Category Archives: Cover Story

Front Page Stories from Ipoh Echo Print Newspaper

Recognising Perak Hydro’s Contribution to Perak

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Badan Warisan Malaysia or the Malaysian Heritage Body, an NGO that promotes the preservation and conservation of Malaysia’s built heritage, paid a visit recently to the former Malim Nawar Power Station (MNPS). According to Puan Sri Datin Elizabeth Moggie, Council Member of Badan Warisan Malaysia, the NGO had forwarded their interest to TNB to visit MNPS to view TNB’s effort to conserve their older but significant stations for its heritage value.

Malim Nawar Power Station 1950's
Malim Nawar Power Station 1950’s

“Any building or facility that had made a significant contribution to the development of the country should be preserved.” – Badan Warisan Malaysia

Moggie added that Badan Warisan was impressed that TNB had kept the buildings as is and practised adaptive reuse of the facility with the locating of ILSAS and REMACO, their training and maintenance facilities, at the former power station.

Malim Nawar Power Station 2013. Adaptive reuse as a traaining and maintenance facility
Malim Nawar Power Station 2013. Adaptive reuse as a training and maintenance facility

Moggie added that any building or facility that had made a significant contribution to the development of the country should be preserved for future generations to appreciate and that power generation did play a significant part in making the country what it is today.

The Malim Nawar Power Station began operations in 1928. It was owned and built by the Perak River and Hydro-electric Power Company and had an initial generating capacity of 18,000kW and supplied power to the surrounding tin mines, industry and people living within its concession area.

The facility at MNPS consisted of the Power Station and supporting workshops. It also had living quarters for all levels of its workers complete with a football field and convenience store. It is what we would now refer to as a gated community.

The station was the premium thermal power station till the 1960s when its supply was connected to the National Electricity Board’s (NEB, now called Tenaga Nasional Berhad or TNB) power grid after which it was gradually phased out and MNPS was closed in 1986.

 

Power for the People

The first location in the Federated Malay States (FMS) to receive electric supply was Kuala Lumpur. The next location was Ipoh because of its rich tin industry. While not even half the size of Kuala Lumpur, it nevertheless received large allocations of funds to improve its power supply. Although the demand for electric power was initially required for domestic lighting, it was the tin mines with its voracious appetite for power that spearheaded the push to set up a stable supply of power for its mining activities.

The initial power supply in Ipoh was supplied by Pengkalen Mines Ltd, a company operated by mining company Osborne and Chapel, which was generating power for its bucket dredges out of Lahat. Its excess supply was channeled to Ipoh by line, on dark chengal poles to Lahat Lane with sub stations at Hugh Low Street (Jalan Sultan Iskandar) and Cowan Street (Jalan Raja Ekram).

However, the goal of the then Government of the FMS was a long-term solution. Funding was an issue but the firm of Messrs Armstrong, Whitworth and Co had managed to arrange for that.

A preliminary agreement between Armstrong, Whitworth and Co and the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Iskandar Shah, on December 12, 1925 subsequently saw the setting up of Perak River Hydro-Electric Power Company (PRHEP), which was floated on the London market in July 1926. PRHEP was leased for 80 years whereby the FMS government would not have the option to take it over until the first fifty years had expired, that is, after 1975.

 

PRHEP’s Setup

 Chenderoh Dam on the Perak River
Chenderoh Dam on the Perak River

The scope of work, costing GBP3.5 million saw the construction of the hydro-electric power generation plant across the Perak River where it joined the small tributary, Sungai Chenderoh. Called the Chenderoh Dam, construction work started in March 1927 and was completed in June 1930. It was officially opened by the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Iskandar Shah and the British High Commissioner then, Sir Hugh Clifford.

Chenderoh Dam hydro power station had a 27,000kW hydro generating capacity and was linked to a steam-powered plant at Malim Nawar, 40km south, by a 66kVa transmission line. The purpose for Malim Nawar was three fold. Initially it would serve the consumers in Kinta while Chenderoh was being constructed. Subsequently it would act as a standby in case of breakdowns along the transmission lines and used as an auxiliary in times of drought at Chenderoh.

Work on Malim Nawar Steam Power Station (MNPS) began in 1927 and was commissioned a year later. MNPS carried power supply to 12 transformer sub-stations located throughout the Kinta Valley and provided mining consumers an uninterrupted power supply of variable capacities based on individual requirements throughout the year. Besides being a power station, Malim Nawar Station also had the capacity and capability to take on major repair jobs of the company’s electrical equipments.

In order to manage the distribution of power to domestic consumers and villages in the concession area, PRHEP created a subsidiary, Kinta Electric Distribution chaired by Colonel Cecil Rae and included a board consisting of Raja Chulan and Leong Sin Nam.

The office of PRHEP Company was located at Station Road, (Jalan Dato Maharajalela) currently a TNB branch office. In 1932, PRHEP purchased the Batu Gajah Power Station (BGPS) which was started earlier by the Malayan Tin Dredge Company for its own dredging operations. By 1935 after a financial restructuring, the company was free from debt and despite a downturn in the tin industry in 1937/38, paid out a healthy dividend of 7 cents in 1939. Indeed before WW2, PRHEP Company had the reputation of being “the largest hydro-electric project undertaken in the British Empire as well as being the single largest power producer in Southeast Asia”.

On a national level it contributed 55% of the total power produced in the Federation of Malaya. At state level its power supply grew from an initial coverage of 35 towns to over 60 towns and villages by the mid ‘50s.

 

PRHEP Powered the Tin Mines

The main methods of mining for tin in the Kinta Valley was open-cast mining and dredging, both of which used electricity for their operations.

Dredges and open-cast mines used electricity for their operations
Dredges and open-cast mines used electricity for their operations

It was noted that in 1952 there were 39 dredges in operation in the Valley mainly in the Kampar to Tanjung Tualang areas with hundreds more Chinese operated mines dotted throughout the Valley. The role of Perak Hydro was to provide uninterrupted and economical power supply to the mining companies. Its standard guideline was that a breakdown should not take longer than two hours to resume operations otherwise flooding would occur at the mine.

To ensure prompt service, Perak Hydro provided living quarters for its workers with ranks from engineer to technician. Their locations were at the power stations at Chenderoh, Malim Nawar and Batu Gajah and two district stations at Silibin, Ipoh and Kampar.

A visit to the stations at Chenderoh, Malim Nawar and Kampar revealed a pleasant gated community of houses clustered around a playing field. Retired employee S. Murugiah, who was a General Manager at Chenderoh Dam, said he grew up at the Batu Gajah Power Station as his father worked there. “Life there was very nice. I used to take food to my father at meal times. It was like one big family,” he said.

Former PRHEP employee, a District Inspector based at Kampar, Lee Yit Meng, 81, said that “besides selling power to the miners, PRHEP also rented them the motors for their operations”. “These days you could call it a package. In the event of a breakdown the motor would be replaced immediately,” said Lee adding that each station ensured that spare motors and transformers were available at all times.

Another former employee, engineer Adrian Boudville, 75, had earlier taken me on a tour of the Malim Nawar Power Station where he was based in the ‘50s. “MNPS” he explained, “was a steam-powered station which used fuel oil delivered by train from Teluk Intan every morning to generate the steam. Water was derived from a huge adjacent lake supplied with water from Sungai Dipang. The plant also had introduced draft induced cooling towers for cooling water from 100 degrees Fahrenheit.” “All in all the living and working environment at MNPS was similar to that of a self-contained township,” said Boudville.

A subsequent trip with Boudville to visit Chenderoh Dam revealed a similar living and working environment. Chenderoh Dam is still functioning. It has been upgraded and continues to supply power to the national power grid.

PRHEP was taken over by the National Electricity Board in 1982 per the lease agreement. The Batu Gajah station was closed earlier in 1976. MNPS was officially retired in January 1986. The huge lake was covered and the cooling towers and generators removed and the facility adapted and reused to become TNB’s training and maintenance facility, ILSAS, Logistics and REMACO.

(l-r) District inspector Lee, technician Board Singh and Haji Tahir Don with his notebook.
(l-r) District inspector Lee, technician Board Singh and Haji Tahir Don with his notebook.

During the visit by Badan Warisan, TNB had also invited former PRHEP employees such as Lee and Boudville. Another employee En Haji Tahir Don, 77, (control room-in-charge) had brought along his work notebook from his time with notes and diagrams hand drawn by himself and with pages all intact.

(l-r) Moggie with engineer Boudville
(l-r) Moggie with engineer Boudville

For Tahir, as with Lee and Boudville and several others interviewed, working in PRHEP was enjoyable and they took pride in their work there.

Considering the enormous contribution that power generation played in developing the tin industry and its contribution to the GDP of the country, Malim Nawar Power Station should be preserved and packaged as a Tin Heritage tourism product together with Chenderoh Dam and the last dredge TT5 at Tanjung Tualang.

After all, these few icons are all that is left to show the future generations that Ipoh and the Kinta Valley were once the The Richest Tin Mine in The World.

 

 

James Gough

Youth Making Waves in Ipoh

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Vivian Tan was home for Christmas from Melbourne after graduation. It was a Friday night when she and a friend entered Barbeza. Lips the bartender greeted them with “Vivian! Want to make friends? There’s an event happening inside. Quick! Go join!” She laughed and brushed Lip’s idea off. At that point all she wanted was her standard Friday night, chatting with her friend and unwinding over a couple of drinks. This was her concept of a Friday night in Ipoh after all. Everything easy and laid-back.

         Vivian continues in her own words:

“This place is packed with youngsters, all ready to shine” – a returnee from Melbourne

Youth making waves in Ipoh
Mohamed Faried (left) a scholarship student from UTP
sharing about his lifestyle in his hometown in Egypt

I sat there talking to my friend but my attention was on what was happening behind him. Every few minutes I would hear a bell ring and people would swap seats and shake hands with the next person they were seated with. During that couple of minutes, people were engrossed in conversation, reading off sheets of paper and jotting down notes. Curious about the energy, I was interested and wanted to be part of it.

Lips introduced me to Joanna Gough who was in charge of this interesting activity. She gave me a quick run through and before I knew it I was seated talking to another participant. I referred to the sheets of paper Joanna gave me, following the instructions. It contained some examples of questions I should ask, things I should and should not do. It was telling me to get to know the other person, the aim was to make friends and share ideas. This has the concept of speed dating, I thought. Except this ‘chat’ made the whole idea seem more approachable.

lead stories 2
Speedychatz #2 to be held on January 25, will also expand out to KL, Malacca, Johor

Then it hit me; I’m participating in a little event in Ipoh. It did not matter that it was a little event; it is the fact that there are people who are making the effort to create connections, to share their ideas. It takes one person to go the extra mile and make it happen and I realised that the people around me were all interested in this idea; they just needed to be brought together.

Speedychatz – A personal Social Network

I sat down over coffee with Joanna, the brainchild behind Speedychatz. There is a much bigger picture behind this event. Speedychatz was created so that each individual is given the opportunity to build a personal social network. It connects everyone for the greater benefit of self development and allows people to collaborate with each other and push their ideas forward.

Joanna Gough, founder of SpeedyChatz
Joanna Gough, founder of SpeedyChatz

“The youths who stay in Ipoh need to be connected to the society around them not only on a local level but also on an international level. Living in Ipoh with its slower pace of life, I personally think that the youth here have greater opportunities of learning than if they were in Kuala Lumpur. I learnt many, many skills and heard many stories from the adults and experienced/retired elders here. Growing up here, at age 4 I helped design a stage for my church. At 8, I was raising funds with my friends for the old folks home; at 14, I wrote for a newspaper and at 16 I was creating concepts to rake in at least RM2000 in 45 minutes and when I went to KL for my tertiary education, I noticed how different my life was from many other youths around my age. From then on, I got hired for jobs based on my attitude, personality, skills, connections…and never once wrote a resume. I learnt entirely from my community and knew how to deal with problems from a young age. That was my asset growing up in Ipoh. It’s because I had a strong community who supported me since I was a child. The funny part though, is that everyone thinks I’m so smart because I’ve studied in America, a place I’ve never been”, chuckles Joanna Gough.

Youth making waves in Ipoh
Ipoh’s famous bartender, Lips of Barbeza

Where are our Ipoh Youths headed in the next 10 years

The online registration of TEDxIpoh (story on page 10) was an overwhelming response from the 18-25 year olds, most wanting to learn, connect and be inspired to push the city forward. The older generation of Ipoh were also interested in the topics and wanted to, in some way, discuss through an open dialogue or contribute. When Speedychatz was held on December 7, it saw people from Egypt, Austria, returning fresh grads from Australia mixing with 60+ year old ‘Uncles’, one from Amnesty International Ipoh, and where a 21-year-old participant exclaimed that one of the Indian ‘Uncles’ was so cool because he was traveling to China at the end of the month.

“The youths of today are slowly going to start putting themselves in positions that will allow them to grow. The most important factor of growth is connections. Around the city, we are already starting to see the desire for youths to connect. Everyone wants to be where everyone is at. Within this year, communities are going to open up. Collaboration ties and ideas are going to start flourishing. Energy is based on fun. And fun will be ‘The Everything’,” continued Joanna.

Lifestyle: Food and Fashion

Youth making waves in Ipoh
Sakai – neon lights on sand

The food industry already has youths setting up franchises and restaurants around the city. However, the quality of food and service at these restaurants are in no way competitive on a global market. The current generation of youths are leaning towards more concept dining. Most of these restaurants are concept-based with less emphasis on food. A good example would be Sakai where the menu is basic with pastas, chicken and fish but it is the innovative décor that appeals to the youth of Ipoh. The restaurant has its dining area in sand, like a beach, with soft blue neon lights for room ambience.

Malaysia being a food haven and Ipoh, being branded as a food heaven, is going to see a drop in reputation if culinary skills are not upgraded. The current/future generation of food makers in Ipoh are going to compete with Kuala Lumpur, Penang and eventually other cities. Our hawker food is second to none and renowned throughout SE Asia. But it’s a start to know that these days, people don’t just eat the food, they take photos of it before eating and immediately update the shots to their Facebook profile to tell the world what they’re eating. The evolution will continue from there.

Digital Entertainment and Sustainable Living

As Digital Entertainment in Ipoh is slow in picking up, it’ll be awhile before actors, dancers, producers, artists and all those involved in visual arts, jump in and push forward the talent field.

Youth making waves in Ipoh
Burps & Giggles

On the other hand, heritage conservation in Ipoh is starting to see a rise in interest. The concept of ‘Preserving the Past in the Present’ in keeping the interior designs rustic and bringing a semblance of nature into city projects such as: SeKeping Kong Heng’s Boutique Hotel, Burps and Giggles Cafe and Bricks and Barrels Pub. These are fine examples of sustainable developments and are aligned with world standards. According to renowned architects, Hubert Klumpner and Alfredo Brillembourg “The sustainable cities of the future, can’t be built (or built out) from scratch; sustainable urbanism will require retrofitting and reimagining existing infrastructure. Throughout the world, the new will be built on or in the old.”

Ipoh has great potential in Architecture and Design, but it’s about time we stopped and really understand what our society is all about rather than to implement a one fit MSC architecture resembling Malaysia all the way from Johor to Malacca to KL to Ipoh.

Youth making waves in Ipoh
SeKeping Kong Heng’s Family Room – a fine example of sustainable urbanism/architecture

What reflects our society? Our youths seem to prefer ‘Chillout Comfort and Clean Scandinavian Interiors’ (as seen in shophouses); in retro looking spaces, such as: Jubilee Park (S.O.S nightclub), Bricks and Barrels on Jalan Lau Ek Ching, Burps and Giggles on Jalan Sultan Yussuf (Old Town) and the inimitable SeKeping Kong Heng. Are we heading in that direction? Clearly our youths enjoy the old colonial buildings of the past with a clean interior. Preservation of architecture is key.

Where do we go from here? 

“People can use Speedychatz to solve problems. One person’s problem may be another’s solution; everyone can help each other out. All they have to do is talk about it and immediately they can get connected to the right people. Ipoh is a ‘small town’ where everyone knows everybody who is a somebody. We’ll get there”, explained Joanna.

‘By fostering a community, which caters to everybody, we all want to be heard but we often do not know how to go about doing this and in a way Speedychatz gives its members a sense of identity and more importantly, a voice,” concluded Joanna, an iconoclastic young person who has set her sights on shaking up Ipoh.

I celebrated the New Year in Ipoh this year. I mentioned earlier in this article what my perception of Ipoh is. A few words come to mind: laid-back, quiet, relaxing, food. However, this New Year’s Eve, we were caught in a traffic jam for about two hours; every now and then we would hop out and get rejected by the numerous bars in which we thought we could pass the night. I was taken aback; the whole town was flooded with people. What happened to my quiet little hometown? I thought nothing happened around here. Clearly, I thought wrong. This place is packed with youngsters, all ready to shine.

Vivian Tan & Joanna Gough

Are the Youths of Ipoh Coming or Going?

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by Joanna Gough

Sensation Of Sound (S.O.S) Club with Digi’Tal DJ. Photo by Kenny Chong
Sensation Of Sound (S.O.S) Club with Digi’Tal DJ. Photo by Kenny Chong

At 3am on a Sunday morning, after clubbing at shoulder packed S.O.S. Club, Digi’tal DJ (Ipoh’s most celebrated DJ) and I sat at Nasi Vanggey, Greentown, pondering the demographics of clubbing in Ipoh. Seven days a week, the club is full of people with a minimum of 500 on ordinary days and on weekends S.O.S. is fully booked out. Throughout Malaysia, you can’t find a club with 100 people on a Sunday night let alone packed to overflowing. S.O.S however, has at least 500 people on a Sunday night. It raises questions, like “Are Ipoh’s youth/young adults, that into alcohol and loud music?” Or is there something else?

Platform Needed: where Youth are Encouraged to Do Crazy Things and to Make Money from it

Bimbotic mockery of Pomelos in Parody by Ipoh Lang Productions
Bimbotic mockery of Pomelos in Parody by Ipoh Lang Productions

Youths! Our highly energetic population has this insatiable need to make things and put a value on it. Take for instance the latest craze of the Opa Gangnam Style. Ipoh Lang Productions created a parody of the Korean pop video in Cantonese that went viral with more than 650,000 views on the online YouTube world. Needless to say it was a hit! The production went against the conservative, well behaved stereotype of Ipoh youths and had young people dancing like looneys in public, looking a little mental with puckered lips at the Railway Station, girls being bimbotic and playing with pomelos in Old Town and boys fake beating someone up in front of Foh San. There’s a saying that ‘Stupid is Creative’, and with 650,000 views we can applaud Ipoh Lang Productions for a marvelous job well done. The Ipoh-centric parody focuses on the many foods around the City and the culture of Ipoh society today. But the execution of choreography and video angles parodying the town was what really gave it the comic angle and pulled the stupendous response on YouTube.

PORT as Creative Platform

Team BESKAL competing at the Creative BusinessCup in Copenhagen; R-L: Nik Mohd Misuarie, Amir Baharuddin and Mohd Nazrinfwat
Team BESKAL competing at the Creative Business
Cup in Copenhagen; R-L: Nik Mohd Misuarie, Amir Baharuddin and Mohd Nazrinfwat

BESKAL, a bicycle bag designed by Ipoh boy Nik Mohd Misuarie, won Top 8 Creative Business in the World at the Creative Business Cup 2012 held in Copenhagen. This bicycle bag came about 10 years ago when Nik, an up and coming BMX extreme rider, was a student at SMK Dato’ Megat Khas on Jalan Labrooy. Nik could not take his bicycle to school because ‘Uncle Bas’ would charge an extra RM15. So he made a bag, put the bicycle inside and carried it on the bus. The bicycle being in the bag = no charge. Ten years later, he met with people at PORT (People of Remarkable Talent)  Ipoh  and  the  bicycle bag resurfaced again. It seems that this problem is a big problem in urban Asia. Bicycles though encouraged, are not allowed on LRTs/MRTs/public transportation systems. Uncle Bas did well in charging the boy the extra RM15. BESKAL is now on its way to changing the way people go to work in cities on an everyday basis.

Platform for Visual Arts

Kim Jeow Wang awarded BRONZE at the Creative AsiaAwards 2012 for Wedding Open Category
Kim Jeow Wang awarded BRONZE at the Creative Asia
Awards 2012 for Wedding Open Category

Then there’s Kim Jeow Wang, who seems to be on a streak of winning awards from around the world and Asia. This prestigious photographer started off with an education in Multimedia at the Perak Institute of Art but due to financial constraints, he did a ‘Steve Jobs’ and dropped out. He then picked up a job at Bridal House. It didn’t focus on Multimedia entirely. The wedding gown shop focused heavily on photography. And there he resided and worked full time for 8-9 years. However, after picking up the heavy skills of photography, Kim Jeow Wang grew restless and needed more freedom in creating his compositions and photographs. He left Bridal House and soon opened U Wang Studio in the year 2010. There he created from scratch his name and fame as a Wedding Photographer. He won bronze for the Wedding Category of Creative Asia Award 2012 and First Place for Engagement at the Wedding Portraits and Photographers International Award.

When asked where he got his drive and motivation from, he said it was from the competition around the city. “There are so many wedding photographers and studios everywhere, I feel that I need to push myself to be different”. With DSLRs (Digital Single-Lens Reflex cameras) being affordably priced these days, the Perak Lens Association itself has more than 500 photographers within the association and a good amount making their side incomes from weddings around the city. Kim Jeow Wang succeeds with his wedding packages of “We Do Different” by designing conceptual ideas specifically catered to the lifestyle of the client. Thanks to the strong Family Culture in Ipoh, many do want to get married and every couple looks for that idea that closely resembles who they are. Kim Jeow Wang designs that.

Living Life Worth ‘Dying For’

On a more prosaic level, it’s the dynamism that one brings to the workplace and the energy created in the process that motivates Leeza Moorthi who is enjoying her job as an Assistant Lecturer on English and Communication subjects. Having studied Literature at an Ipoh university, the usual route would be to  head off to KL to get a job. Leeza Moorthi pursued her internship in Kuala Lumpur as a Company Secretary but realised that the KL lifestyle is not all the hype it was made up to be. A desk bound job was no place for a sociable Ipoh girl, so after graduating with a degree she came home and helped out at the Mariaville Kindergarten on Jalan Francois. The energy of children and being around such vibrant individuals (aka*Brats*) got Leeza Moorthi to realise how interesting teaching can be. Everyday a new interaction, new ideas, new worlds and as every child is learning – lots of humour and laughter around. Now she’s around vibrant individuals at the university and consistently being challenged to improve herself as an Assistant Lecturer. Her drive comes from interacting with youths and from the challenge of being one step ahead of them in order to act as a guide and mentor. The energy generated makes her feel that she’s contributing to society and living a ‘life worth dying for’.

Its All About Collective Energy

So to go back to our 3am conversation at Nasi Vanggey which started this article, and having dissected these three success stories, Digi’tal DJ and I came to the conclusion that the youths of Ipoh are not thronging to clubs because they’re trying to get themselves drunk or drown their sorrows. There’s a centredness at the core of our youths and that is collective ENERGY. It’s the Energy you get from being in a room of 500 people listening to the same music, watching the dancers and clapping. For some it’s about the dancing and laughing and positive energy from the people who are there to have a fantastic time.

Ipoh Lang Production’s energy is from the gangnam style which took the world by storm. The K-Pop Sensation was everywhere. U Wang Studio absorbs competition and exudes the energy that drives any business forward. He pushes himself creatively. BESKAL’s Nik Mohd Mizuarie, coming from a lower income group, was challenged by a bus driver and from that, he turned this one unfortunate event into an opportunity to change the world. What all youths are thriving on is a continuous form of Energy of Attraction.

Our youths need and use this energy to move forward, and although in the old days, clubs were seen as a cause for social problems. In Ipoh, there just might be a positive outcome for this.

In the age of digital entertainment, our iPhones, iPads and Facebook are acting like the Big Brother of the 21st Century. Every device has a camera and every photo taken ends up on Facebook, AND that’s a great thing. It allows anyone and everyone to see and be seen.

Nurture Not Nuke the Energy

In summary, Talents can only do so much with their skills on a budget: They need the financial and public support of the City in order to be a success. With the many projects that will be up and coming over the years lets continue to lend our utmost support in encouraging our younger generation not so much by talking, but by showing up and learning and connecting them to greater potentials. Ipoh is moving forward and can’t always cater to the past. In order for Youth to be able to stay here, they need to express themselves. And Society needs to encourage that. Though many young adults prefer to be true to their roots and stick with family, there is still a huge need for any young, vibrant energetic individual to want to compete in a Global Market and be as successful as U Wang Studios, BESKAL, Ipoh Lang and many more.

The Energy needs to Grow. It’s time we plugged that into Ipoh Society and Charge it Up.

YBU: Empowering the Poor Shows Positive Results

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by James Gough

Yayasan Bina Upaya (YBU) microcredit financing
Hairul Anwar Mohamed Noor, YBU’s CFO

Yayasan Bina Upaya or YBU, which was founded under the Trustees Act in October 2009 began its operations in March 2010 with the goal of improving the living standards of low-income households through its Microcredit Financing Programme. Ipoh Echo which originally carried a report on YBU’s activities in 2010 (December 16, 2010) recently met with its Chief Financial Officer Hairul Anwar Mohamed Noor to get an update.

Interest Free Loans Coupled with Stringent Vetting Paying Off

According to Hairul, since its inception, YBU has so far provided assistance to 989 recipients with RM13.5 million of loans disbursed. Interestingly it is currently compiling a booklet of 100 of its successful recipients who have managed to improve their livelihood.

By any standard a success rate of just over 10 per cent in just over two years is already a good measure. According to Hairul, an added bonus is that over 50 per cent of its borrowers service their loans on time each month, 10 per cent service their loans months in advance in anticipation of rainy days while another 10 per cent settle their loans outright way ahead of the repayment schedule. Considering that the customers are the underprivileged, this healthy cash flow is a revelation.

Yayasan Bina Upaya (YBU)
Fatimah Fadzil

Yayasan Bina Upaya (YBU) microcredit financingEmpowered Recipients

Fatimah Fadzil, 53, is a single mother selling fried curry puffs. In 1999, when her husband died due to a traffic accident she was forced to fend for her three children on her own. She tried several jobs but the pay was small and it was difficult to make ends meet. She approached a welfare body earlier but was told that as she was still young and could still work to support herself.

Fatimah later joined a single mother’s association, Nur Kasih, and was encouraged to venture into the curry-puff business. She manually produced 150 curry puffs per day, which catered to food outlets. Fatimah operates out of her Ashby Road flat.

Two years ago she was approached by YBU to participate in their single mother programme called Ladies Uptown. Subsequently, to increase her production capacity, she obtained a loan from YBU and purchased two machines, a flour mixer and a pastry kneading machine which have the capacity to make up to 1000 curry puffs a day. Currently she makes 300 curry puffs per day which she supplies to individuals, food outlets and government departments.

Fatimah took her microcredit loan from YBU in 2010. Her repayment period is 60 months but anticipates on settling her loan much earlier. Two of Fatimah’s children are still studying. Their needs have been taken care of. Generally she is comfortable, her livelihood has improved and her only concern is that she has to work every day to fulfil her customers’ orders.

Gawri and Indian Rice

Yayasan Bina Upaya (YBU) microcredit financingGawri a/p Manisagaran, 27, operates an Indian rice food stall at the Candy Bar coffee shop in Simpang Pulai which offers 10 varieties of dishes daily. Previously she operated daily along the Simpang Pulai to Pengkalan main road for almost two years in her own stall before shifting into the nearby coffee shop. With her YBU microcredit loan, Gawri purchased more items for her shift to the shop and realised a doubling of her turnover almost overnight.

Gawri is married and has two children. Her husband works in KL and comes home once a month. She recently purchased a Perodua Viva and anticipates she will be able to settle her YBU loan before its full period.

YBU’s Microcredit Financing Programme

What sets YBU apart from other credit facilities is its microcredit system. Loans, based on Islamic principles, are interest free and do not require collateral or a guarantor. The programme is multiracial and is open to all communities and anyone can apply. For the two ladies mentioned above, there was no way a bank would give them a loan without a secure collateral in hand which they couldn’t provide. However, with YBU’s microcredit financing programme, Gawri and Fatimah were given an opportunity to improve their livelihoods and they have seen the results almost immediately.

The programme enables community members to apply for loans for working capital in economic activities such as opening a food stall, or increasing output of existing small businesses.

Loan values range from RM1000 to RM20,000. Eligible applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 60. According to Hairul the loan repayment period is for a maximum of 60 months and the repayment value is mutually agreed on between YBU and the recipient.

Stringent Vetting Prevents Delinquent Loans

The goal is to provide loans to the very needy and ensure the loans fulfil their objective of empowering the recipient. Hence the vetting of each application is very stringent to ensure the loan does not become delinquent. All applications will also be cross checked against the government’s welfare database such as e-Kasih to identify if previous loans had been provided.

Applicants fill an application form available at its office or on its website after which YBU will send its team for an on-site visit to vet the applicants.

Successful applicants, before receiving their loans, are called to the office and are given a motivational talk on the need to grow their existing source of income and improve their overall livelihood for the future. Subsequently too, the officer overseeing the loan will monitor the applicant for three months after disbursement, after which another department monitoring debt collection will take over.

“All this monitoring is necessary to ensure the recipient will successfully improve their livelihood and meet the objective of the programme. By being successful their self confidence improves. For a poor person the responsibility to repay the loan is very important and more so for a Muslim,” explained Hairul.

YBU would like the successful recipients to be more productive and does offer them a second loan should they want to expand their businesses. However, many have turned down the offer saying they are now able to take care of their families “which indicates that their livelihood has improved”.

The data of successful applicants will subsequently be updated to the government’s e-Kasih database.

Over the last two years YBU has compiled its own database of underprivileged citizens. This is done by its squad of volunteers or sukarelawan numbering over 3000 throughout the state currently. Generally the poor are ashamed to share their problems hence the job of the volunteer is to vet and identify suitable candidates.

Poverty Eradication Programmes

Besides its microcredit financing programme, YBU had initiated other activities to distribute its economic benefits. These include:

Housing Aid programme which refers to their housing assistance to construct new homes as well as upgrade and repair homes including those damaged by natural causes. The purpose of this programme is to enable a comfortable and quality living environment for the poor. Since its inception there have been 596 beneficiaries.

Adoption Programme. This programme applies to primary students in Year 5 and 6 to be entitled for financial assistance including tuition fees. To date a total of 113 students have been put under this programme of which 56 students obtained between 2 to 7As in the recent UPSR examination.

Higher Education Programme. This year YBU participated in an MOU with two institutions of higher learning, Quest International University of Perak (QIUP) and ITP (Perak’s Institute of Technology) to provide potential underprivileged student places at their institutions.

Federal Government Interest

YBU’s multi-pronged activities towards addressing and improving the livelihood of the underprivileged in the state have “captured the interest of the Federal Government who are contemplating implementing it nationwide,” said Dato’ Seri  DiRaja Dr. Zambry  Abdul Kadir during YBU’s  second Symposium on Capacity Building held during the middle of this year.

Based on testimony from the recipients and interviews with YBU officials, the multi-pronged strategies being implemented do address the issues of poverty by empowering the recipient to improve his livelihood. Hence it works. As a YBU executive expressed “when the plan works, the recipient’s face beams with self confidence”.

Further testimony of this can be noted from the recipients making their repayments on time.

Poverty is everywhere and is a never ending story. Fortunately for the underprivileged in Perak we don’t just give them fish to eat for a day we teach them how to fish.

 

Perak Water Board – Doing it right the first time

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By James Gough

Sultan Azlan Shah Dam, Ulu Kinta

The Perak Water Board which manages the supply of clean water to consumers at urban and rural areas as well as to the commercial and industrial sectors was recently praised by Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir as being “one of the best governmental agencies in the country”. At his speech made during the LAP Employees Union AGM, Zambry stated that the Board had recorded a profit of RM104 million from revenue of RM275.46 million for 2011. Its 2010 profit was RM100 million from revenue of RM270.67 million. According to Zambry, this is a performance which exceeds the target originally set for the year 2020. Intrigued by the Boards’ consistent excellent performance and equally consistent good annual bonus handouts’, Ipoh Echo decided to find out just what made this GLC “tick”.

Sultan Azlan Shah Dam

“One of the best governmental agencies in the country” – Zambry

Perak Water Board
Dato’ Ir Mohd Yusof, PWB General Manager

For its achievement Zambry announced a four and a half month bonus for the Board’s 1,100 employees given for “its excellent performance”, which according to its General Manager, Dato’ Ir Mohd Yusof Mohd Isa, PWB has been paying bonuses since 1999.

Operations Structure
A quick snapshot of the State’s water supply structure revealed that the total area of Perak is 21,005 km2 and PWB has 11,098 km2 of water catchment areas or over 55% of the state’s land under its jurisdiction. Its main source of raw water is from the Perak River followed by mountain water.It has two dams, the Sultan Azlan Shah Dam at Ulu Kinta, Ipoh and at Air Kuning Taiping.

The state is geographically divided into five regions and has a total of 47 water treatment plants. It has a capacity to treat 1,774 mld (million litres per day). It currently produces 1,081 mld with a consumption of 763 mld. Its current Non Revenue Water is averaging at 30.4%. The Board has laid out 10,792 km of piping, distributing clean water to 100% of the urban locations and 98% of rural areas.

Air Kuning Dam, Taiping

Perak Water Board – Then and Now
Prior to 1980 the distribution of clean water supply was managed by the Public Works Department (PWD) or Jabatan Kerja Raya (JKR). Besides the section on water management, PWD also was responsible for the maintenance of roads and buildings. Overall each of the 10 Districts in the State was managed by the District Officer and assisted by JKR’s District Engineer.

It was during the 70s that the need arose to expand the water supply services throughout the state. Funding for the state’s expansion projects then was obtained through the Asian Development Bank (ADB). JKR’s engineering superintendent at the time Dato’ Chan Kok Pew, generally oversaw the setting up of the infrastructure of the projects and one of the early projects funded by ADB was the Greater Ipoh Water Supply Project 2 which was initiated to meet the increasing water supply needs of the Greater Ipoh area.

At that time, water supply from Ipoh was sourced from the Kinta River. The new project involved the extraction of water from the Perak River at Parit from where it would be pumped to reservoirs for distribution to the Greater Ipoh area. The demand for water then was projected to increase by 5% annually and would provide for increased urbanization, industrialization and population increase.

Chan who retired in 1988 elaborated that the goal then, was to lay pipes “to the extremes of Ipoh. We had a lot of pipers then and we were very busy laying new pipes and where required replacing old ones”.

Besides funding the Greater Ipoh Project 2, ADB also funded two other projects at Kuala Kangsar region and Kerian and Larut Matang region. According to Chan, Perak was the only state that received the most ADB funding. As such ADB paid regular site visits to audit the progress of work being carried out. Subsequent funding for projects was funded by federal government loans.Empangan Sultan Azlan Shah

Sultan Azlan Shah Dam
The last component of the Greater Ipoh 2 Water Supply project was the construction of a dam across the Kinta River to increase the capacity of raw water resources from 136 mld (million litres per day) to 363 mld as well as providing for adequate reserve water during the dry seasons. It was also aimed at increasing the supply of water in the Kinta Valley to 639 million litres per day to meet the water demand until 2020.

Construction began in January 2003 and upon its completion in November 2006 was testimony to the ability of local contractors to undertake large and complex engineering projects. The project was officially opened in August 2007 and named the Sultan Azlan Shah Dam.

Towards Corporatisation
A condition for receiving ADB funding was that PWD’s water section had to operate independently as once all projects were completed “the waterworks department would be very big. Hence it had to organize itself to stand on its own two feet,” said Chan.

The Federal government agreed to allow JKR’s water section to be independent and in 1980 it was named Jabatan Bekalan Air Perak (JBA Perak) with Chan as its first Director. It was during his time that the current two blocks of 4-storey buildings were constructed as its headquarters with funds provided by the state government.

Jabatan Bekalan Air Perak
Dato’ Chan Kok Pew

The formation of JBA was just a transition. Another ADB condition was that the department should have a good foundation and be financially sound first before it could be turned into a Board.

Hence after 11 years, in 1991, JBA Perak was called Lembaga Air Perak or Perak Water Board. It was made up of a Board of Directors which according to Chan “included Dr Nawawi Mat Amin and YB Ong Kah Chuan ” among others. Chan, though retired, was requested to sit on the board and remained a member of the Board for 17 years before stepping down.

Human Resource an Asset
At its beginning the Board had considered its human resources as an asset and had initiated steps to reward those deserving, with special incentives. As such although bonuses are paid out to all employees, there are some who received additional rewards, based on merit, a policy that has seen consistent operational efficiency all round.

Restructuring
In May this year PWB handed over RM900 million worth of water assets to water asset management company PAAB or Pengurusan Aset Air Berhad as part of a restructuring exercise.

According to Dato’ Yusof, the assets transferred were commensurate with the debts owed by the state to the Federal Government. The assets will then be leased back to the State for a term of 45 years at a mutually agreed rate. Yusof added that this restructuring will ensure that there won’t be any increase in water tariffs and will allow the Board to focus on its operations and increasing the efficiency of its water supply system.

Non-Revenue Water (NRW)
According to Yusof a challenge for the Board is the reduction of Non Revenue Water which currently is averaging at 30.4%. (Non revenue water (NRW) is water that has been produced but is “lost” before it reaches the consumer. Losses can be through leaks, theft or possibly metering inaccuracies.)

Although the industry average for NRW is 36% Yusof is targeting to reduce the loss by 10% over the next three years. Reducing NRW will reduce the strain on the environment and will require the cooperation of the Board as well as the consumer.

For the record PWB annually allocates RM100 million for replacing and rehabilitating new pipes not just to reduce NRW but also to maintain the quality of water for consumers.

..Quality water for consumers

Overall the Perak Water Board in its transition to be a responsible independent operator has achieved the title of being “one of the best governmental agencies in the country” which is a testimony of the quality slogan “do it right the first time”.

Pasukan Petugas Khas Permudahcara Perniagaan

Pemudah Smoothing the way for Business

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By Emily Lowe

PEMUDAH or Pasukan Petugas Khas Permudahcara Perniagaan (Special Task Force to Facilitate Business) is a high-powered task force set up to address bureaucracy in business-government dealings. The idea was the brainchild of former Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, initiated during his annual speech to the civil service in January, 2007. In short, the inception of PEMUDAH was to effect greater improvement in the way government regulates businesses, enhances policies and revamps public sector delivery systems, if and when the need arises.

A Customer-Oriented Delivery System for Both the Public and Private Sectors

Perak was the first state in Malaysia to establish a state-level PEMUDAH in November 2007, following a proposal by the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers – FMM (Perak). While PEMUDAH Malaysia looks after federal policies, PEMUDAH Perak’s main focus is on state policies, which are sometimes raised to the Federal Government, if necessary.

PEMUDAH Perak encourages participation of all district offices, local authorities, government bodies, quasi-government bodies and other regulatory bodies in the state along with the private sector, with the aim of improving the state’s delivery system.

Vision and Values

Following guidelines from Putrajaya, PEMUDAH Perak also aims to achieve a delivery system for both the public and private sector that is not only customer-oriented but innovative and proactive, as is globally bench-marked.

PEMUDAH Perak looks forward to a proactive collaboration between the public and private sectors and supportive governing bodies based on reasonable business terms and conditions. The purpose is to intensify services integrity and create awareness of issues faced by the business community in the state.

Terms of Reference

  • To review the status of public services delivery system in terms of processes, procedures, laws and human resources and to improve upon these.
  • To benchmark the good practices in the public and private sectors.
  • To co-ordinate and organise programmes amongst public service agencies in order to reinforce the competitiveness of Malaysia, particularly Perak.
  • To address the relevant issues on public sector delivery system raised at State Exco meetings.

Composition of Committee

PEMUDAH Perak is co-chaired by the State Secretary, Dato’ Abdul Puhat bin Mat Nayan, representing the public sector, and FMM (Perak) Chairman, Dato’ Gan Tack Kong, representing the private sector. The Secretariat is made up of the State Economic Planning Unit (UPEN) and FMM Perak. It is representative of the composition at federal level where the Chief Secretary and President of FMM  (Malaysia) co-chair.

Other members include the State Financial Officer, Deputy State Secretary and Ipoh Mayor from the public sector; and Dato’ Francis Lee (REHDA Perak Chairman), Lee Chee Meng (Perak Chinese Chamber of Commerce or PCCCI), Peter Yates  (CEO Carsem), Chairman Leong Hua  Kooi of  Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI) Perak chapter and Dato’ Muhammad Muhiyuddin (Perak Malay Chamber of Commerce), among others from the private sector. The committee meets bimonthly on the first Friday of even months.

Restructuring Exercise

In 2011, PEMUDAH Perak underwent a major restructuring exercise. A drastic move was taken to open up membership to individual companies, instead of just business associations and chambers in Perak.

As part of its restructure, six focus groups were formed:

  1. Industrial Park Management Committee (IPMC)
  2. Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
  3. Human Resources
  4. Permits and Licenses for Business
  5. Properties and Land Matters
  6. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
PEMUDAH - Pasukan Petugas Khas Permudahcara Perniagaan
Dato’ Gan Tack Kong,
FMM (Perak) Chairman

A seventh focus group has been proposed – Security (encompassing both physical and online threats). These focus groups are jointly chaired by representatives from both the public and private sectors, all of whom are members of PEMUDAH Perak.

Co-chairman of PEMUDAH Perak, Dato’ Gan Tack Kong, is happy that the newly revamped task force is finally meeting its objectives and resolving issues.

Benchmarking

PEMUDAH, in general, uses the global index of “Ease of Doing Business” by the World Bank Group as a benchmark to check on the level of ease to conduct business in the country. Malaysia ranked 23 out of 183 economies indexed in 2011 but jumped five positions in 2012 to rank at number 18.

PEMUDAH Perak refers to key indicators set by the World Bank Group to improve on the ease of doing business at state level. These indicators include starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity supply, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, taxes, cross-border trading, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency.

Challenges

According to Dato’ Gan, initially it was tough going for PEMUDAH Perak and the mechanism of streamlining the delivery system in the state was slow, as there was no proper system in place. “It wasn’t easy to change the mindset of those in the public service to see why a revamp was required,” he said.

However, the task force has been receiving full co-operation from the State Government since Dato’ Abdul Puhat, the new State Secretary came on board in December 2011. While addressing state policies is a manageable task, decisions that involve Federal Government policies are still difficult to reach. “One major difficulty is seeking Federal allocation for state projects,” said Gan.

Work in Progress

The plight of the Perak Pottery Association, which is currently facing an energy crisis, is of major concern to PEMUDAH Perak. Businesses in the pottery industry are grossly affected by the inability to procure good quality fuel at a reasonable price. As a result, some companies folded as they were unable to sustain their business due to the rising cost of fuel.

The Ceramic Park Industrial Area in Chepor, which was once only open to those in the ceramics business, is now occupied by businesses from other sectors as well. Hence, the park is now home to a mixed industry, which was not the original intention.

The problem faced by the Perak Pottery Association affects the whole country as nearly 80 per cent of ceramic products in the country are manufactured in Perak.

Proposals

The focus group on Human Resources proposes to establish a One-Stop-Centre (OSC), probably at the Immigration Department in Meru Raya. This is to facilitate the recruitment of foreign labour. Companies are currently forced to make countless trips to Putrajaya to process permits to hire foreign employees.

The focus group on Permits and Licensing, headed by Ipoh Mayor, Dato’ Hj Roshidi Hashim and Dato’ Francis Lee (REDHA Perak Chairman), has proposed that the lengthy licensing procedures be streamlined and checklists shortened. The Ipoh City Council has been tasked to provide the benchmark for other local councils to follow.

Success Stories

Since its establishment in November 2007, PEMUDAH Perak has reduced the cost of doing business and enhanced trade and business opportunities in the state, besides improving the public delivery system. Issues resolved include the speeding up of AP approval for the export of rock materials under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, speeding up the renewal application of mining lease for Kaolin (M) Sdn Bhd, which had been pending for two years and the establishment of the State IPMC (Industrial Park Management Committee).

Dato’ Gan is particularly proud of IPMC’s performance thus far, especially in the districts of Ipoh, Taiping, Manjung, Tapah, Gerik, Kerian, Teluk Intan and Batu Gajah.

Each committee is required to meet four times a year to address infrastructure issues that may crop up in their respective industrial estates. Local councils have been utilising the IPMC platform to lobby for Federal grants through Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA).

Shining examples would be the Federal grant disbursed to industrial parks in Perak under the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015). Tasek Industrial Estate in Ipoh received RM3.1 million for the upgrading of road and drainage, the Ceramic Park Industrial Area in Chepor received RM1.8 million for road works, while Kamunting Raya Industrial Estate in Taiping received RM3.4 million for road and drainage works.

With IPMC in place, PEMUDAH Perak is able to, within the shortest period of time, identify industrial land that has been left idle, and link these to interested investors quickly. This saves potential investors time and money.

On a more basic level, the approval of “Halal” certificates now requires only one month compared to three months previously, while land registration with the Office of Land and Mines now takes only one working day.

PEMUDAH - Pasukan Petugas Khas Permudahcara Perniagaan
Mohd Jaffrey b Mohd Zainol

PEMUDAH Perak

Even though the main objective of PEMUDAH, at both national and state levels, is to facilitate business, PEMUDAH Perak welcomes feedback from the general public on issues pertaining to streamlining of delivery systems in the public sector.

Mohd Jaffrey b Mohd Zainol, the Assistant Director for Investment and Industry at the State Economic Planning Unit, who also leads the Secretariat of PEMUDAH Perak, pointed out that one of the challenges faced by the task force is the lack of input from the public.

Go to http://www.perak.gov.my/index.php/component/content/article?id=188 for your complaint form (E-Aduan). This E-Aduan system is part of PEMUDAH Perak’s plan to move all paperwork online.

Future

Jaffrey hopes to see one-stop centres (similar to MBI’s) being established at all local councils. In time, the public sector will be setting a benchmark for the private sector to follow. The private sector, incidentally, has been very supportive in this aspect. “The proactive stance adopted by the business fraternity is simply remarkable,” he concluded.

St Michael’s Institution Centenary Celebration

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by James Gough

Cherishing the Past, Embracing the Future

St Michaels Institution 2012

The recently held St Michael’s Institution centenary celebration dinner held on September 29 saw the largest turnout ever in its 100-year history.

The Celebration was held in the school field in the shadow of the school

The celebration dinner, held on the school field in the shadow of the school, attracted over 3000 of its former students from all over the world as well as locally, some of whom have not returned to Ipoh for over forty years.

The Michaelian Spirit-Alive and Well in Ipoh

(Left photo. l-r) LaSalle Brothers Anthony Rogers, Bro Vincent, Bro Edmundo Fernandez and Bro Thomas Lavin. (Right photo) Bishop Sebastian Francis with Tan Sri Lee Oi Hian

The annual dinner regularly attracts an average of 80 to 90 tables per year. However, this being a centenary year celebration, the attendance reached an all time high of more than 300 tables translating to over 3000 diners with some table bookings having been made as early as a year ago.

Brother Visitor Bro Edmundo Fernandez addressing the over 3000 strong LaSallian diners.

It was a ‘Who’s Who’ in Malaysia seated at the various tables as the list of old boys who have made it to the top of their fields gathered to salute their alma mater and pay respect to the La Salle Brothers, Dato’ Brother Vincent Corkery, Brother Visitor Brother Edmundo Fernandez and Brother Anthony Rogers, who have dedicated their lives to mentoring their charges and looking after the welfare of the school. Sitting with them were its Board of Governors Chairman, Tan Sri Lee Oi Hian and School Principal Madam Loh Wei Seng.

“No Press Please, I’m here as an Old Boy” – IGP

Being an old boys’ gathering, no invitations were sent to any VIPs. Nevertheless a prominent Old Boy, Malaysia’s Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar was in attendance.

Old Michaelian Tan Sri Ismail Omar greets Bro Vincent before reminiscing with fellow Michaelians

After greeting Brother Vincent he promptly told the media “today I am here as an old boy” saying he had wanted to attend the annual dinner many times and wasn’t going to miss this historical occasion.

As he spoke to the media, he pointed to the ground floor classroom where he attended the moral studies class. Then with a wide smile and arms linked, he introduced his classmate Hanson Lau and schoolmate Lawrence Lim whom he played badminton with regularly at the school’s badminton courts next to the canteen. “There were no badminton courts in enclosed halls those days,” he added.

Former students from the Year of 1987, 25 years ago

So such was the mood of nostalgia that marked the entire evening as former students made merry and reminisced about the good old days. The dinner was also its noisiest ever as former students and friends hailed each other with shouts of joy some having not set eyes on one another for many years.

Faith, Service and Community

While the centenary celebration was the perfect “must attend annual dinner” excuse, it was also a good testimony that the old Michaelian school spirit of ‘Valiant and True’ was still burning proud and strong.

St Michael’s Institution when approached many years ago by the State Education Department to become an Elite school, the Board of Governors of  the school promptly turned down the offer saying it was against the tradition of the school.

The three principles of SMI are the La Sallian values of Faith (strong spiritual conviction irrespective of religion), Service (to serve and not to be served) and Community (working together for a common goal).

According to Brother Vincent, the St Michael’s tradition for the school is to be all inclusive where no child is denied admission. Vincent also stated that St Michael’s does not practise streaming, stating that each class was made up of students of mixed ability with  a quota for brilliant, average and weak students. He elaborated that it was “terrible to group weak students together where they experience no success or pride in their work”. As such, St Michael’s focuses on developing a wholesome student.

Former students from the Year of 1972, 40 years ago.

Teachers of the Past Dedicated and Genuinely Concerned

Undoubtedly it was easier previously as the school staff consisted of their former students who knew and could maintain the traditions of the school. Then too SMI was remembered fondly by her alumni even after 100 years because of the La Salle brothers and the teachers.

Teachers of the past taught with dedication and harboured genuine concern for their students’ future. It was their love for their vocation that motivated them. It was this passionate attitude from teachers that made SMI a great school. And it showed in the numerous activities available and achievements garnered then.

All Round Excellence

In sport its activities then included swimming, rugby, cricket, athletics, football, hockey, badminton, gymnastics, fencing and judo and produced numerous national athletes such as the pair of Ng Boon Bee and Tan Yee Khan, who won the All England Doubles Championship in 1965 and 1967.

Its other extra-curricular activities included the School Band, Cadet Corp, Air Cadets, St John Ambulance, Chinese Orchestra and, one of its longest active society, the Arts, Drama and Musical Society (ADAMS).

On this Centennial Year, the society appropriately staged a play on the story about Jean Baptiste de La Salle, the founder of the La Sallian Brothers, called Jean Baptiste – The Lost Chronicles directed by its former art teacher Timothy Chee, while the play was written by his son Ian.

The Challenge of the Future

Admittedly, the high standards of before have declined. Even though the activities of the school band and drama society are still very active, “it is the sports activities that have declined drastically,” lamented Brother Vincent.

Herein lies the challenge for the future on how to maintain the glory days of yesteryear. According to Brother Vincent “it will be difficult” unlike earlier as the duty of care by the teachers towards their students has declined. This is due to a changed environment, one of which is that the Headmaster is not a Brother.

To overcome this, the board tries to appoint suitable candidates for its administrative positions. An example of this is the appointment of Madam Loh Wei Seng, SMI’s first Lady Principal and an Old Michaelian, who did her Form Six at the school in 1973/74.

Where previously parents came to school and expressly gave permission to teachers to discipline their children, today, many parents do not support this as most parents are very involved in their children’s education.

Throw in private tuition, the distraction from the internet and computer games into the equation, and the role of the teacher is reduced to being a mere facilitator in the learning process, no longer the source of inspiration nor role model.

A Wholesome Education Still Encouraged

PTA Chairman Joseph Michael Lee highlighted that SMI still has a number of teachers dedicated to the concept of a wholesome education, encompassing both academic and personal development.

Additionally the Board of Governors (BOG), Old Michaelians Associations (OMA) and the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) cooperate with the school’s administrators to keep alive the La Sallian value of caring for the Last, the Lost and the Least.

Lee added that in SMI, “our Board Chairman does not ask the Principal how many top scorers we have but he wants to know how many children failed. We never fail to tell the teachers that it is all right for the students to make mistakes for it is only in school that they can make errors and need not have to pay dearly for them. Additionally, we encourage our students to organise and lead events. Our recent Centennial Mass was organised by the students and it went very well.”

La Salle Values

“There is also the role of the La Salle Centre, located next to the school, that selects student leaders active in the various school activities. These students are exposed to the La Salle values and traditions through workshops and seminars and whose goal is to carry on the La Salle values during their activities,” Michael Lee added.

The Chairman of the Schools Board of Governors, Tan Sri Lee Oi Hian echoed similar sentiments, saying the Board’s role was to ensure the school has the right environment to thrive and to facilitate maintenance of the school spirit.

“St Michael’s is a recognised name among the Ipoh community. Every generation that walks through its doors won’t be the same but the tradition we maintain to develop a wholesome student will help them remember that they studied in an institution with a good learning environment where long friendships were made,” Tan Sri Lee concluded.

Over the last five years, SMI, which consists of SM St Michael’s Institution, SK St Michael’s 1, SK St Michael’s 2 and SK La Salle, Ipoh, has been upgrading its infrastructure.

The main building had its roof replaced and was given a new coat of paint, its chapel was upgraded and reopened last year while its toilet underwent a 5-star makeover. Even its primary school SMI Primary 1 and 2, previously a single storey block, has been housed in a new 4-storey building aptly named the Brother U-Paul Building.

It is said that a school, no matter how magnificent its architecture, is just bricks and mortar. It is the teachers and administrators within the school that make a school great.

After 100 years and through all its efforts and initiatives SMI has risen up to face its many challenges and can now embrace its future confidently.

Ipoh Dancesport Championship 2012

A Passion for Dance

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by James Gough

Ipoh’s first international dancesport competition, the 1st Ipoh Dancesport Championship 2012 was an astounding success. Judging by the 200 participants who came from all over the country and from China, Thailand, Hong Kong Singapore; the championship, organised by MY Dancesport Studio together with the Perak Society of Performing Arts in conjunction with Visit Perak Year 2012 was not only well attended but the organization was impeccable. The event, endorsed by the World Dance and Dance Sport Council (WDC), Asian Dance Council (ADC) and Malaysian Dancer’s Association (MDA) and held at the Grand Ballroom at the Kinta Riverfront Hotel, saw participants gracefully prance and twirl and dance stepped to the Waltz, Tango, Vienesse Waltz, Cha Cha and that dance of love the Rhumba.

Ipoh Dancesport Championship 2012Ipoh Dancesport Championship 2012Ipoh Dancesport Championship 2012Ipoh Dancesport Championship 2012Ipoh Dancesport Championship 2012Ipoh Dancesport Championship 2012Ipoh Dancesport Championship 2012One Man’s Passion and Ipoh’s 1st International Dancesport Tournament

Those familiar with Dancesport Competitions (Dancesport is the new name for Ballroom Dancing) with 200 and over participants will know that competitions can start from as early as 8am and last throughout the day till 12.30am the next day. This was not so for Ipoh’s first Dancesport event as participants and officials gave the organisers top marks for punctuality of starting events on schedule. The Ipoh Championship started at 10am.

Chief Adjudicator for the event, William Lor, praised My Dancesport Principal Yeap Yen Chin for managing the timing schedule very well. Lor added that the judges too considered the first time competition to be “run very well”.

Winners of the Latin Amateur event Alfred Choo and Cecelia Yong, both students from Kuala Lumpur had similar praise for the organiser’s time management saying that ‘for a change the competition ended before midnight”.

Encouraging Support

Another point of encouragement noted from the participants and officials was their support for the inaugural event, the 1st International Dancesport Championship, the emphasis being on the term “International”.

Winners, Alfred Choo and Cecelia Yong who only participate in international competitions said the organisers were “pioneers and they were here to support them”.  Incidentally, Choo and Yong though still students have contemplated making dancing their career.

Amateur Open Winners, Kitty Chiu amd Wang Fei from Hong Kong and China respectively were here because they knew the organisers and “wanted to support the organisers in their first championship event”.

My Dance Studio students William Yap, 20, and Foo Wai Sum, 16, who won in the Amateur Rising Star category, also had positive comments about the event with Foo adding that “the event was tiring and the air con cold but I enjoyed participating”.

My Dancesport Studio/How it began

They say it takes one person to make a change. And this is true of Michael Yeap, the founder of My Dancesport Studio, located in Ipoh Garden East which started almost 20 years ago. Yeap is an Ipoh resident who returned from KL just to promote dancing, Ballroom and Latin and provide ‘wannabe’ dancers the confidence to take to the dance floor.

Initially teaching dance at the Ipoh Swimming Club and Perak Hokkien Association, he opened his premises at Ipoh Garden East due to an increasing interest in his dancing classes.

Yeap grew up around ballroom dancing. His father worked as an accountant with a British company and had built a six room bungalow in Pasir Puteh with a large hall where his English friends and colleagues would come over for dance parties. While young he would sit and watch and eventually take to the floor.

His school holidays during his teen years were spent preparing for the weekend when he and his like-minded friends would plan a Saturday night dance taking turns at each other’s house each weekend.

The boys would chip in some money for orange squash and sandwiches and also to pay the driver of a rich-man’s son to pick up their dance partners. Yeap was an ACS student so their partners, by natural affinity, were from Methodist Girls School (MGS).

Yeap’s big break came in 1999 when the filming of Anna and The King took place in Ipoh. He was asked by 20th Century Fox to train actor Chow Yuen Fatt and actress Jodie Foster for a banquet scene which included doing the Viennese Waltz.

The job required Yeap to be on standby 24 hours should either of the actors have the inclination to dance at any time of the day. Yeap was the partner for Jodie Foster. However for Chow Yuen Fatt he had to train and coach his daughter Yen Chin who was then 16 years old and only fluent in Latin dance. Between the two of them they partnered over 80 children and 20 adults for dance lessons for the movie. Needless to say at the end of the contract My Dance Studio was inundated by newcomers.

In 2001, Yeap had a stroke and retired. Thereafter Yen Chin and her brother Derek took on the role of teaching at My Dance Studio. Currently the Studio is run by Yen Chin as Principal and two instructors one being Derek and another Yong Chun Wai. The studio also conducts examinations besides coaching.

Yen Chin whose passion is Latin Dance, has travelled overseas for training and competes regularly at the Blackpool Dance Festival in UK and to update herself with new techniques which she imparts to her students. Yen Chin turned professional six years ago and is currently one of only three Latin Dance professionals in the country.

Organising an International Championship

Michael Yeap had long ago wanted to organise an international championship but “there wasn’t a suitable venue in Ipoh.” According to him, a suitable ballroom must not have any columns in the way which is now available at the Kinta Riverfront Hotel and is the reason why the championship was held this year. Since a venue is available Yeap intends to make the championship an annual event.

The championship this year also introduced new categories of competition such as  the Solo Open event for under 8, 12 and 16, as well as the Ladies Event where a pair of ladies dance as a couple with one taking the male lead.

According to Yen Chin, the purpose of introducing these new categories of events is to promote dancing to a wider market and to encourage more people to take up the sport and possibly make a career out of it.

For the near future Michael Yeap is contemplating having a state-wide competition for his students from Teluk Intan, Taiping and Kuala Kangsar.

It is good to note what one man’s passion for dance can do for the local economy and possibly would warrant to be included in the 2013 Tourism Calendar of Events.

 

Mayor Targets Ipoh to be 85% Clean in 1 Year

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By James Gough

Mayor Roshidi

At Ipoh City Council’s last full board meeting held in early September, Mayor Roshidi again raised the issue about Ipoh being recognised as one of the cleanest cities in the country during the ‘80s and added that Ipoh should work hard at trying to get back that status of the “cleanest city”. At the press conference after the full board meeting, Roshidi, when pressed to share his plan on how to regain the ‘cleanest’ status, elaborated that “a ‘makmal’ (laboratory) committee would be set up to focus and identify all aspects of cleanliness from collection to removal and other details.” Roshidi also confirmed that he would be sitting on the committee and tasked to oversee the cleanliness of the city for this year as well as the next.

Promises of Drastic Action: “Take my word” – Roshidi

Ipoh Echo has consistently been highlighting the importance of a clean Ipoh, a reputation we once had as the cleanest town in the country.
When asked what he thought was the current percentage of cleanliness of Ipoh, Roshidi could not respond but added that his immediate goal for a clean Ipoh was 85% which he intended to achieve in one year. Roshidi stated that he planned to “turun padang and go down to the ground” even at night together with his enforcement and community departments to check on offenders and where necessary “would resort to drastic action to summon the offenders, you can take my word on this”.
Cleanliness in Ipoh has always involved the three elements “Sampah, Rumput dan Longkang” or “Rubbish, Grass and Drains”.

Rubbish
The collection of rubbish by outsourced contractors which is done three times per week “is good” said Roshidi adding that the city centre is generally clean. However, the problem is at the residential and suburban areas which involves the ‘sampah haram’ or illegal dump sites. Currently residents who request to clear illegal dump sites are subjected to a RM20 charge for the service. Roshidi also appealed to those who created ‘sampah haram’ sites to not complain about Ipoh being dirty.
Ipoh Echo then highlighted that the clearance of garden waste was the responsibility of MBI where their SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) states that the operation has to be done once a fortnight. However, this cannot be done efficiently currently as the majority of their existing lorries are not functioning.
Roshidi did not respond when asked if new lorries had been ordered for the fortnightly procedure but responded that he “had a good team to effectively deal with this problem. Residents can SMS me (019-5730333) about this problem even at 11pm at night and we will look into it.”
Roshidi highlighted that 90 of the green mild steel bins usually seen at back lanes had been purchased to replace the broken units for this year. In total the cost of rubbish collection services per year is RM11 million.

MBI signboard - grass cutting contractorGrass Cutting and Drain Cleaning
In April this year MBI held a press conference to highlight the successful selection of 44 grass cutting contractors at landscaped areas with 33 contractors dedicated for mowing lawns and cleaning services and 11 maintenance and cleaning services.
According to Roshidi the services of the grass cutters has so far been satisfactory. Based on MBI’s grass cutters’ specifications the mowing at road shoulders and fields should be done twice a month. For government reserve land the work is to be carried out once a month.
MBI has recently erected signboards at the respective zones indicating the grass cutter’s contact details, the schedule to cut grass and includes MBI’s person-in-charge contact reference.

Scope of Work: Grass Cutting
Grass cutting refers to all types of grass, shrubs and wild plants found on roads, road shoulders, road reserves, open spaces, playgrounds, recreational parks, pedestrian walkways, concrete columns, the tarmac, ‘interlocking’, jogging tracks, and reflexology paths.
Other specifications state that grass should be cut close and neat, 2-4 cm from ground level, and the cut grass removed on the same day. Grass growing on pedestrian streets, concrete poles, fences and such are to be sprayed with herbicides. Grass cutting work is to be done up to the boundary of the premises, including the route between the premises. Grass that has fallen into the drain waste should be collected and gathered in a ‘culvert box’ and ‘main hole’. Finally all cut grass, plants and garbage must be dumped into landfills approved by the Council. Currently MBI’s performance score for the contractors is 95 per cent.

Drain Contractors
In mid July 2012, MBI appointed eight drain contractors for work to be done in four zones, Bercham, Canning, Buntong and Tambun. All drain works at the other zones are carried out by MBI’s workers. The reason to outsource this work to the four zones is because their infrastructure is older and requires more effort to maintain.
According to Roshidi, of the eight contractors, only four are so far classified as “good” with two described as excellent and another two “on par”. The other four failed, with one contractor being terminated as of September 16. When enquired why it took so long to terminate a contractor especially since the service to the zone was not fulfilled for two months, Roshidi replied that a termination had to be done as per procedure.

Scope of Work of Drain Contractor
The scope of work included in this contract covers all monsoon drains, cement drains open/closed in residential areas or housing estates and drains on business premises measuring less than three (3) feet. The work also includes drains around golf courses and recreational parks.
Public drain channels should be washed and cleaned and be free from any obstruction. The rate of drain cleaning of monsoon drains is once every 30 days or if there is occurrence of clogged drains after heavy rain.
The rate of drain cleaning indoor/outdoor residential areas or housing estate is once within 21 days or if drains are clogged after heavy rain and on receiving complaints from the public. For business premises this should be done once every 14 days or if clogged after heavy rain or receiving complaints from the public or from the Council.
Cleaning work includes cutting grass (within 2 metres on both sides of the gutter), removing all additional rubbish such as bottles, plastic containers, timber, iron and stones, sand and soil in the drain. All waste should be placed in bags or containers and discarded to approved landfill by lorry.
Water in the drain should be smooth flowing to ensure public drains are free of solid waste including food scraps in the event of flash floods to prevent disease.

Team Effort
Keeping Ipoh clean is going to be a major team effort by Ipoh residents and the Ipoh City Council. Hopefully, with a common knowledge of the goals we can meet Mayor Roshidi’s 85 per cent cleanliness goal.
A list of Ipoh Councillors is shown on page 6 for residents to contact to highlight concerns about cleanliness.

The Rising Cost Of Living

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By Louise Sim & See Foon Chan-Koppen

Ipoh, the city which tin built, has lost its lustre as a town with low cost of living. The price of everything, ranging from edibles to non-edibles, has gone up and appears to be on the increase. Gone are the days where one could get a decent meal at a low price here. Some even complain prices in Ipoh are on par with cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang. So how do people cope?

 Eating out is oftentimes more economical than cooking at home

Retiree K.S. Lim, 70, said he spends about RM50 daily to buy meat and vegetables for his small family of seven. “Sometimes the RM50 is not enough for our lunch and dinner,” said the grandfather of two. Lim said that due to supply and demand of foodstuff, some foods tend to be more expensive than other types of edibles during certain times.

Citing fish as an example, Lim said river fish will be highly sought after when fishermen don’t go to sea due to bad weather. “Consumers can expect to pay a high price for river fish if they insist on eating fish during monsoon seasons,” he explained. When such situations arise, Lim said he would change to other types of meat like poultry or pork. “But if on days all meats are expensive, we will have vegetarian meals,” he quipped.

Ipoh Not Cheaper than Penang

Private sector employee, who wished to be known as M. Kaur, 36, said she used to think cost of living was lower in Ipoh prior to her transfer from Penang. “So you can imagine my shock when I found out it was the opposite after I relocated here,” she said. The mother of one said food formed a major part of her budget. “Due to my work schedule and having a toddler to take care of, I seldom cook and my husband and I normally eat out,” she said.

“I can attest to you it is not cheap to eat out in Ipoh, contrary to claims by people otherwise,” she added. Besides food, Madam Kaur also complained about the high cost of public transport within the city. “Recently my mother, who came to visit me from Penang, had to take a taxi from town to my house in Meru,” she said. “Can you believe the taxi driver charged her RM18 for the journey?” she exclaimed. “And I thought it is more expensive to take taxis in cities like Kuala Lumpur,” she smirked.

High Cost of Taxis

Echoing Madam Kaur, her friend Reena Raj, 28, said a taxi ride from the railway station to her home at Taman Tinggi, which is next to First Garden, cost her RM13. “It is a mere 6 km drive but it cost me RM13 for the ride,” she said. “I vowed never to take taxis after that expensive experience,” she added.

Reena also noted that food costs are high in Ipoh. “I normally spend between RM20 and RM30 daily for my breakfast and lunch,” said the Kuala Lumpur lass. “And mind you, those places where I eat are not high class places,” she added.

Besides transport, Reena also complained about the high price of houses in Ipoh. “Prior to moving to Ipoh, I thought I could get a double storey house for RM200,000,” she said. “Imagine my shock when a 20’ by 75’ double storey house at First Garden is sold at RM330,000,” she said.

A. JeyarajHomecooking for Jeyaraj

For Ipoh Echo’s correspondent Jeyaraj, he says that home-cooked meals are his preference. “It must be noted that in home cooking, good grade rice is used, fresh and expensive vegetables are bought, expensive fish, good quality oil is used, ingredients are clean, masala may be homemade or bought from people making it at home, no colouring or preservatives are used and there is less salt. We can remove chicken skin and excessive fat from mutton and the food is cooked hygienically. Food is freshly cooked and stored properly. This for me is a healthy diet.” With his wife making her own masalas and hand grinding some of the ingredients, Jeyaraj reckons that he spends an average of RM990 a month for his family of two.

Rising Cost Of Living
The Kumar family

Other Family Food Expenditures

For Marketing Manager Ramesh Kumar, he and his family of four rely on eating out and takeaways. Spending an average of RM16 on breakfast, lunch and dinner, his very conservative estimate is RM1,440 per month which allows for very little in the way of treats for his two children.

Leong feeds his family of four for about RM1,650, with no frills. This would include what he classifies as a normal breakfast for RM20 or RM5 per person; a normal lunch of economy rice at RM4 per person (without beverage) averaging

Rising Cost Of Living
Rosli & Sarah

about RM600 per month and the same for dinner. Special breakfasts of dim sum would bring it up to about RM15 per head. Lunch and dinner at a restaurant consisting of 2 meats, 2 vegetables and 1 soup would average about RM17 per person whereas a homecooked meal of 1 meat, 1 fish, 1 vegetable and 1 soup with meat works out to the same amount. By the time one factors in the time, labour and costs of gas or electricity, this means that it is oftentimes cheaper to eat out than to cook at home.

For newly-married couple Rosli Mansor and his wife, eating out is the main option which costs the couple about RM1,200 a month while single Ed Shahir, spends about RM500 for his meals.

Perak Consumers Association

Rising Cost Of Living, Perak Consumers Association
Abdul Rahman Said Alli
President of Perak Consumers Association

Perak Consumers Association president Abdul Rahman Said Alli when contacted, blamed the high cost of living in Ipoh on the Government’s plans of wanting to turn Malaysia into a high-income nation by 2020.

“Why must we be so obsessed with becoming a high-income nation?” he questioned. He claimed that by pushing the country towards high-income, traders also push to have higher income by increasing their prices.

He said the problem is more evident during festive seasons when the price of everything skyrockets. “And I am not talking about the controlled price items,” he said.

He said the association had been receiving calls from the concerned public daily, over difficulties in making ends meet. “Our advice to them is to try to look for alternatives,” he said, adding that many people are working two jobs nowadays just to ensure there is enough income for the family.