In June 2014, it was reported that the 24-hour Indian Muslim eatery, Nasi Kandar Line Clear (one of Penang’s most famous Indian Muslim restaurants) is not in the clear with the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) over a licensing problem and runs the risk of being shut down by it. Yes, we’re talking about the Line Clear eatery that has now become a must-visit and must-eat place among visitors to the epicurean heaven “Pearl of the Orient”.
Heck, it was even featured by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, during his visit to Penang in 2012, in his TV series titled, “No Reservations”.
MPPP said that it would take over the site, a narrow alley in Jalan Penang, George Town, from which the restaurant had been operating since the 1950s, if the problem could not be settled.
Apparently, the licensing issue was due to a dispute among 4 family members who claimed to have inherited the business from the founding family and who had initially agreed to take turns (by rotation) to run the successful nasi kandar business. Although the restaurant was run until today by Abdul Hamid Seeni Pakir, the family had only agreed to allow him to run it until 2011. He was supposed to hand over the business to his cousin, Sahubarali China Mohd Hanibah in 2011 but did not.
Hence, it kicked off a debacle when 3 cousins fought over the rightful ownership of the stall. The 3 cousins were identified as Abdul Latiff Thulkarunai, Sahubarali China Mohd Hanibah, and Pathumah Iskandar.
“We will negotiate again with the interested parties to resolve this in two weeks. Failing which, we will have to take action to ensure the business operates according to rules and regulations. We intend to take over the premises by vacating the area to rearrange the business in line with council by-laws,” said licensing director Azman Sirun.
On 28th June 2014, a meeting was arranged between the licensing department and the relevant traders, but it failed to produce an understanding for a rotation of operations at the site. Abdul Hamid had, through his lawyers, called for a meeting to discuss the matter among family members, but there was still no resolution.
In Oct 2014, MPPP Licensing and Public Health Committee chairman Ong Ah Teong had said that a licence would be issued annually to the partners on a rotation basis for 12 years from 2015. He said the cycle would be T. Abdul Latiff 53, followed by Sahubarah China Mohd Hanibah 56, Pathumah Iskandar 65, and Abdul Hamid 64.
The council, he added, would move to vacate the premises if Abdul Hamid failed to surrender it by 31st Dec 2014.
Fast forward to just today (19th Jan 2015), at 4am, the MPPP apparently “cleared” out all the tables, chairs, and cooking equipment, loaded them on lorries, and took them away.
According to a restaurant worker, they could only watch in shock as MPPP officers ignored pleas by the owners and told them to get a “court order” to get their items back. In a separate report by Utusan, about 40 MPPP officers were present and there were about 5 patrons at the restaurant at that time.
Meanwhile, restaurant owner Abdul Hamid said he was surprised by the actions of the council concerned as were not given advance notice to vacate the restaurant. The operator of the eatery which is located in Jalan Penang is scheduled to meet the media later today.
UPDATE (9am, 20th Jan):
The Star Online wrote that the council released a statement to say that the restaurant was not allowed to continue its business as the current operators did not have a licence for this year. It said the name on the licence for this year was issued in accordance with a decision made last October.
However, when asked to comment on the 8th Oct decision, current Line Clear owner Abdul Hamid said it was a conditional agreement and that the other parties had to fulfil certain terms. He declined to elaborate, but said they were willing to go to court to settle the matter, adding that the council had no jurisdiction to compel them to agree to its proposal.
Akbar Ali Abdul Ghafoor, a relative of Abdul Hamid, lodged a police report over the council’s action.