonal durian sellers have been operating at various locations.

“Because we did not apply for the permit, we usually operate and sell durians by placing durians in our vehicles and we’ll park at a strategic location (to trade),” disclosed another seller.

There must be a way to resolve the dilemma, with both parties — the authorities and seasonal fruit sellers — open to a solution. — DayakDaily