Recently, some friends asked me why I am creating a reputation as a critic of the Ipoh City Council. My reply has been, and will always be, that I harbour no grudges against the city council, its Mayor, councillors or employees.
It is my responsibility as a journalist towards the society, particularly the city’s ratepayers in this case, to highlight the short-comings of the city council. Therefore, since early 1990 I have been raising various issues or forwarding suggestions, not just to city council, but also to those of government agencies and the private sector, in my desire to see good governance.
First through the weekly column “Ipoh Outlook” of the New Straits Times, later the “The Other Side of the Valley” of the Sun, and now “My Say” of the Ipoh Echo. These columns are written without malice or hidden agenda. They are meant to be “feedback” to the relevant authorities.
My cherished wish is to see Ipoh regain the vibrant and beautiful image it had prior to being accorded city status 22 years ago. I had taken a liking to Ipoh since I took residence in 1973; it was then a municipal council, which had many qualities I found worthy of praise.
However, after two decades of my highlighting the issues, the city council appears to have adopted a nonresponsive attitude. Maybe, it feels that “silence is golden” and allows the issues to be blown over, rather than clarifying them or taking steps to remedy them. Therefore, I have been repeatedly raising certain issues, in the hope that the relevant authorities will take note and begin to address them.
Among them is the need for the city council to rejuvenate the city centre. It saddens me to see much of the city centre becoming neglected and desolate and may soon become swiftlet hotels as the recorded chirpings of the swiftlets can now be heard loud and clear.
Already about 10 per cent of the business premises in the heart of new and old town sectors, bordering Jalan Sultan Idris Shah-Jalan Raja Ekram-Jalan Sultan Iskandar-Jalan Sultan Yusuf, have either been vacated or condemned.
Owners of most business premises seem to have lost any interest in redeveloping them as they see no future and much of the business and commercial activities are moving to new growth areas outside the city centre.
Evidence of the city centre being unattractive to investments can be seen by the poor response to the offer for development of the site along Jalan Raja Ekram once occupied by the famous landmark Yau Tet Shin Market, or popularly known as the circular market, which is proposed to be the hub of a cultural district in the city.
If there is going to be any hope of the city centre reviving, the city council must sincerely look into activities that could induce re-development that include parking spaces, but it is yet to come up with some viable proposals or projects. Even existing beautification projects such as the fountains are being neglected.
Ipoh needs a good theme, around which it could be developed and promoted. I don’t see why the well-known slogan “City That Tin Built” should not be used to market the city. These four words aptly describe the history of the city and the heritage it inherited from the once glorious tin mining industry in the Kinta Valley.
Why use other slogans, such as, “City of Bougainvillea…Virtual City…Ipoh Indah dan Maju” and currently, “Bersih, Hijau dan Membangun”, which only serve as mockery to the ability of the city council, while we have the heritage assets to promote tourism for the city.