Monthly Archives: March 2010

Reaching Out To the Poor in Medan


Basic screening

Ipoh City Council and Pantai Hospital Ipoh have jointly taken another step across the Straits of Malacca to reach out to the poor community in Medan.

They were participating in a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme organised by the authorities in the Indonesian city, which was held for three days from March 13.

Pantai Hospital Ipoh provided free basic screening and medical consultation by doctors and specialists.

Ipoh Mayor Dato’ Haji Roshidi Hashim, guest-of-honour at the launching of the event, highlighted the importance of bilateral ties and the continuity of assisting and supporting between neighbouring cities and countries. He reiterated the importance of private and public sectors joining forces and reaching out to those in need.

The Mayor commended Pantai Hospital Ipoh for its continuous initiatives to assist and support those in need and its CSR activities to local and foreign communities.

Dato’ Haji Roshidi accompanied by Head of Pemuda Sumatra Utara Encik Effendi, Dr. K. Lalita and members of the organizing committee later visited the booths and the site for the free health screening and medical consultation.

The basic health screening included blood pressure check, body fat assessment, fitness test, and medical consultation by the doctors. About 300 people turned up for the free health screening. All the guests were also entertained by cultural dance performances.

Dato' Roshidi with Puja

Seven-year-old Puja Wathi, who has previously benefited from Pantai Hospital Ipoh Cleft Lip Project with Ipoh City Council, was also present during the event. Puja is the ‘adopted’ daughter of the Mayor.

Keeping up with the bilateral ties, Dato’ Haji Roshidi also visited the Consulate General of Malaysia Puan Norlin Othman, who suggested apart from medical aid, other forms of consumables or sundries could also be sent to the medical students studying in Medan.

These supplies could be used when the students undertake community outreach activities to the poor.


PDRM – Short On Promises High On Hopes


 “We can’t question the rakyat’s expectation that the Police Force respond efficiently and effectively with integrity and fairness. This is their right and, therefore, it’s our responsibility” – Tan Sri Musa Hassan 

The Royal Malaysian Police or PDRM (Polis DiRaja Malaysia) in Bahasa Malaysia has been around for over 200 years. It traced its origins to the Malacca Sultanate of yore.  The modern-day police took shape on March 25, 1807, in Penang. Policing duties later extended to the Straits Settlements and the Federated Malay States, as British colonial hegemony and commercial interests grew. It was strictly a state affair.
      The centralisation of the police force came about only after World War II when the Civil Affairs Police Force was formed.
The British Adminis-tration had to rebuild a demoralised police force caused by the Japanese invaders. The ensuing struggle by the outlawed Malayan Communist Party forestalled these restructuring programmes, as attention was focused on blunting the Communist threat. During Malaysia’s confrontation with Indonesia (1962 to 1966), police personnel, along with soldiers, were deployed in Johore and Sabah to thwart Indonesian infiltrators.
The title “Royal” was bestowed on the force in July 1958 by the nation’s first Agong. When Malaysia was formed in September 1963, the Royal Federation of Malayan Police, the North Borneo Armed Constabulary and Sarawak Constabulary merged and the present-day PDRM came into being.
Progress report
So how far has the nation’s police force progressed since the heady days of the 1800s? Judging from comments in the media, the rakyat’s perception of PDRM is rather poor. The major grouse concerns its inability to combat crime, especially in the urban areas. The recent dialogue between residents of Canning Garden, Simee and Ipoh Garden and the city police is a good indicator of this dichotomy. One resident lamented that it was no longer safe to walk in his neighbourhood after 6 p.m. Another bemoaned the lack of police presence in residential areas. Incidents of snatch thefts, robberies and petty thefts are on the rise and the Police seem powerless to contain them. These are major worries and perception, being what it is, will remain unchanged.
Statistics have been liberally used to show a downward trend in criminal activities. The reluctance of victims reporting to the Police is the reason. Many incidents of thefts and robberies go unreported largely because the victims do not see the necessity of making such attempts. “It’s too troublesome”, said the owner of a photo studio which was burgled last February.

The thief entered his shop through the roof, disarmed the alarm system and carted nearly RM40, 000 worth of cameras, lenses and petty cash. The intruder tried to dismantle a CCTV camera but failed and in the process an image of him was captured.Armed with the photo, the owner lodged a report but nothing was forthcoming. The same culprit was again caught on camera traipsing through a house at night in Taman Merdeka. Another report and yet another dead end. Even with photographic evidence, no arrest or identification has been made to date.
Frustration of Ipohites

This is the kind of frustration that confronts Ipohites on a daily basis. A feeling of impotence seems to dog  those entrusted with the care of the nation’s security. In spite of assurances and reassurances by senior police officers during dialogues and meetings, residents have not warmed up to them. Most are skeptical. They want admissions not denials, actions not words, facts not fictions and results not figures.
  Cars are hijacked. Even taxis are being targetted, what more necklaces and hand bags. All are fair game for these hardened criminals.
The days of the mata-mata making their rounds on foot and bicycles are long gone. Pak Abu, the constable on the beat, in my kampong in the 50s and 60s, was one fellow we rowdies would not dare to tangle with. The mere sight of him on his rickety bone-shaker would send shivers down our spines. Today you hardly see them, less for the ubiquitous traffic cops and the occasional patrol cars, with flashing blue lights, passing by.
PDRM Under Siege?

The Perak Police contingent observed the 203rd Police Day on March 25 with an impressive parade at the contingent headquarters. Deputy CPO, SAC 1 Dato’ Zakaria Yusof, delivered the IGP’s speech . “We cannot question the rakyat’s expectations that the Police Force respond efficiently and effectively with integrity and fairness. This is their right and, therefore, it’s our responsibility.”  Is this sufficient to shore up confidence in the force? I can’t possibly say.
 Hopefully, the new restructuring exercise and a pay revision will spur the personnel to greater heights.
A third force, said the IGP, was meddling in the affairs of the police. The Home Minister refuted the IGP’s claim. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, an Umno stalwart, made this pronouncement recently. “Before we can pursue meaningful economic strategy we need to get our house in order. We need to undertake bold reforms to restore the independence of the police, the anti-corruption commission and the judiciary”.

Restore the independence of the police? This is very interesting. Is PDRM under siege? I don’t have an answer.
Whatever it is, people’s expectations are high, and so are their hopes.

February’s Heat Wave Is A Sample Of Our Future


This February’s weather was brutal with many parts of the country registering record high temperatures. Predictably no one appeared to be bothered by this odd occurrence. Observations remained limited to high sales of air conditioners and increase in energy consumption. No question was raised why this occurred and whether it is a matter that deserves some attention.
Well I certainly am concerned. It requires no clairvoyant to prophesy that this abnormal event will soon become the ordinary and change we will experience from now on will likely trend to the more bizarre. I fear our next generation is looking at a bleak future and the generation after that perhaps none at all.
Reading books like Tom Friedman’s Hot, Flat and Crowded petrifies me as to what the future holds. I would suggest that each and every one who can read English invest in this book and read it from cover to cover. As for our leaders they better study it as if their life depended on it for it probably does.
Global Warming 101
For the benefit of those who have not heard of global warming or having heard of it have no real concept of what it is all about I have summarised below what Friedman says.
For 10,000 years there was roughly 280 parts per million (PPM) of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the earth’s atmosphere. Since the industrial revolution in the mid 19th Century it has steadily increased particularly in the last 50 years. In 2007 it was 384 parts per million, a figure the earth has not experienced in the last 20 million years. It is still climbing at the rate of 2 parts per million a year.
Large scale manufacturing activities are driven by fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide. Since the 20th century transportation powered by the internal combustion engine has been adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at an astronomical scale. These activities in addition, have been the cause of increased exploitation and consumption of raw materials, urbanisation, suburbanisation and a massive highway system all contributing to carbon dioxide emission in one way or another.
The pollutants called greenhouse gases generated by the industrial and transportation activities are accumulating in the atmosphere. The green house gasses trap sun’s heat near the earth’s atmosphere before that heat radiates back to space, making the globe warmer. 
Added to these activities is deforestation that is releasing carbon stored in the trees, plants and soil, the generation of methane, which is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat trapping agent, from rice farming, petroleum drilling, coal mining, animal defecation, solid waste landfills and even cattle belching.
The earth has already warmed on average by 0.8 degrees Celsius above the level in 1750 and the ten hottest years since the advent of thermometers in 1860 all occurred between 1995 and 2005.
2012 Too Late for Action
Freidman warns that “we are entering an era in which our effects on the climate are becoming potentially unmanageable and irreversible. Without a dramatic reduction in human induced Co2 emissions climate change may bring abrupt or irreversible effects on air, oceans, glaciers, land, coastlines and species. If there is no action before 2012 it will be too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment. Since we can’t stop Co2 emissions cold, if they continue to grow at just mid-range projection ‘the cumulative’ warming by 2100 will be between 3 and 5 degrees and these are just mid-range projections”.
In the next 50 years 100 PPM or more CO2 will be added to the atmosphere. If CO2 reaches 550PPM in the next 50 years there will be a 3% increase in temperature, an intolerable level. More significantly increase of 2 to 2.5 degrees would take us to the tipping point, a point of no return.
We must however bear in mind that the figures are averages, estimates and lowest consensus and feared events have lately been happening 100 years ahead of schedule.
Problems Compounded
Added to this is the fact that problems arising from changes in climate compound when factors interact with and amplify one another. For example the Arctic tundra has 500 billion tons of carbon trapped in the peat bogs and if the permafrost thaws, gigatons of carbon would be released which in turn would lead to higher temperatures with more ice melt and more catastrophic and unpredictable consequences. What is certain is that global warming is about to trigger all sorts of unusual weather events – from hotter heat spells and droughts in some places, heavier snowfall in others, violent storms, more intense flooding, forest fires and species loss in still others.
Further complications will arise as even a small increase in global average temperatures will have a huge impact on the weather because differences in temperature is what drives the winds and their circulation patterns on the surface of the earth affecting besides temperature precipitation, humidity, soil moisture, atmosphere circulation patterns, storms, snow and ice cover, ocean currents and upwelling.
Not only is the climate changing because of human activities but it is changing faster than even the most anxious climatologists were predicting just four years ago.
Malaysian Opportunities to Help
What is the solution to this impending doom? Friedman has suggested various steps that could be employed to, as he puts it manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable’. Whilst many of the recommendations are beyond our Nation’s means and ability there are some gems that our nation could adopt which can possibly lead to critical positive impact.
Nature has endowed us with some unique strengths that could serve as a foundation for a serious endeavour to address this problem. We could be a leader in this task. For decades we have been attempting to gain the respect of the world by engaging in some peculiar activities which has produced mixed results. Here is an opportunity to attain legitimate respect of the world community and perhaps even their following whilst benefiting our society.
To be perfectly frank, fashionable statements and symbolic gestures will be quite useless. What will make a difference are hard decisions rigorously enforced. They may be unpopular and cause much pain but they will be meaningful.
G. Sivaprasagam
What Malaysia Can Do:
1.       Stop deforestation
2.       Clean our rivers
3.       Impose very high fuel taxes for private vehicles
4.       Improve, expand and subsidise public transport
5.       Introduce carbon tax
6.       Reform urbanisation
7.       Encourage energy efficiency by rewards and penalty system
8.       Require all equipment to disclose energy consumption information
9.       Allow private sector to produce and sell clean energy
10.    Empower private sector to enforce public interest legislation

Boom on Budget Hotels


Over the last two years, about half a dozen budget hotels or those below four-star rating have emerged in various parts of the city.Their investors are seizing the opportunity during this time of economic slowdown to take business from prime hotel brands as businesses both large and small seek to scale down their hotel expenses. Being a city that is no longer as vibrant as when tin mining in the Kinta Valley was at its peak, Ipoh no longer attracts tourists or executives of big corporations with money to spend. And so over the past years, budget hotels have seen a boom as casual domestic visitors and business travellers to the city downgrade
to cheaper hotel accommodation.

Affordable Comfort

These budget hotels are offering a comprehensive range of accommodation facilities to travellers at affordable prices. And since these hotels are mostly located near the heart of the city and close to popular eateries and entertainment establishments, travellers prefer to stay there for obvious reasons.

Highway Hotel room

It may come as a surprise to know that Ipoh has a total of 66 licensed Hotels or Rumah Tumpangan (Boarding Houses) as they are officially described? They are in two categories, the Star (5 categories) and Orchid (3 categories). Of the 66 hotels located in the city, 25% are in the star category while the remainder are budget hotels under the orchid category.
In case our readers are asking themselves “Where are they?” and rattle off the star-rated hotels like Impiana, Syuen, Excelsior and Regency Tower, totally not remembering that the Fairmont, Eastern and that ‘Grand Old Lady’ – the Station Hotel, are still around.
Generally all that any guest expects from a hotel is a pleasant, clean and secure accommodation and hopefully at affordable rates.
That is what most of the new budget hotels located at shop lots are offering, thus providing a competitive service package to guests visiting the city.
According to Jimmy Yeo, the Chairman of Malaysia Association of Hoteliers (MAH), the budget hotels typically consist of 20 rooms and above, and provide the basic amenities for guests.

Budget Hotels in Sub-Centres
Over the last two years several budget hotels have opened up at sub-centres around Ipoh. Ipoh City Council defines sub-centres as being immediately outside the main city centre and has classified the areas of Medan Ipoh, Meru Raya, Simpang Pulai and Pengkalan Station 18 as sub-centres, allowing budget hotels to be located at converted shop lots.
The first of the new budget hotels, the Ipoh Times Inn Hotel opened for business in 2007. Located on busy Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah (Jalan Tasek), it is the first hotel you see when you exit from the North-South Expressway in the city.
According to its General Manager, Mr Kumar Thas, the Times Inn Hotel is part of a chain of budget hotels next to highway interchanges, explaining that the reason for selecting such locations was for easy accessibility for their customers. Additionally the location must have a variety of food outlets and some entertainment nearby.
At the Ipoh outlet all its rooms have attached bathrooms, television, air conditioning and Wi-Fi. All the corridors in the hotel are fitted with CCTV cameras. Each room rents for between RM60-90 per night with the highest rate for a family room.
The Times Inn Hotel does indeed follow closely its location specifications. Just down the road from the hotel is a 24-hour food outlet and about a kilometre behind is the sprawling Medan Ipoh food, entertainment and shopping outlets.
All hotels have their regular corporate customers. For Times Inn their customers regularly have dealings with the nearby shopping malls, hospitals and factories whose visitors commonly stay for several days.

Popular with families
Another common group of its customers are the Malay, Chinese and Punjabi families that come home during the long weekends, weddings and school holidays. During the major holidays like Chinese New Year and Hari Raya the hotel is full for 2-3 days.
These families usually stay at the hotel to freshen up and rest for the night. Incidentally Times Inn has several rooms on the ground floor to cater for senior citizens.
When Times Inn first opened its doors at the end of 2007 its occupancy rate was averaging 90%. Since then another two budget hotels have opened within a 3km radius and currently the occupancy rate is averaging 70%. However, that didn’t discourage Kumar from opening his second outlet immediately at the back of the current one in February this year.
Close-by is the Highway Hotel. Its Manager, Mr Patrick Hoo, explained that it was originally called the Highway Café. After his diners frequently asked him to recommend a nice hotel to stay, he decided to convert his premises to a hotel and named it the Highway Hotel.
Maintaining a similar modus operandi Hoo, also claims an occupancy rate of over 70%. His customer base too was similar. I enquired from a customer who was checking out, on his opinion of the hotel, and he replied it was “clean, had Wi-Fi, was close to the highway and had a nice price.”
Across town in Falim is another budget hotel, the Fresh Hotel which opened about two years ago. Its location at Taman Mas Falim lies in the centre of another sprawling suburb stretching from Menglembu to First Garden with Buntong in between. Hence it is not surprising that it too has a healthy occupancy rate with a similar customer base.
Other converted shop lot budget hotels can be found along Kuala Kangsar Road and at Pengkalan Station 18.

Approval of New Licences on Hold
After approving licences for several budget hotels on the outskirts of the city, a city council’s spokesman revealed that the Council is currently reviewing the licences due to certain “social issues”.
All of these budget hotels rent their rooms out on a “day use” basis meaning customers pay a low rate charge averaging RM30 for 2-3 hrs use only. Sensing this long term potential ‘social’ issue, the City Council is currently ‘drafting a policy’ to control it. Until the policy is completed all future approvals for budget hotels are on hold.
However future application for hotels located at “free standing” locations, (meaning a hotel located at a block by itself and not located in a converted shop lot), will be allowed.
But what of the other budget hotels that have been around for a long time. I had been asked not to name them but a reason why these older budget hotels are not well patronized is because the management has not upgraded the hotels.
The rooms may be generally clean and spacious but guests prefer a room with that refreshing feel. This is another factor why the newer budget hotels are popular.
One point noted by most of the interviewees was their guests were mainly families and corporate customers, rarely tourists. If there are tourists they would be transit tourists staying just one night.
Perhaps when we attract tourists to spend two nights or more per stay it would provide a reason for the older budget hotels and other hotels in general to upgrade their premises and bring vibrancy back to the city centre.

Bukit Larut’s Cable Car Project to Go Ahead



The Bukit Larut’s Cable Car Project, which has come under heavy fire from many quarters who are sceptical over its feasibility, is to go ahead.
The Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Nazrin Shah, said at the opening of the Perak State Assembly in Ipoh on March 30 that it would be developed by private sector at the cost of RM60 million.
“When ready, it will be a new attraction to Taiping, which is already rich with various tourism products,” said Raja Nazrin.
The state government, he said, would impose tight restrictions and requirements to ensure that the environment is not affected by the project.
His assurance is to appease of the fears by NGOs of the environmental impact the cable car project would have on the hill resort.
Presently, the only transport up the 1,250 metres above sea-level hill resort is by land rover service available at the foot of the hill. It leaves every hour from 7am to 6pm.
It is a 30-minute drive up the steep hairpin bends of the narrow winding road built shortly after World War II and completed in 1948.
On a clear day at the summit, it is possible to view the sweeping coastline stretching from Pangkor Island to Penang.