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Medan – a City of Surprises


Postcard from Medan

by Djoko Nademhopi



People often ask me what Medan is like. The general perception is that it is grimy and boring with nothing to do. Well it’s not like that.

I was on the plane home when I met three Malaysians who just had a golfing holiday in Medan. Not knowing what ‘a hole in one’ is or vice versa, I could not engage in golf talk. Anyway, I asked how it went. “Fantastic!” they chorused. Why all the way to play golf? The greens fees are cheap and the caddies are something else, they told me. Apparently, the caddies here are females. There must be more to golf than hitting a white ball and chasing after it in Medan. There are at least three golf courses around the city.

Medan is like that, full of surprises. It’s not just a hustling bustling city where the roads are forever macat (jammed) and nowhere to go. Medan has a lot to offer if you look for it.

It used to be a staging point for Danau Toba and Nias which is one of the best surfing spots in the world but these days tourists are increasingly spending more time in Medan.

Depending on what your interests are, there are museums, mosques, cathedrals, heritage buildings, restaurants and street life – plenty of street culture.

There are even art galleries whether you are a serious collector or just want a pretty picture to hang on your wall. Of course the art scene is not as vibrant as in Bali, Yogja or Jakarta but Medan is by no means a cultural desert.

The word “Medan” means a field, a padang. In this case a battlefield where the Acehnese fought the Deli Malays from late 16th century to the early 17th century.  It’s quite peaceful these days; the only ‘fights’ are political as each party gears up for the presidential election next year.


From a backwater Medan has grown to be the third largest city (population 2.1 million) in Indonesia. The wealth is conspicuous as more and more high rises pop up all over the place and shopping complexes are chock-a-block. The mansions here are tourist attractions – huge and ornate monstrosities with Grecian columns and Florentine embellishments.

But it’s not just skyscrapers and brand new mansions, Medanese also realise the importance of heritage and there is an attempt by both the public and private sector to preserve colonial buildings like the General Post Office. The old town hall has been incorporated into the architecture of the Grand Aston Hotel.

While there is grime – don’t expect Singapore clean – there is little crime. But having said that there has been a recent spate of bag snatching. However, Medan Police Chief Snr Comdr Nico Afinta said that Medan is still a safe place for tourists.

Like in any big city one has to take commonsense precautions with one’s property. Shootings, bag snatching and muggings are relatively rare; much depends on the area – generally it is a safe city.

The new airport at Kuala Namu is about 1.5 hours by taxi to Medan and 37 minutes by train according to the operator. The train station is right by the airport and it costs IDR80,000 (RM22) to Medan. It takes you right into the heart of downtown Medan opposite the spanking new Centre Point Mall and Kariba Hotel.

Taxis cost anything from IDR130,000 (RM36) to IDR200,000 (RM55) depending on your haggling skill. Taking a taxi brings you right to your destination and can take four passengers (if you do not have too much luggage) it can be cheaper than the train. (The current exchange rate: RM270 to IDR1,000,000).

Taxis in Medan are both metered and non-metered. The Executive (white) and Blue Bird taxis are metered. The boarding fare is IDR20,000 (RM5.50) for the first 10km. They are generally very clean and the drivers very polite. Avoid non-metered taxis.

There must be at least one hundred hotels in Medan, from posh establishments like JW Marriot, Grand Aston, Santika Dyandra, to cheaper ones like Grand Swiss-Bel, Grand Angkasa, Tiara, Danau Toba International and budget hotels. With the recent spate of power cuts it is best to avoid the budget hotels, which probably do not have generators.

There is no shortage of choice when it comes to food. Because of Indonesia’s ethnic diversity you can get Sundanese, Padang, Aceh, Minang, Batak, Betawi and even Malay cuisine (if you look hard enough, the Malays are a very small minority in Medan and I think in Indonesia, as a whole). Each region has its own unique flavour and it will take more than a weekend to try them all.

Street food is plentiful from bakso, to ayam penyet to soto to nasi uduk, mie aceh and more. They are cheap and tasty if you don’t mind mingling with the locals. There are also Chinese restaurants but also Chinese hawker food if you don’t want to spend too much. I can think of only one Indian resto (restaurants – Indonesians are prone to shorten words). And if the chilies have got to your guts by the third day take bandrake tea and you will be right as rain again.

The electrical outlets are different from Malaysia’s so bring your attachments if you want to charge up your phone or use your tablet.

Medan is an experience rather than a sterile showpiece. Soak up the atmosphere and get into the local culture if you want a good time. The people are friendly and helpful and may even show you places not in the guidebook if you ask them. As long as you are good at haggling you won’t get scalped too much; the rule of thumb is to half or one third the opening price depending on what you buy and where. The mall shops normally have fixed prices.

In the next postcard we will look at some places of interest. Meanwhile for tourist information contact:

North Sumatera Tourist Office
Jln Ahmad Yani 107
Tel: +62 061 452 8436.
Opens from 8am to 4pm

Young Emotion – Memories from an Old Free


Book Review

By Wern Sze Gill

Young Emotion 1Student days …… Words cannot describe the beauty of its carefree days. It is a personal treasure that everyone has; one that comes alive again when you meet an old friend or when you visit your home town. Memories of how things were then, the pranks, the games, the loves…

Young Emotion, authored by Ipoh-based obstetrician and gynecologist Dr Teoh Soong Kee, is a collection of treasured memories from his days as a teenager in Penang. It was during his secondary years at the prestigious Penang Free School where his love for writing began. Young Emotion contains snapshots in poems and short stories, of student day-memories which engages the older reader to reminisce of similar happy days, while opening up to the younger reader a glimpse of life in the ‘good old days’. Not just refreshingly lucid, Young Emotion is raw and rich with the passion of a witty yet eloquent youth, who from humble beginnings, journeyed through student days with caring friends and inspiring teachers who helped shaped his life. Through the pages of Young Emotion, you will not only be transported back to your happy days as a youth, but inspire you to consider living the rest of your life with passion and purpose.

Young Emotion (117 pages) is available at Dr Teoh’s clinic at Ipoh Specialist Hospital (call Tracy 05 255 1406) or at St Peter’s church (call Jenny 05 546 0444) at a minimum donation of RM15 per copy. All proceeds will benefit the Penang Free School student fund.

Why would you eat in a dirty restaurant?


Thinking Allowed

By Mariam Mokhtar

mariam mokhtarDo Malaysians really care about dirty restaurants or are they more interested in the taste of the food? We complain about dirty restaurants but some of us continue to patronise these places. Perhaps, Malaysians don’t care about hygiene as long as they can eat the food they are used to.

If you sit beside the smelly monsoon drain, which is blocked with rubbish, you don’t think about the drain and your proximity to it. You just want to be served quickly and savour the food.

The dirty rag which the waiter used to wipe a mess on the floor is then used to clean the table, and you think nothing of resting your hands and cutlery on the table. Very few of us request fresh cutlery, if the one we were given are encrusted with bits of hardened food. Others who find lipstick stains on the rim of the glass simply turn it around 180 degrees.

Diners who see a fly hovering over food, may find on closer scrutiny, that the fly has laid eggs – tiny clusters of pearly white lozenges, almost invisible to the naked eye. Have you ever wondered how many times the garnish adorning a dish has been used? You might wonder if the bread has been on parade in the bread basket.

I have seen rats scurrying up the curtain in a restaurant in Ipoh, but the patrons merely laughed at the “playful” rats, and carried on eating. Produce, like vegetables, is stored on the wet floor, next to the toilets but you shrug your shoulders and wait patiently for your meal. We have seen some hawker stalls in which dishwashing involves dunking dishes into a bowl of murky water, before being stacked up for re-use.

If the parts of a restaurant that you can see are dirty, what about the bits you cannot see? As a rough guide to the standards of hygiene, try and check the toilets. If the customer toilets are dirty, just imagine what the kitchens are like, where only members of staff are allowed.

Are government statistics available which tell us how many people fall ill through food poisoning every year, and in which establishments – school or staff canteens, stalls, restaurants or takeaways? How many people were admitted to hospital and how many died?

Out of all the cases of food poisoning, how many people actually file an official complaint? What was the outcome of the complaint? Is an apology sufficient? Should one be paid compensation as well? When does the Health Ministry get involved? Do the health inspectors ever perform surprise checks?

Does the Health Ministry inspect the premises following a complaint and verify that the restaurant kitchen is unhygienic, as was claimed? We know that bacteria are dangerous, but vindictive and spiteful people can spread rumours that are just as poisonous.

On 15 November, Ipohites were shocked to learn that their popular nasi kandar restaurant, Perniagaan Nasi Kandar Ayam Merah, on Jalan Yang Kalsom, famed for its “Nasi Ganja” had its operating licence revoked by the Ipoh City Council.

According to Mayor Roshidi Hashim, the joint raid was “part of a scheduled raid” and the operator “had scored insufficient points” and had been ordered to close for 14 days, by the health authorities. The raid was done at 5pm on Thursday November 14 and the order to shut immediately was issued then.

The allegations which prompted the closure were stated on Facebook by a woman, who called herself Ze Aida. She blogged that a nasi kandar outlet had put faeces in the food.

On Friday November 15, an outraged manager of Perniagaan Nasi Kandar Ayam Merah, Mohd Nihmathullah Syed Mustaffa, convened a press conference and denied the allegations of faeces in the food. His business has been operating since 1955 and he challenged the media and the woman who started the furore to provide evidence instead of making defamatory remarks.

By Saturday November 16, Ze Aida had retracted her allegation and issued a public apology. The authorities had also inspected the premises and had no objections to the store re-opening. On Monday, November 17, the restaurant was back in business to the delight of its customers, who said that they had not believed the allegations.

Why did Ze Aida start malicious rumours and begin three days of hell, for the ‘nasi ganja’ owner?

The manager, Mohd Nihmathullah should demand compensation from the authorities for acting in an unprofessional manner. Ze Aida’s allegation almost ruined his business and the livelihoods of the people he employs. The Health Ministry must learn to investigate allegations and not make knee-jerk reactions.


Ipoh’s Reputation Trashed


Thinking Allowed

By Mariam Mokhtar

Last March, Ipoh Mayor Dato’ Roshidi Hashim, said that the Ipoh City Council (MBI) was hoping to achieve an 80 per cent level of cleanliness in the city by August. It is now November and a public spat is brewing between the residents of Ipoh and MBI, each side is blaming the other and the tussle is most disheartening.

Ipoh is a city which is struggling with its image. Previous nicknames give an insight into its former glory; ‘City of Millionaires … Town That Tin Built … Bougainvillea City’ and presently, ‘The Green, Clean and Developing City’.  Many senior citizens will fondly recall the Ipoh of yore, which they claim is nothing like what it is today.

Rubbish dump in Ipoh

Lately, over-flowing bins, discarded black bin bags, streets littered with refuse, clogged drains, stray dogs rummaging for food and rats are not just an eyesore but a health hazard. No area is spared. Inhabitants of new townships on the outskirts of the city, and the privileged people in the posh residential areas, have grown familiar with the unsightly mess of growing piles of rubbish.

One person may dump a plastic bottle under a tree, or by the road side, and before long the litter assumes a life of its own and grows from a tiny mound to a mountain of muck. Branches from a pruned garden, left by the roadside, will attract more garden waste from elsewhere, until the compost heap stretches along the road.

Uncut grass verges encroach into drains, causing weeds to choke the flow of water, thus increasing the chances of mosquito infestation. Snakes and monitor lizards from unkempt areas have invaded the gardens and homes of readers.

At one time council workers would demand to inspect the gardens of residential homes, and then impose a fine for growing large leaved plants like the crab-clawed heliconias or pitcher plants; these plants had large foliage or flowers which would naturally hold rainwater.

It is frustrating to speak to council officials who refuse to acknowledge that fogging is not as effective as the regular servicing of drains or clearing of rubbish. Piles of rubbish, with empty tins of stagnant water and rotting food which attracts vermin, pose a serious health risk.

Recently, Mayor Roshidi admitted that he was unable to keep the city clean and faulted the residents for the filthy state of the city. He was right to an extent, as residents are partly to be blamed for the state of affair. However, those who pay their assessment rates promptly and are very civic conscious strongly believe they are being short-changed, especially with respect to keeping their city clean.

Irregular rubbish collection will inevitably result in illegal dumping of rubbish. When the city’s rubbish trucks make irregular trips to residential areas, it is not the residents fault. When the rubbish men leave some of the rubbish behind, it is not the fault of the house-owner.

If there are insufficient garbage bins in and around eateries, patrons and food peddlers cannot dispose of their litter properly. If blocked public drains are only cleared after the city council has received repeated calls from irate citizens, the public services cannot be deemed to be efficient.

If small, manageable back-garden bonfires are not permitted, how can people dispose of their garden trimmings? Why doesn’t MBI allocate each home a few large, reusable, heavy-duty garden refuse bags so that each fortnight, garden waste like twigs and grass cuttings can be collected? The council could convert this into compost and sell it back to the public for use in their gardens.

Why doesn’t MBI install more recycling bins in the city centre, and bigger dedicated recycling collection centres in and around Ipoh, for recycling garden waste, discarded furniture, old electrical goods, household waste, used motor oil and old batteries?

Is Ipoh’s rubbish problem because of a shortage of money, an ineffective rubbish programme or incompetent rubbish contractors? Some people wonder if workers are supervised adequately. Are rubbish prone areas adequately monitored? Is enforcement effective?

Are our schoolchildren being taught the importance of cleanliness? Youngsters who are empowered can reach out to their older relatives and educate them. Are there adequate numbers of public education programmes?

Perak Menteri Besar, Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abd Kadir, wants Perak to be a developed state by 2015. With strict controls and enforcement, developed countries like Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark are proud of their recycling efforts and rubbish disposal record.

The problem of rubbish, just like safety, is everyone’s responsibility. Ipohites would like to know how the mayor and his councillors want to resolve the rubbish problem. MBI should consult the public as well as talking to companies which want to secure local government contracts.

Efficient rubbish collection is like baking a cake. You throw in the right ingredients, in the appropriate order and everything will come out alright.


The Kindest Cut of All



By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

Given the option to have surgery with a choice of surgeons, I would certainly choose Dr Chan Ching Phing. As consultant General Surgeon in Fatimah Hospital, Dr Chan has only recently left General Hospital Bainun to take up full time consultancy a year ago.

Dr Chan Ching Phing-2

The reason for my choice of Dr Chan as preferred surgeon is due to her one and a half year’s training in the Plastic Surgery department at the General Hospital in Ipoh. Not that I have any actual experience of her operating on me but having had a fair number of surgeries in my past, I have enough scars on my body to qualify for the “Most Scarred For Life” title if there was ever to be a competition. And these are scars not embellished by the specialist touch of a plastic surgeon’s handiwork. Which are always much finer, the stitching, more delicate.

Understandably, the raison d’etre for going to a General Surgeon is not for cosmetic reasons but often for life-saving ones, but it certainly helps to put oneself in the hands of a surgeon who does delicate suturing work as well.

Dr Chan never dreamt of becoming a surgeon. Finishing her medical degree and posted as a houseman at the General Hospital in Ipoh in 1992, she found herself in the Plastic Surgery department and it was here that she developed her passion for surgery.

Dr Chan Ching Phing-1Applying for the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) a professional qualification for practising as a surgeon in the British Isles in 1995 saw her passing her first examination with ease and subsequently breezing through Part 1 in 1996 and Part 2 in 1998 soon saw her accredited as a full fledged Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Further training in Laparoscopic surgery soon established Dr Chan as one of the few laparoscopic surgeons in Ipoh, performing minimally invasive surgery, bandaid surgery, or keyhole surgery, which is a modern surgical technique in which operations in the abdomen are performed through small incisions as opposed to the larger incisions needed in laparotomy. This technique is ideal for gall bladder removal (known as cholecystectomy), or appendix surgery.

Other surgeries commonly performed by Dr Chan include Hernioplasty which require repair of the abdominal wall or repair of inguinal hernias more commonly found in men, which occurs when tissue pushes through a weak spot in the groin muscle. This causes a bulge in the groin or scrotum that may hurt or burn.

But her true sub-specialty as a General Surgeon is in breast surgery where most of her current workload is focused. “Actually, the correct person to manage breast cancer is the General Surgeon, together with the Oncologist of course. While the detection of breast lumps may come from any physician or specialist especially the gynaecologist, the decisions on removal and subsequent management rest with the surgeon in consultation with the oncologist.”

“Breast Cancer can be localised or systemic and the treatment options will vary depending on the diagnosis. I prefer a conservative approach, always recommending a lumpectomy (removal of the breast lumps or lumps) first and only as a last resort, a total mastectomy” she added.

When asked what she thought of Superstar Angelina Jolie’s double breast mastectomy as a breast cancer preventive due to finding a specific gene indicative of a tendency towards breast cancer, Dr Chan said,  “ I think she is very brave, not just to be able to live long enough to see her children grow up but to tell the whole world about herself losing her breasts (one of GOD’s greatest creation for a woman). By doing so she can actually help many women to face their disease and continue to live normally. Bravo Angelina! I give her a big salute.”

One of the principal precepts of medical ethics which is taught in all medical schools is that of “Primum non nocere” or “First Do no Harm”. Given that a General Surgeon’s primary task is to perform invasive surgery, Dr Chan finds herself walking a constant tightrope between recommending invasive surgery or leaving a medical condition well alone and prescribing palliative treatment instead. Judging by the number of happy patients treated by Dr Chan, is testimony to the fact that she walks that tightrope very well.

To contact Dr Chan Ching Phing:
CP Chan Surgery, Hospital Fatimah, Suite 11 (Grd flr)
Tel: 05 548 9098

Woven in Deception


Book Review

By Chelvi Murugiah

Woven in DeceptionWoven in Deception is a classic Indian tale condensed in a 153-page book on the trials and tribulations of three generations of a wealthy Indian family, spanning over a century. The book relates the geographical move from India to Malaysia and the continuing struggles faced by three generations of the Kamelanathan family, apparently due to a curse inflicted upon them.

Although the theme seems heavy-handed, Woven in Deception is pretty much a light and easy read from start to finish. The author is able to keep the reader entertained with her tales that are easy to comprehend and, notably, identifiable individual and group behaviour within typical Indian households.

So, if you happen to be looking out for a good weekend read, nothing too mind-boggling, this book is quite straight forward, and would make an ideal selection.

The author, Nirmala Kasinathan, of Indian origin and a doctor from Ipoh, aptly reflects the Indian diaspora in Woven in Deception, beginning in the early 20th century. She takes readers through a litany of imaginary happenings, portraying  living conditions during the British and Japanese Occupation, right up to post-Independence and leading to incidences as current as 2010.

The historical background of Malaysia and evolution of the Indian origin compliments the unravelling of the extended family saga spanning three generations. The book tells tales of love, marriage, betrayal, despair, frustration and more. These emotions and manifestation of human sentiments are revisited through the unfolding of the descendants’ lives throughout the book.

Woven in Deception is centred on the belief that a curse so strong had been inflicted upon three generations of the Kamelanathan family by an angry, never-to-be father-in-law.  The reading reveals the customary practices (mainly superstition), within the Indian and Ceylonese communities where an elder of a family, takes on a superiority position to consult with an astrologer for predictions on their family members’ future. An astrologer’s word, however illogical, is seemingly held in high esteem and is considered the absolute truth, no evidence required. As spelled out in Woven in Deception, each member of the extended Kamelanathan’s family’s misfortune is decidedly due to the curse, inflicted three generations earlier.

Progressing through the chapters, are revelations and turning points in the lives of the protagonists in each generation. Secrets and personal longings are reflected upon to justify intentions and actions taken. The “sizzle” factor, however, takes on a rather passive note, as the author chooses to depict the main characters’ private lives and thoughts rather politely. However, the storyline does reflect, in reality, the workings of a typical class-conscious Indian family.

Whether by design or not, Woven in Deception’s storyline is, in my opinion “woven-in-deception” through the revelation of strong subliminal influences which form the crux of the Indian community’s identity. The Indian social organisation is, till today, structured on its culture, superstition, social norms, caste system and its discriminating patriarchal social system, that define roles of family members within an Indian household.

As an advocate for the equality for women, I abhor patriarchy, and commend the author, although she did so passively, for revealing the conservative traditional and restrictive beliefs practised by Indians and Ceylonese till today.

Woven in Deception is a good medium to create awareness to the readership on gender discrimination and social-class segregation, caste systems, traditions, norms and culture that inhibit the progress of the Indian community, per se.

To quote Arundhati Roy, an accomplished Indian author and political activist, “Our strategy should not only be to confront but to lay siege. To deprive it of oxygen, to shame it, to mock it, with our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance , our sheer relentlessness – in our ability to tell our stories. Stories that are different from the ones many are brainwashed to believe.”

Woven in Deception (166 pages) is published by Strategic Book Publishing in Houston, Texas. The book USD12.95 and can be ordered through the publisher’s website: or at or

For Malaysian readers, the book can be obtained directly from the author at RM40 per copy (inclusive of postage and handling). Contact Dr Nirmala at 016 508 4263 or 05 527 6453, or email: (Those interested can bank into Maybank account 108225181197 (Acc. holder: Nirmala a/p A K Nadan @ Kasinathan) the cost of the books as ordered and email the author the banking slip as proof of transaction. Kindly provide full mailing address. Books will be sent by Poslaju within 2-3 days or may be collected personally from the author’s residence in Ipoh.

The Exclusive Beverly Thompson


beverlyIpoh, for all its development that has been ongoing for several years now, still has that relaxed, easy going ambiance that many urbanites from Kuala Lumpur or Penang long for.

With the pace of property development picking up over the years  the sub-urban housing sprawl has spread throughout the Kinta Valley. This sprawl now stretches from Simpang Pulai in the South to Klebang in the North with Pengkalan in the West.

Nevertheless, despite all the progress that has enveloped Ipoh over the last five years and many a well-located plot has been quickly snapped up and developed by enterprising property developers, exclusive addresses located in choice locations are still available within the core of the city.

Well known developer, Kinta Real Estate, synonymous for developing quality properties and delivering on time, will be introducing 14 semi-detached units and 2 units of bungalows called the Beverly Thompson Residence.

Beverly Thompson Residence located at Jalan Tun Dr Ismail (formerly known as Thompson Road), is Ipoh’s exclusive, not to mention affluent address and lies lushly amidst a green and serene environment.

Its immediate neighbour is the Perak Turf Club while literally around the corner is the Sultan Abdul Aziz recreation ground, better referred to as the Polo Ground. Another green lung in close proximity is the Royal Perak Golf Club.

All units in the Beverly Thompson Residence are three storeys and each comes with five bedrooms complete with attached bathrooms.

Its other features include individual domestic lift system, 3-phase wiring, security alarm system, centralised hot water system, water booster pump system and home sauna system.

With a launch date scheduled for Christmas 2013, the 16 units are anticipated to be snapped up by discerning buyers seeking an exclusive address with all the mod cons of a prestigious development.


Total Units: 16 — Land Tenure: Freehold

 3 Storey Semi-Detached       : 14 units

Land Area                                : 3,676 sq ft (min) 5,970 sq ft (max)

Built-up Area                           : 5,394 sq ft

Price                                        : RM1.9 million and below.

3 Storey Bungalow                : 2 units

Land Area                                : 6,082 sq ft (min)  7,502 sq ft (max)

Built up area                           : 5,854 sq ft

Price                                        : RM2.6 million


The development is open for registration. For details contact:

Beverly Thompson Sdn Bhd
70 Jalan Raja Ekram,
30450 Ipoh, Perak.
Tel: 05 242 1881.
Fax: 05 242 3399.   Website:
Contact persons:  Jane Poo or Michelle Law

About Kinta Real Estate

Kinta Real Estate, the developer of Beverly Thompson Residence is a well-known and established developer of over 10 years. Its developed properties include quality houses and high-end residential properties.

Its earliest development was 227 units of commercial and residential units at First Garden in 2003, Taman Silibin in 2006 and subsequently 189 commercial and residential units at Taman Bercham Idaman and Racing Circle both completed in 2009.

Its latest completed project was the Meru Desa Park comprising of 210 units of double storey terrace homes and 62 units of semi detached homes. Under the management of Kinta Real Estate Sdn Bhd, their current ongoing projects are The Majestic Ipoh, Meru Desa Park and Tin City.

Boy Has Lucky Escape


Thinking Allowed

By Mariam Mokhtar


Boy has lucky escape - Mohd Amar Mohd AzizMohd Amar Mohd Aziz, a ten-year-old primary schoolboy from Sekolah Kebangsaan Belanga, in Parit had a lucky escape after being shot by a police sergeant on Monday October 14.

The incident happened around 4.30pm at Kampung Belanja Kiri when the policeman alleged that whilst cleaning his pistol in front of his in-laws’ house, a bullet was negligently discharged from the Walther P99 automatic, and hit Amar who was playing about 50 metres away.

The bullet entered beside Amar’s nose, and stopped at the back of his skull, near the bones at the nape of the neck (the cervical vertebrae). He was “lucky” because the bullet missed his spinal cord and the major blood vessels in the neck, by one centimetre.

Despite his injury, Amar was able to run home and alert members of his family to seek help. They first took him to a clinic in Parit, then the Batu Gajah Hospital where he was transferred to the Ipoh General Hospital. At the paediatric intensive care unit, he waited for specialists to operate and remove the bullet.

Hospital neurosurgeon Dr Cheang Chee Keong said that movement could damage the vital structures that were near the bullet and said that if Amar’s spinal cord had been hit, he could have been paralysed and damage to his voice box would have made him mute.

Hospital director, Dr Raja Lope Ahmad said that members of his medical team were in constant discussion with Amar’s family to advise them on the best option with the least risk.

On the morning of October 20, six days after the shooting incident, a team of six specialists took two hours to remove the bullet lodged in Amar’s neck. His relieved father, Mohd Azizi Abdullah said that on regaining consciousness, his son had asked for a glass of water. He said, “I am so glad that the doctors managed to conduct the operation and that my son is in a stable condition now.”

As a temporary precaution, Amar was placed in a neck brace as his neck bone had cracked from the impact of the bullet. Dr Cheang said that doctors would re-examine his neck after two months to see if further surgery was necessary, to stabilise his neck.

Amar may be on the road to recovery, but attention soon focused on the circumstances leading to the shooting. Initial reports indicate that the police sergeant was cleaning his weapon when it was fired. He was a deputy investigating officer with the Taiping police headquarters and he was on leave.

Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Leong Ah Kow said that the pistol and a magazine with 14 rounds of ammunition, which were seized after the incident, would help investigations, under Section 39 of the Firearms Act 1960. The policeman involved was detained, to assist with enquiries.

Angry citizens have expressed their outrage and concern about the incident and asked if the incident was a case of negligence, reckless abandon or bravado, by the policeman.

One man said, “Why did the policeman not surrender his gun, when he was on leave? Are there no Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)?” Another said, “If the policeman was negligent, then his superiors are also negligent. Both should be charged with dereliction of their duties.”

A former member of the armed forces said, “Safety procedures must be strictly adhered to. Safety is everyone’s responsibility. Investigations should include his superiors, not just the suspect.”

A former policewoman said, “Disciplinary action should be taken against those who neglected their duties in ensuring strict adherence to SOP and the monitoring of firearms movement. This incident gives an insight into the missing firearms highlighted by the Auditor-General’s report.”

One cynic said, “I would not be surprised if there is no further action (NFA) in this case. After all, the Home Minister advocated a policy of “Shoot first, ask questions later”. Someone else said, “If there’s a blame, then there’s a claim.”

The NGO, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) has recommended that the policeman should be suspended, whilst Dr Kok Chin Leong, the president of the Malaysian Paediatric Association said that a review of existing firearms laws and the enforcement of more stringent protocols and SOPs of firearms are necessary.

The investigation into the shooting is ongoing. Initial news reports claimed that doctors had been informed that the child was hit by a bullet which ricocheted off the ground; however, witnesses allege that the shot had been fired in Amar’s direction. Moreover, a police source said that X-rays were not consistent with a bullet which had been deformed by striking the ground.

Perak police chief Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani said, “We changed our angle of investigation after taking statements from witnesses. The policeman was on leave during the incident and we want to know why he was carrying his weapon when he wasn’t on duty.”

Indicating that the “straight-forward, non-complicated and non-tricky case” would soon be closed, he assured the public that the investigations would be conducted with transparency, and that the deputy public prosecutor’s office would receive their report. He did not want the public to think that policemen were unprofessional and behaving like they were not fully trained.

Nirmala’s Literary Debut



By Emily Lowe


Nirmala's Literary DebutA two-year plus stint at the psychiatry department of a public hospital in Ipoh provides medical officer Nirmala Kasinathan the opportunity to get up close and personal with patients struggling with mental health issues. This was the inspiration behind her literary debut, ‘Woven in Deception’.

She was touched by the problems faced by these patients of psychiatry, a specialised field of study where science meets the mind, body and soul. It was a combination of two different fields. These people, who were presented with many different challenges in life, were the basis for the characters Dr Nirmala built out of her own imagination.

Dating back to the early 1900s in India, the storyline gradually moved to Ipoh, where the thirty-something writer grew up. The fiction, about a wealthy, high-caste Indian family, and the curse that had befallen upon the family, spanning three generations, makes for an engaging read.

An avid reader since young, Nirmala, who has always been interested in the medical field, history and Indian culture, spending two and a half years studying in India, had used her own knowledge, background and research to develop her characters.

Despite having no formal training in creative writing, although she used to contribute short stories and articles to school and college publications during her schooling days, Nirmala had carefully crafted her words, taking only eight months to finish writing Woven in Deception.

In an exclusive interview with Ipoh Echo, Nirmala said, “With this book, I was able to portray the Indian culture in an international language, for a global audience.” She considers English her first language, and is also fluent in the Malay language and Tamil.

Nirmala hopes that through her book, which teaches one to face life’s struggles, persevere in overcoming them, and to get on with life positively, will help readers triumph over their own challenges.

The author, who is considering a second novel when time permits, added, “Writing is a form of expression that adds to our collection of literature; a written record of our culture, knowledge, or advancement. It is something that young people can aspire to do. I would like to encourage more local authors to continue writing and get their work published.”

Woven in Deception is available at major online book stores such as Barnes & Noble and It can also be purchased directly from Nirmala via her email at RM40 per copy, inclusive of handling charges and postage within Malaysia. The book is also available in e-book format.

Look out for the book review in the next issue.


Birds Foul-Up Clear Vision


Thinking Allowed

By Mariam Mokhtar

Thinking AllowedMalaysians are aware that the use of CCTVs has taken off in Malaysia. The idea is to reduce our dependency on security guards, because of problems in finding suitable and responsible workers.

According to one industry expert, CCTV operations are cheaper in the long run. They can be operated 24 hours per day, seven days a week.  The CCTVs are not affected by employees calling in sick, staff annual holidays, emergency leave or staff who are absent from their posts for long coffee breaks or extended lunches.

In March 2010, the Ipoh City Council made plans to install an additional 76 CCTVs, to augment the 24 units which had already been approved by the Housing and Local Government Ministry.

Ipoh Mayor Roshidi Hashim said that the installation would enhance security in the rapidly developing Ipoh city and its surroundings. Business centres were being built in areas further from the city centre, like Simpang Pulai, Bercham or Taman Meru, and Roshidi said that CCTVs would help reassure residents, within and outside the city centre, of their safety.

Roshidi said that each CCTV unit was estimated to cost RM3,000 and that funding  for the additional CCTVs would be borne by the taxpayer. The CCTVs would be linked to a control room in the city council and also to the Perak police headquarters.

It is gratifying to note that the rural community is not excluded from the promotion of the use of CCTVs. There is a drive by the Malaysian government, to upgrade 15 community colleges throughout the nation, and the Gerik Community College (GCC) has already received 16 CCTVs. The total upgrade allocation for nationwide colleges cost the government RM50.17 million.

The 2012 Auditor-General’s Report revealed a huge price difference between the price of the CCTVs supplied to GCC and those supplied to a similar college in Masjid Tanah, Malacca. One CCTV unit in Gerik was valued at RM85,500 compared with the Masjid Tanah one, which cost RM10,249. The CCTVs in Masjid Tanah was approximately eight times cheaper than the cameras in Gerik.

The high cost of the CCTV installation in Gerik can be attributed to its rural location and the difficulty of finding experienced contractors, who were willing to undertake work in the countryside. Gerik is more remote than Masjid Tanah.

The Education Ministry has justified the high cost of the CCTVs, by claiming that they had been purchased separately. They said, “The specifications, design, suppliers, locations and method of installation were different. The prices had been reviewed during the tender process as part of the entire project cost.” This sounds very plausible.

Critics of the audit claimed that a CCTV, which had been installed on the second floor of a college, had lacked a zoom function, whilst another CCTV which could rotate 360 degrees had been mounted on a wall, and was unable to make full use of this function.

These critics failed to note that CCTVs are very expensive and are possibly worth more than the fixtures they are secured to, or even the buildings which they are monitoring. CCTVs need careful positioning.

The audit revealed that one camera had stopped recording because its disc was full, but the more serious issue, was the bird droppings covering the CCTVs, which rendered the cameras useless.

Blame had initially been placed on the maintenance of these units, but it is disingenuous for the critics to blame the maintenance crew, especially as it is common knowledge that the Malaysian work culture does not normally include maintenance. It is possible that the need for regular maintenance, was overlooked in the tendering process.

Sources, who wished to remain anonymous, said that it is a generally accepted government policy, that it is better to procure new equipment than to maintain old equipment.

Malaysians prefer to replace items, as soon as they become obsolete, through frequent use or a breakdown in one of the components, although the CCTV which stopped functioning just needs a new disc to resume recording.

Anyone living or working in rural locations knows that it is normal for birds to leave droppings on fixed structures like those situated near the eaves of roofs. The amount deposited is directly proportional to the quantity of birds in the area. In other words, more birds mean more droppings.  More extreme suggestions to rectify the problem include building a cage to house the CCTVs, or a team of sharpshooters to kill the birds before they can perch on the CCTVs.

A report which has yet to be commissioned, will propose that a team of dedicated workers will be required, to clean the CCTVs on a regular basis. This will provide jobs for people living in the local area and thus, attract praise from the community. A strong message is being delivered, that machines need humans to make them function properly.

Cleaning bird droppings from CCTV lenses is a small price to pay in the fight against crime. Unfortunately, the birds are not the only ones fouling up the system.