I take the opportunity to congratulate Sandra Rajoo, first prize winner (Senior category) of the recent Ipoh Echo writing competition. Her article, titled ‘Ipoh’s iconoic Polo Ground’, which was published in issue 88 of Ipoh Echo (22 December 2009 – 15 January, 2010), was not only well written but also evoked sweet memories and fond recollections of an idyllic Polo Ground of days gone by.
Indeed, a public community park should be a haven for rest, relaxation and recreation for the whole family. Alas, the Polo Ground of today is a far cry from Ms Rajoo’s lovely descriptions.
I’m not sure when Ms Rajoo last paid a visit to the park, but if she did so today she would find to her dismay and alarm that the Polo Ground has since degenerated to such a degree that it is no longer the sanctuary that it used to be in the 1980’s and before. And the situation is gradually and surely getting from bad to worse unless the authorities take immediate measures to arrest the problems.
Originally designated a ‘No hawkers’ zone, the park vicinity today is nevertheless infested with hawkers who sell their wares with blatant disregard for park rules nor basic decent respect for the environment. They operate out of vans, setting up stall around the clock, complete with tables, chairs, and umbrellas, all along Persiaran Brash, the street that flanks Polo Ground, and once a upon a time, a quiet and pleasant residential boulevard. Loud music, noise, traffic congestion and litter compound the problem for park users and residents alike.
Not only does the unsavoury sight of these hawker stalls ruin the beautiful landscape of the park, they also cause massive traffic congestion when motorists stop by the road to patronize the stalls. By setting up their stalls on the car park spaces along Persiaran Brash (parking that is designated and allocated for park users), these hawker stalls comprising vans, tables and chairs deprive motorists of precious parking space. The scene during the park’s ‘peak hours’ (6-8 a.m. And 5-7.30 p.m.) is one of total anarchy, with motorists parking their cars anywhere they care (even at the front gates of houses along the road), traffic choking the entire street, and a devil-may-care attitude by hawkers and motorists.
Left unchecked by the authorities, the hawkers seem to have grown in strength and confidence as the stalls there increase in size and number with time. Obviously, business is thriving at the Polo Ground. But surely good business is not a good reason for Majlis Bandaraya Ipoh to allow illegal hawking activities to be carried out at the Polo Ground. Rules should be adhered to, not compromised.
Indeed, hawkers there have turned the entire once peaceful residential suburb into a ‘glutton street pasar malam‘ of sorts, with stalls offering everything from laksa to rojak. Several stalls even operate through the night, encouraging unsavoury nocturnal activities in the park. Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of hawker food and pasar malam. But there should be a proper place and an appropriate time for these, and a community park is NOT one of the places, at any time.
And no self-respecting local council should allow it. If the local council is wary of being unpopular with the hawker community, the council must be prepared to risk losing the respect and support of the rest of the community.
I have heard that even royalty, including HRH Sultan Azlan Shah, who walks at the Polo Ground every morning, has been so disgusted by the state of affairs at the park (filled with litter, trash etc.) that he ordered the hawkers to be relocated. But in no time at all, the pack of them returned with a vengeance, defying even the Sultan’s orders, and being allowed to get away with it somehow.
In fact, I was a frequent user of the park for many years, jogging there every evening until the situation at the park went from barely tolerable (about ten years ago) to totally unbearable (about five years ago). In 2005, I stopped going to Polo Ground altogether.
How I long for those golden days of yore when Polo Ground was really as Ms Rajoo describes it!
Please, Majlis Bandaraya Ipoh, it is a gross injustice and disservice to the community of Ipoh to sweep the problem under the carpet and let these hawkers have their way. Do something about the pathetic situation before it is too late and our beautiful Polo Gruond goes to waste.. literally!
Friend of the Community