Tag Archives: ipoh echo issue 127

Perak Tourism Bhd Appoints CEO

Encik Ahmad Fathil Abdul Ghani, CEO Perak Tourism

Encik Ahmad Fathil Abdul Ghani has been appointed CEO of Perak Tourism Berhad. Fathil comes to Perak with a wealth of tourism experience having served with the Terengganu State Tourism Board since 1990.

Fathil initially began his career as a hotel executive in 1988 before joining the Terengganu State Secretariat in 1990 as its Tourism and Culture Officer. In 2003, he was appointed the planning and development manager for the State Tourism Action Council and in 2008 was promoted to general manager, a post he held till 2009.

In 2010, he was appointed the Director, Ministry of Tourism, Terengganu, till July 31 this year before taking up his new post with Tourism Perak Berhad.

When interviewed, Fathil had already sized up what Perak had to offer and what needed to be done.

“Perak has the products to be a top destination,” stated Fathil and described the products as, “Kuala Kangsar is a Royal Town”, Royal Belum “you don’t need to fly to a million-year-old rainforest, you can drive there” and described Pangkor as “a niche location”. Regarding Ipoh “it’s got heritage trail maps” while Perak also has “an added advantage, easy access to Cameron Highlands.”

“In the tourism industry the government only gets the taxes. If the rakyat participates and grabs the opportunities available in the industry, one can reap its benefits.”

However, the most important aspect is that everyone, whether stakeholders, players, NGOs, must co-operate and work together. “We can plan a lot of programmes but it is the stakeholders who will implement the programmes to make Perak a premier destination.”

On Visit Perak Year 2012, he said the state needed the co-operation from all parties, i.e. state government, district councils, local authorities as well as the stakeholders and the whole community to act for tourism to work.

Regarding promotions he said, “There are two types of events, the spectator event and the participation event, an example being the Ipoh International Run. We will need a few good events that are well promoted and branded as an event unique and specific to Perak.”

Regarding the appointment of the Ipoh Echo to be the medium of distribution for the Perak Tourism newsletter, Fathil said “as Perak’s own community newspaper and with the widest English readership and distribution in Perak both in print and online, it is a logical choice as the newsletter will be a platform to communicate and promote destinations and packages and benefits both players and visitors.”


Hari Raya Gloom


Two families’ hopes of a cheery Hari Raya Adil Fitri went up in flames when their rented wooden houses in Sungai Rokam were gutted by fire on Thursday, August 18, barely two weeks before the big day.

Halifah Md Som



Halifah Md Som, 35, escaped with her 6-day old infant child, Dewa Armadan Ismail. She was resting in her bedroom when she saw smoke bellowing from the living room. She called out to her younger sister and her other child, a 4-year old toddler, and they escaped the inferno through the backdoor.

“My only thought at that moment was the safety of my family, not of my own,” she told reporters when met. Halifah had just been discharged from the hospital after delivering her baby boy. “All of my Hari Raya preparations including clothing, shoes and cookies are gone. It happened so fast,” said the distraught mother who works as a cleaner.


Idang Alvarel, 36, ran all the way from her place of work at the Megoplex shopping mall, a distance of two kilometres, upon receiving news about her burning house. She and her husband, Amir Sharipuddin, 54, and their eight children have been renting the house since 1998.

“My husband and I were at work while three of my kids were at home when the incident happened,” she recalled. “On receiving the information on my mobile, I ran straight for home. The fate of my children was the only thing on my mind. Fortunately, all three were safe.”

Idang could do little to salvage her family’s belongings, including her Hari Raya goodies. “They’re all gone. It’s hardly 15 minutes,” she exclaimed.

Yayasan Bina Upaya Darul Ridzuan’s Chief Executive Officer, Dato’ Zainal Abidin Omar was at the relief centre the following morning. He donated RM1,000 each to the two families. “This is YBU’s contribution to the unfortunate victims,” he told reporters. The foundation’s cash aid is part of its on-going programme to help the poor and the needy in the state, irrespective of their ethnicity and beliefs.


Batu Gajah Heritage Trail


Batu Gajah (BG) now also has a Heritage Map. It is called “Batu Gajah Heritage Driving Trail”.

The map was produced by the Kinta Heritage Group in collaboration with Perak Tourism and Batu Gajah District Office. It was recently launched by State Exco for Tourism Dato’ Hamidah Osman. The map starts from the Sri Subramaniyar Temple on Jalan Pusing and onwards to Kuan Tay Temple on Jalan Besar before heading up to Changkat Road government offices and terminating at St Joseph’s Church.

The entire trail stretches approximately 10km, just nice for a Sunday morning outing on a bicycle. Just strap your bike to the back of your boot and check out the fresh air at BG.

The maps are free and available at the Batu Gajah District Office. Tel. No.:


SeeFoon discovers authentic ‘Mah Lat’ taste in Ipoh


By See Foon Chan-Koppen

Most readers will have discovered by now that my taste in food is somewhat eclectic, and while not as adventurous as Very Serious Foodie Andrew Zimmern in his programme called Bizarre Foods, where he will pop live worms and insects into his mouth and apparently enjoy them, I have eaten my way around the world and am now left with lingering taste sensations that will occasionally nudge at my taste buds and a hankering to repeat some of those ephemeral taste memories.

One of these is huājiāo, the Szechuan pepper that dominates many a dish in the Szechuan province of China. Many people are surprised to learn that Szechuan peppercorn is not a pepper at all – the distinctive reddish-brown berries hail from the prickly ash tree. Its main claim to fame is the powerful numbing sensation it causes around the mouth. When married with chilli peppers (the other key ingredient in Szechuan cuisine), chefs believe this numbing effect reduces the chilli’s heat, leaving diners free to appreciate the capsicum’s intense, fruity flavour. Hence, the term ‘Mah Lat’ (numbing hot) for the dishes which are produced out of this marriage.

Northern Dumplings Taste Test

When someone asked me if I had been to Chuan Kwong for their Shao Long Pau (a dumpling peculiar to northern China) I made a note to check it out as it is very close to the Ipoh Echo office. Chuan Kwong has only been opened for about eight months and has already garnered many fans. It is essentially a Dim Sum place, serving tea, soft drinks, desserts, noodles and snacks (as in Dim Sum).

I asked for their recommen-dations and was immediately told to try their Shao Long Pau, which is listed as Shanghai Minced Meat Dumpling. What sets one restaurant’s Shao Long Pau against another is easily summed up by the chopstick pick-up test. Shao Long Pau must be picked up with chopsticks and popped whole into one’s mouth. The critical test is whether the pastry stays intact on the journey to the mouth or if it breaks, leaving all the delicious juices and half the skin in the steam basket. A good Shao Long Pau stays intact, the meat juices oozing out in the mouth on the first bite, the skin still ‘al dente’ with a slight elasticity and the meat filling succulent and flavourful. Chuan Kwong’s easily stood up to the test and I promptly ordered another basket; a rare taste treat in Ipoh. RM3.00 for 3 pieces.

Cantonese and SzeChuan Dim Sum

The menu is divided into sections for Cantonese Dim Sum and Szechuan Dim Sum. The Cantonese section had the usual coterie of dumplings like Shao Mai, Har Kau, Carrot Cake, Char Siew Pao, etc. The few that I sampled were all good quality including the Mini Egg Custard Bun filled with egg custard made with the addition of salted egg yolk oozing out on the first bite. Slightly sweet and salty at the same time; utterly delectable. RM3.90 for 3 pieces. They also have daily specials on Dim Sum which are not on the menu, so ask for those.

The SzeChuan Dim Sum as well as their SzeChuan Noodles menu contained many treasured items long buried in my taste memories as well as hitherto new taste treats all created and homemade by Chef Alex Leong.

Must try-s include their Glutinous Rice Balls wrapped in banana leaf, Deep Fried Pancake with crispy floss, RM3.90 for 3 pieces; the Chives Dumpling with chilli oil, RM3.50 for 4 pieces; Pan Fried Chives Dumpling. RM3.50 for 3 pieces; and the Steamed Meat Dumpling in chilli oil, RM4.00 for 6 pieces.

Knife-Shredded Noodles

Their pièce de résistance though has to be their Szechuan Knife-Shredded Noodles with Chilli Oil, a bowl of thick hand-cut noodles, smooth and chewy in the mouth served in a fiery meat cum ‘Mah Lat’ broth that almost brings tears to your eyes and yet is irresistible to those (like myself) who are addicted to that searing sensation of hot chillies.

Intrigued by the noodles, our group went to the kitchen to watch Chef Alex perform his magic as he took out a round longish slab of dough about half the size of a rolling pin and began chipping away at one end in a circular motion, creating thick tendrils of dough which he then blanched and put into the broth. These knife-cut noodles come in a variety of broths, some spicy and others bland like in chicken stock. RM5.50 per bowl. Highly recommended.

All in all, the Dim Sum and noodles in Chuan Kwong are well worth a visit as they are all home-made by Chef Alex who learnt his trade in Singapore working in some of the best Szechuan restaurants that I have personally dined in. Do expect to queue up for tables on Saturdays and Sundays as they don’t take reservations.

74 Persiaran Greentown 1, Greentown Business Centre.
Tel: 05-253 3551
Open 7.00 a.m. -2.30 p.m.
Weekends 7.00 a.m.-1.00 p.m.
Closed Wednesdays.

They Deserve Our Compassion, Too


By Mariam Mokthar

We live increasingly compartmentalized lives; we barely know the cultural traits of our neighbours who may belong to another faith. Some of us may take great pains to be aware of how others live, but despite our best efforts to appear to be multi-cultural, we often tend to neglect what happens in our own households.

Hari Raya Aidil-Fitri is a welcome celebration after 30 days of fasting during Ramadan and is an event that both the Muslims and non-Muslims look forward to. Apart from the religious significance, Muslims are the perfect hosts with plenty of treats on hand, gifts for the children and charitable acts to be fulfilled.


Time for Atonement

The usual greeting or salaam is “Selamat Hari Raya” and Muslims will also include the salutation of “maaf zahir dan batin”, asking each other for forgiveness as Hari Raya is also a time for atonement.

Hari Raya is when Muslims make the long trek home, “balik kampung” to be with one’s parents, in-laws and other elders, and to seek forgiveness from them.

The day starts with an early rise and after the ritual bath, everyone will be dressed in the best clothes and shoes, before the men go to the mosque for special prayers.

Children will ask to be pardoned by the oldest members of their family and kiss their hands whilst they seek their forgiveness. They also look forward to receiving “duit raya”.

A light breakfast with the family is followed by a trip to the cemetery to clean the graves of dead relatives and to offer prayers. Then it’s back home, to receive guests for “open house”.


Some are Neglected

Whilst friends and relatives are treated to the largesse and the hospitality of the hosts, there are some people who belong in our households and are treated like family by some of us, but neglected by many others.

They live with us and are in our presence 24 hours a day. They are probably closer to some members of our family than we would care to admit and yet, when it comes to having a joyous celebration like Hari Raya, few take the time to consider the feelings of these people.

Who are they? ‘They’ are the hundreds of thousands of women whom we term the ‘maid’ or as the children in our homes call “kakak”.

They are the ones whom we cannot do without and on whom we depend to feed, clothe and clean our children. They are the ones who take care of our elderly parents because we are unable to do so because of the hectic lives that we lead. They are the ones who help keep our businesses running by cleaning, cooking or serving our customers. And they are the ones who nurse us when we are ill.


Social Stigma as Maids

Some three decades ago, before Malaysia became the affluent nation that it is today, Malaysians from the rural areas comprised a large percentage of the household help in our urban towns and cities.

Improved and more widespread education for girls, better job opportunities, the proliferation of factory jobs, and the emancipation of women are some of the factors which contributed to a reduction in the percentage of women, from the rural areas, entering service in the home.

In addition, the social stigma of working as a maid for low wages, leaving home for long periods and having to forego normal family contact, coupled with the prospect of a non-existent social life, with long working hours in a menial job, were not enticements to many women, especially the young.


Foreigners Fill Vacuum

The vacuum left by Malaysians, predominantly the women, has since been filled by foreign maids who are prepared to leave their homes, their families and transport themselves thousands of miles, so as to earn an income to support their families and children back home, be it Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines or Thailand.

According to the online news portal ‘Free Malaysia Today’, Indonesia and Cambodia supply the majority of the 230,000 maids in Malaysian households. The embassies of these countries have also reported that 2,000 women complain of being abused each year.

Admittedly, the known cases of people abusing their maids are under 1%. But these are the publicised, reported cases. How many maids suffer in silence?


Time Off for Maids?

How many households give time off, to these maids, for Hari Raya? In Indonesia, Hari Raya means many businesses are shut and non-Muslims take advantage of special hotel deals, so that their workforce can enjoy their holidays. Does the same happen in non-Muslim Malaysian houses?

What happens in a Malaysian Muslim household? Their argument is probably that the maids are there to work. Will the maids get a day off in lieu? Employers will also say that the maid has nowhere to go to anyway.

Perhaps it is not a question of who is right and who is wrong. A maid is more than just a pair of hired hands. They are also human and belong to a faith. Many are devout Muslims, Christians or Hindus. After all, they cannot balik kampung to be with their families or clean the graves of their ancestors. In all probability, they are prevented from returning for Raya.

The least we can do is give them a huge bonus or duit raya, and time off.  They, too, deserve our consideration and compassion. Isn’t that what Raya is also about?


Dr. S.S. Gill, Consultant Ophthalmologist

Ipoh Echo’s Eye Health Series continues with Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr. S.S. Gill talking to us about Cataract.

The lens in our eyes plays a crucial role in vision. This lens is transparent, crystalline and focuses light on the back of the eye (retina). When this crystalline lens becomes cloudy, it is called a cataract which is most commonly seen in the elderly.

When the lens becomes a cataract, it affects vision in some way or the other, either in the loss of clarity or quality of vision. This is because cataracts block and distort the light that has to pass through the lens, causing visual symptoms.

In Malaysia, cataract is the leading cause of poor vision in patients above the age of 55 years. Cataracts usually occur very gradually although there are instances it may occur rapidly.

Quite often, people may be unaware that they have cataracts because the changes in their vision have been gradual. Cataracts commonly affect both eyes, but it is not uncommon for cataracts to advance more rapidly in one eye.

What are some common causes of cataract?

Contrary to popular belief, cataract is not caused by reading or eye strain. It can be described in terms of the cause as follows:

Aging:  This is the commonest cause for cataracts developing. Almost every person will develop a cataract at some stage of life because everyone is constantly aging. Most individuals will have cataracts by the time they reach their seventies.

Secondary cataracts. These occur due to medical conditions, like diabetes, or to exposure to toxic substance and certain drugs like corticosteroids or diuretics, radiation and ultraviolet exposure. Other factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing such cataracts include air pollution, and heavy alcohol consumption.

Traumatic cataracts. These form as a result of an eye injury. At times the injury may have occurred much earlier and you may have even forgotten about it. If you do remember any history of trauma, it should be highlighted to your eye doctor.

Congenital cataracts. Babies are sometimes born with cataracts as a result of an infection, injury, or poor development. They may also develop during childhood.

Most cataracts develop slowly and don’t disturb your eyesight early on. But with time, these cataracts will eventually interfere with your vision. Congenital cataracts have to be treated early to avoid permanent loss of vision that cannot be reversed later on.

In the initial treatment of cataracts in adults, stronger lighting and stronger powered spectacles may be able to help you deal with cataracts. But if the impaired vision interferes with your usual activities, you may need cataract surgery. The good news is that cataract surgery is generally a safe and effective procedure.

For more information, contact Gill Eye Specialist Centre at 05-5455582, email: gilleyecentre@dr.com or visit www.fatimah.com.my.

Raja Bilah Centenary Celebration


By James Gough

A buzz of activity enveloped the usually quiet town of Papan recently as more than 200 descendants of Raja Bilah of Papan, gathered in their ancestral house, Rumah Besar Raja Bilah, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of their illustrious ancestor. For many of the young descendants, this was the first time they had returned to their family estate.

Large and Diverse Mandailing Family Tree

The organizers of the gathering are cousins Hafizah Kamaruddin, 53, and Nadimah binti Mohd Jamil, both 4th generation Mandailings, who six months earlier, upon realizing that it would be the 100th anniversary of the death of Raja Bilah, decided to have a gathering at the ancestral home.

The message of the gathering was spread by word of mouth and as a result, over 200 family members turned up for the gathering. Hafizah, who was never alerted on the number attending, was delightfully surprised to find so many family members in one place and set about getting the various families from this large and complex family tree to register themselves before the mingling began.

There was an air of festivity and closeness as the elders began the process of reconnecting the diverse branches of this Mandailing family tree.

Rumah Besar Raja Bilah (left) and Papan Mosque on the right

Raja Bilah’s Background

Raja Bilah was a Mandailing from west Sumatra. He was the nephew of Raja Asal, also a Mandailing who came to Malaysia earlier in 1840.

Raja Asal was recruited by the British during the Perak War, under Swettenham, to help capture the Perak Malays thought to have been linked to the murder of JWW Birch. As a reward for his military services, Swettenham gave Raja Asal four tin mines located in Papan which belonged to ex-Sultan Ismail. The mines were described by British Resident Sir Hugh Low as “probably the richest tin mines in the Malay Peninsula.”

The early Mandailing miners were involved in mining, smelting and trading in tin in the Kinta Valley. Raja Bilah who arrived in 1860 followed in Raja Asal’s footsteps and became the leading Mandailing miner of his time at Papan.

Raja Bilah, during his time, was possibly the biggest Malay miner in the Kinta Valley and was reputed to own “Lombong Besar” (big mine) employing hundreds of coolies, all Malays. He was made the Penghulu (chieftain) of Papan from 1882 to 1909.

Family Estate map

Raja Bilah Compound

Rumah Besar Raja Bilah is located about 200 metres just off the Papan main road, before 74 Papan Main Street, the home of heroine Sybil Karthigasu about whom books, articles and TV documentaries have been produced.

Its grounds consist of Rumah Besar and then Rumah Asal where Raja Bilah lived. Also within the grounds, a mosque was built in1888 which served the Muslim community who came from all around for their daily and Friday prayers. At an adjacent hillock facing west, Raja Bilah allocated a piece of land for a Muslim burial ground. He was buried there. Interestingly, facing east on this same hillock, there is a Chinese cemetery.

Rumah Besar was actually a “council house” which was used for a conference of elders and other large events. It was a large double-storey building, had large halls upstairs and downstairs and its eight-sided columns on the ground floor symbolized that it was a community hall. It was completed in 1896 and the date is displayed over the gateway leading to the side of the house.

Hafizah (left) with her mother, Saidah Bte Selleh, 70

Passing of the Baton

When Raja Bilah died, his post as Penghulu was passed on to his sons, first Raja Yacob and later Raja Shahabuddin. Raja Yacob was a “renaissance man” with diverse interests and spoke and read in several languages. He wrote the book ‘Tarikh Raja Asal & Keluarganya” in 1933 tracing the history of the Mandailings in Malaya.

According to Raja Bilah’s will, Rumah Besar was to be “an ancestral home for the clan, serving to bring the children and descendants together during ceremonial occasions such as marriages and Muslim feasts.”

Treasured Repository

In later years it was discovered that “it was a repository of family documents dating back to the 1870s and included photographs, memorabilia and weapons of war of the 19th century.” It was described as “a rare find of Malay manuscripts and documents covering 3 generations of penghulus”. These documents are currently with the Department of Heritage and Antiquities.

Annual Affair from Now

When Raja Yakob died during the Japanese Occupation, the Mandailings lost their spiritual leader and no longer gathered frequently in Papan. However, at the recent gathering organised by Hafizah and Nadirah the response was very positive with many family members expressing their support to make the gathering an annual affair.

That day the Zohor prayers were once again said in the mosque on the grounds after a lapse of more than 10 years. The women folk who had come earlier to do a cleanup were surprised that the interior of the mosque was clean and tidy and free from animal droppings.

Later in the day another Mandailing, Abdul Razak Lubis who co-wrote the book “Raja Bilah and the Mandailings in Perak, 1875-1911” (and from where most of the data here was gleaned), presented a slide show on the origins of the Mandailings to a rapt audience of ancestors spanning three generations.

According to Hafizah the plan next year is to have more data and photographs and grow the family tree. It appears that after so long, Raja Bilah’s vision for Rumah Besar to be “the Ancestral Home” and to “bring children and descendants together” is beginning to be realised. This family tree is starting to bear fruit.

Photography Exhibition


Kolej Poly-tech Mara held a photography exhibition recently in which 20 photographers from all over Perak participated. The objective of the programme was to expose the finer points of the subject to its students.

College director Norizan Noordin said that photography was a popular subject among her students. However, most of them need exposure to enable them to develop their skills. The programme was organised with this aim mind. It was a boon to the students, as it provided them with an opportunity to rub shoulders and share experiences with the professionals.

The one-day exhibition attracted over 500 visitors to the college grounds. A competition on creative graphic design was also held.


Orphans Hosted by Soroptimist International Ipoh


Over 90 children including all of the Salvation Army Orphanages in Ipoh and 17 from the Home of Peace in Canning Garden, were treated to the Nationwide Charity Premiere of Cars 2 hosted by Soroptimist International Ipoh (SII) recently. The event was part of Soroptimist International Region of Malaysia (SIROM)’s inaugural nationwide charity premiere which saw 2,800 tickets sold around the country for its first-ever nationwide endeavour with the children coming from more than 30 homes across the peninsula.

In Ipoh, Tanjong Golden Village (TGV) cinema helped to make the charity event a big success. “The management from the cinema involved were very helpful in providing us with their hall for the screening. However, this whole thing would not have been possible if we did not have the full support of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures right from the get-go. Their involvement allowed us to kick-off this programme confidently and provide the children with the rare opportunity to watch a movie premiere,” added Kuan Khoo, President of SII.

Tickets for the premiere were sponsored both by individuals and corporate sectors who shared in the organisation’s vision of enabling children from the homes to watch a movie. Proceeds from the ticket sales of RM6,000 in Ipoh will be channelled to SII’s educational programme, OK TAK OK, a full-day workshop on personal safety, targeted to educate Primary 5 and 6 school children on child sexual abuse and what is acceptable and unacceptable touch/behaviour from adults.

Soroptimist International is a worldwide service organisation for women. It is a global voice for women working through Awareness, Advocacy and Action and committed to a world where women and girls together achieve their individual and collective potential, realise aspirations and have an equal voice in creating strong, peaceful communities worldwide. Soroptimist International Region of Malaysia has been established in the country for the past 20 years and Soroptimist Ipoh in the past 3 years.


MBI Acts on IE Reader Alert


On August 3, Ipoh Echo received a call from a reader that a “dangerous looking building renovation” was ongoing at the junction Jalan Tahwil Azhar and Jalan Mustapha Al-Bakri.

A drive to the location revealed that the building had its inner sections removed but left the “original walls” intact. The walls were tied with cables and secured to the inside of the buildings.

A “Temporary Work Permit” issued by MBI was displayed onsite. However, there was no scaffolding or netting erected alongside the perimeter of the worksite. Additionally the notice board indicating the project details was not yet on display.

Ipoh Echo took photos of the worksite and presented them to officials of MBI’s Building department to get their views on August 5. No comments were forthcoming other than saying they would “look into it.”

On Monday August 8, workmen at the worksite were seen erecting the fencing, scaffolding and netting. A call to MBI’s Building office revealed that a stop-work order had been issued until all safety measures were in place.

Another drive-by on Thursday 11 August revealed that all safety features were in place while the project notice board too was on display.

Ipoh Echo would like to thank ‘Anonymous’ for highlighting her concern. And MBI for their prompt action.