Lone protestor haunts night markets

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PETALING JAYA: In the bustling night markets around the Klang Valley, a lone figure can often be seen protesting in support of the live events industry.

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Iqbal Ameer is seeking to create awareness of the industry’s problems and to press the government to lift Covid-19 restrictions so that livelihoods can be saved.

Iqbal, who heads the live events company Livescape, told FMT his protests were not for the benefit of people like him, whose companies would have the ability to pivot. He said he wanted to highlight the plight of people such as caterers, decorators and make-up artists who could not go back to work because of the restrictions.

“These protests are for the people I talk to on a daily basis, like the stagehand who hasn’t been able to work for nine months. It’s these guys who don’t have jobs, and it’s heartbreaking.”

Iqbal has watched helplessly as people he has got to know over the last decade lose their jobs or see their companies fold.

“These people dedicated their lives to building their craft,” he said. “Not only have they been stripped of work, they haven’t even been given a chance to recover or pick themselves up. You can’t ask a photographer, for example, to become an overnight chef or set up a shop somewhere.”

He worries that with so many companies struggling to stay afloat, job opportunities may be scarce when the industry finally gets going once more.

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He is hoping that his choice of location for the protests would point out the lack of reasoning behind the event industry’s continued shutout.

“A pasar malam is basically a live event,” he said. “It takes place in an empty space. There are booths set up and organisers provide social distancing measures. It’s open to the public. Those are all the ingredients for an event. And yet our industry isn’t allowed to do it.

“A lot of the vendors come to me when I’m out there and they want to understand and know more. Some are surprised that our events still can’t happen.”

Iqbal is the vice-president of the Arts, Live Festival and Events Association. He said the group had submitted a paper to the government on how events could be held safely, but to no avail. The proposals include measures to ensure proper distancing and proper staff training.

“It’s confusing because sporting bodies are now allowed to hold events with 4,000 people or 10% of capacity, which is essentially the same as a concert if we swap the athletes for performers.”

On the topic of confusing standards, he asked how former minister Tengku Adnan Mansor was able to host a drive-in event for 10,000 people just days ago, when his own permit for an in-car experience submitted in November was rejected.

“How can one person do something like this in front of the Palace of Justice while our application for just 1,000 cars gets rejected?” – FMT

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