Tag Archives: ipoh echo issue 159

MH Unilodge Kampar – A Worthy Investment

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MH UniLodge, KamparRealising the needs of students in Kampar, Kinta Saujana Properties Sdn Bhd recently embarked on a project to build a custom-made hostel for their use. The hostel, aptly named MH Unilodge to denote its affinity with students, is modelled after a university hostel in Australia. It comes complete with individual parking bays for the benefit of those with cars. The plus point is that the units are free-hold entities thus owning one has its merits. One other major consideration is the 3-year guaranteed return on offer by Kinta Saujana Properties Sdn Bhd plus a tempting 2-year maintenance fee exemption.

Built on a 5-acre site and located slightly over a kilometre from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), MH Unilodge has public facilities such as a hypermarket, a hospital and related government departments within reach, thus enhancing its marketability.

MH Unilodge comprises three blocks with five design choices covering a floor space measuring between 568.7 sq ft to 855.4 sq. ft. The 22 shop lots and 198 fully furnished apartments come with a gym, infinity pool, library, laundry, indoor and outdoor cafes, discussion room and a BBQ area built with the convenience of students in mind. The area is under constant surveillance provided by CCTV, security guards and a functional electronic locking system.

Kampar has caught the attention of investors with the establishment of additional institutes of higher learning besides the TAR campus. Westlake International School and Tunku Abdul Rahman College are the latest to join a long list of institutions making a beeline to Kampar. Thus investing in properties in this former tin-mining town is well worth the effort.

For details on MH Unilodge Kampar, call 05-254 3482 or 012-538 1055.

Believe in Yourself

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The altercation between self-styled motivational expert Sharifah Zohra Jabeen Syed Shah Miskin and law student Ms K.S. Bawani in a local university, the University Utara Malaysia (UUM) has provided an interesting glimpse into Malaysian student life.

Sharifah ZohraThis was supposed to be a discourse between the panel of five experts and some 2300 students, but nothing constructive was gained when the moderator, Sharifah Zohra acted in a confrontational and aggressive manner simply because she felt offended by Bawani’s remarks.

The students listened to the panel from mid-morning until 2pm, then just two questions were asked. Two questions from a gathering of over two thousand students do not represent a high level of participation or interest. Perhaps, the topics were boring and failed to inspire questions. Perhaps, students had lost concentration and switched off.

If the tirade which Bawani was subjected to is normal practice for motivational speakers or lecturers, perhaps the parents of the students at the university should question this hostile approach.

We could learn from this talk and rebrand it as “How to de-motivate students and destroy their confidence.” Is it right for a moderator of a forum to grab the microphone from a student posing a question and tell her to “Shut-up!”? Is respect and common decency not to be accorded to students?

According to a relative studying at UUM, students who disagree with the manner in which Bawani was treated are afraid of speaking-out, lest they get into trouble with the authorities. Is our youth conditioned by a culture of fear? Are they prevented from exploring their minds? Are our students denied the opportunity to respond to challenging situations? Our youth should be allowed to ask searching and probing questions and find answers and explanations which are sound.

In a video of the episode, which has been released on the internet, Zohra was seen grabbing the microphone from Bawani before silencing her with a string of invective which lasted several minutes. The tirade was personal, insulting and off-topic.

Students may have felt intimidated by the personal nature of the abuse. Perhaps the other panellists were shocked into silence, because they did nothing to save Zohra from making a fool of herself.

They may have wanted others to see this nasty side of Zohra’s character. The final result was that it was Bawani who can hold her head up high with her dignity intact, whilst Zohra’s reputation has been torn to shreds. Zohra’s latest video-log shows that she is not contrite but despite her coquettish smile, seems to be secretly rather pleased that she is now “a celebrity”.

Bawani has beseeched the public to refrain from turning the incident into a racial issue. Several days later, Zohra released a statement and video alleging that the video of her berating Bawani had been spun to benefit members of the Opposition.

With such an accusation, is it any wonder that Zohra has incurred the wrath of the public? She displayed no remorse nor was she prepared to accept that she had acted with impropriety, and crossed the normal bounds of decency.

Different people are motivated in different ways, but comparing their needs to those of animals, or by ridiculing them in public, is demotivating. A manager, teacher or parent who employs such tactics will fail to inspire his charges, who will end up with low self-esteem.

The failure of Zohra to engage positively with the students in the hall, shows her incompetence and lack of training. She should have taken a back seat and encouraged others to take the lead. Her failure to consider other people’s opinions is a sign of her selfishness.

The question Bawani posed was about the provision of free education to Malaysian students. She was not after free education for herself but wanted it for all Malaysian students. She knew that nations which are less well developed than Malaysia were able to provide free education for their youth.

If Zohra was unable to answer this question, she should have said so and invited views from the floor, or the panel. If Zohra was not committed to giving fair treatment and understanding to students, how did she expect to gain the students’ trust? The command-and-control style she exhibited is highly damaging and does not inspire participation.

Cultural differences are important in most types of engagement but Zohra’s failure to show respect to students by belittling their beliefs, their opinions, their education and background means that her dictatorial style is demotivating and damaging to morale.

Her behaviour discouraged bonding and increased resentment among the students. This cannot be good for the future leaders of the country, some of whom could have been amongst the audience.

Mariam Mokhtar

Ipohites’ Ray of Hope

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Ipohites’ Ray of HopeThe YMCA Ipoh held a fundraising dinner for Ray of Hope at the New She Lai Ton Restaurant recently. The turn-up was good as all 80 tables were taken. In attendance were Rt. Rev. Datuk Ng Moon Hing, the Bishop of the Diocese of West Malaysia, Dato’ Daniel Tay, President of YMCA and other dignitaries with Dato’ Ngeh Koo Han as the Guest of Honour. After the usual speeches, diners were entertained by the Evergreen Band and students of Ray of Hope with music and songs from the ‘60s.

Fund raising, as always, is about ringgit and sens and this event was no different. A total of over RM8000 was collected on the spot through table collections. On top of that, a sum of over RM153,000 from donations had been received surpassing the RM134,770 presented to the Chairman of Ray of Hope, in the form of a mock cheque, earlier in the night. This shows that Ipoh, well known for its rich towkays in its heyday, has not lost its lustre completely.

Ipohites, in general, may not have pockets full of tin but they sure do possess hearts full of gold. A ray of hope is finally shining down on this organisation as its Chairman, Datin Mary Yeoh, had hinted that their coffers are depleting due to dwindling public donations. The function is indeed a timely and God-sent blessing to them for their tireless efforts in caring for people with learning disabilities.

SH Ong

SeeFoon goes ‘treasure hunting’ in Tasek

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musings on food - food reviewsIt’s that time of the year again as the Lunar New Year approaches, when friends and family gather for year-end dinners, whether to say thank you to one another or just for the camaraderie. And what better way to do that than to share a heaping bowl of ‘Poon Choy’;  as we delve deeper into the tureen in our hunt for culinary treasures, moving from layer to layer, exclaiming with delight when we hit on a particularly delectable morsel, the chatter is lively and  the ambiance, convivial and warm.

Kok Tai 002We did this recently at Kok Thai, the one at Medan Tasek Perdana, not to be confused with the one behind Kinta City. ‘Poon Choy’ is often translated as “Big Bowl Feast,” but the actual translation of the term is “vegetable basin,” with “choi” referring to vegetables (IE 134).

Kok Tai 007Usually comprised of 18 ingredients (the number 18 being an auspicious one), this Poon Choy was chock full of goodies like duck’s webs, fresh and dry scallops, Fa Gao or fish bladder, deer tendon, abalone, roasted duck, chicken, pork belly, prawns and a host of other ingredients, delivered simmering hot at the table and kept warm on a portable stove. In fact, a meal in itself.

Host for the evening, the ever generous and affable Edward Foo, had ordered eight portions at RM45 per portion and for our table of 12, was more than ample. (Minimum order for five persons: RM225) Thinking that dessert was next, we sat back for a break when to our surprise, more dishes were to come.

Kok Tai 001Earlier, we had each a small tureen of their double boiled soup with chicken, fish maw and mushrooms, clear, fragrant and ‘umami’ at RM25 each. When the Poon Choi was followed by the fish, we were all in a state of surfeit and really didn’t do much justice to this particular delicacy, a Sultan fish or ‘Jelawat’ cooked ‘Yau Tsum’ style which is deep fried and topped with light soya sauce. What lent a piquant note to the serving of the dish was the bowl of Limau Kasturi juice which when added to the fish gave it a freshness and lift to the mouthfeel – RM80 per kilo. Tsing Loong Choi added the ‘green’ touch to the meal which ended with a mango and pomelo dessert, light, refreshing and a fitting finale to a ‘grand dinner’.

Kok Tai 005Kok Tai 003Not content to settle for what I had tasted, I subsequently arranged for another dinner with the same group of friends in order to sample more of Kok Thai’s signature dishes. Again I was not disappointed.

I had asked for some of their more ‘ordinary’ dishes. The first to arrive was the Cucumber Rolls, paper thin cucumber stuffed with chicken and fresh mango with mayonnaise, crunchy and refreshing – RM2.50 each piece. Next were the Peony Prawns, medium-sized prawns wrapped in a noodle cocoon and deep fried to a crunchy texture – RM3.50 each.

The special for the evening then arrived, an impressive almost foot-long sea cucumber stuffed with dried and fresh scallop, Gingko nuts, meatballs, mushroom, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, braised to perfection; the sea cucumber, thick, yielding but still resistant to the bite, and the blend of stuffing ingredients melding together for taste and texture nuances – RM300, enough for 10-12 people.

Kok Tai 006One delight for me this second evening was the Hau So Fong served in the style of what I call the deluxe Chinese burger. Beginning with a crispy pancake stuffed with dried prawns and minced pork, cut into squares (which you can eat on its own) dipped into a thick sweet sauce equivalent if not the same as that served with either suckling pig or Peking Duck, and together with slices of smoked duck breast, finely slivered scallions and cucumber, and stuffed into a large Man Tou or steamed bun, the resultant ‘burger’ is simply irresistible. Here is the perfect example of Chinese culinary wizardry – a skillful combination of textures running the gamut from crisp (the pancake, the dried prawns) and crunchy (scallions, cucumber) to melt-in-mouth softness of the bun, and nuances of the smokiness of the duck, the saltiness of the pancake and the freshness of the garnishes, all serve to make it the ‘best Chinese burger’ in my taste book. RM40 for an order of 10.

To top this off, we finished the meal with a fried rice vermicelli dish, fried crispy and topped with a black sauce with the usual garnishes – RM12‑S/18-M/24-L.

Kok Tai 004Restoran Kok Thai (Tasek) Sdn Bhd
37-49, Laluan Tasek Perdana, Medan Tasek Perdana.
Tel: 05 5422 181/182
Captain Wai Wai: 012 503 8248

See Foon Chan-Koppen

85% Clean Ipoh

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During the full board meeting in September 2012, Ipoh City Hall set a goal to regain the status as the cleanest city during the 80s by year’s end. A promise was made by the Mayor of City Hall to clean up the city by the end of this year.

A few months have passed but there is little evidence City Hall is serious in fulfilling this goal. Every day City Hall receives at least 50 to 60 complaints. Residents where I live (Regat Kuala Kangsar) have made non-stop complaints since November last year before rubbish collection was made on Saturdays.

In the city centre the streets are swept daily (which is the easiest job) but the open drains are neglected. Most residential areas are in a shocking neglected state. The playgrounds and road shoulders are seldom cut, the roads littered with garden refuse and the drains clogged with several months of old grass and weeds.

‘Action Please’

Orang Asli Preschool Project

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Recently, the Perak Women for Women Society (PWW) embarked on its Orang Asli Preschool Project at the Pos Woh village, Tapah. This preschool project came into fruition to provide these indigenous children who are marginalised and are unable to identify alphabets and numbers, an avenue to cope with formal
education. Many of these children miss schooling not because there are no schools in this area but simply due to factors like poverty, transportation woes and the lack of interest in education.

This PWW’s preschool project program aims to help children to master six key learning components: language, communication, cognitive development, morale, spirituality, creativity and social-emotional development. Language skills are given particular emphasis, as it enables children to develop their ability to think, understand concepts, imagine and communicate effectively. The classes also involve activities
such as, singing, colouring and fun activities.

During registration day, PWW received good response with 53 children from Pos Woh village, and some as young as four years old.

PWW intends to run this programme weekly, therefore, for those keen to volunteer or donate in the form of books, stationery, clothing for the indigenous community, please reach PWW at 05-5469715.

S. Sundralingam

The “Nostalgic” Majestic

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The “Nostalgic” MajesticDemand for business suites in Ipoh is on the rise. Since the launch of Majestic Tower in November 2012 almost 80 per cent of such units have been booked. Buoyed by this development, Majestic Ipoh Sdn Bhd launched its second block, Imperial Tower, on Sunday, January 13.

The project, known as “The Majestic”, consists of two 21-storey towers, with a total of 333 units of business suites and 703 parking bays over six levels. There will also be 12 commercial lots on the ground floor reserved for food and beverage businesses. Located along Jalan Dato’ Tahwil Azar, The Majestic is now the focal point of Ipoh city.

The objective is to provide modern-concept living to Ipohites with a wide range of amenities, facilities and services such as Jacuzzi, infinity pool and gymnasium for the convenience of residents. Closed-circuit TV monitoring is provided as an added security measure. The management of the buildings will be handed over to a professional firm, to be appointed in due time.

The Nostalgic MajesticMindful of sentiments attached to the Majestic Theatre, the site where this project partially sits, the name “Majestic” is retained. The developer had commissioned Atelier Alan Teh Architect from Penang to incorporate the art déco of the theatre in The Majestic.

Dato’ Poo Tak Kiau, Managing Director of Majestic Ipoh Sdn Bhd, feels that Ipohites have to accept the fact that development brings changes. “We’ve to move with time,” he remarked.

The Majestic will bring life to the heart of Ipoh, a reality many are waiting for.

For more information on The Majestic, log on to www.majesticipoh.com.

Emily

Opportunities in the Automotive Industry

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Yayasan Bina Upaya Darul Ridzuan (YBU) plans on optimising opportunities in the automotive industry for the benefit of youths in Perak. In realising this noble aim, the foundation, along with Barisan Nasional Youth (Perak), has engaged the services of DRB-HICOM (Diversified Resources Berhad-Heavy Industries Corporation of Malaysia Berhad), the nation’s largest automotive conglomerate, to initiate a viable training scheme.

Yayasan Bina Upaya (YBU)The programme named, Skim Latihan Automatif Amanjaya, is a bold attempt at churning out trained personnel for the automotive industry. “It’s in line with the state government’s aspiration to make Perak an automotive hub with the establishment of Proton City in Behrang,” said Dato’ Ahmad Shaffie, the Menteri Besar’s political secretary. He told this to the media after presenting certificates to 11 workshop operators and 30 students who had successfully completed a training course under the scheme at the foundation’s hall recently.

Perak BN Youth Chief and Deputy Chairman of YBU, Khairul Azwan Harun, in echoing Dato’ Ahmad’s sentiments, reaffirmed the movement’s commitment in making the scheme a success. “We’ll get at least 40 youths to attend each training session. It’s not something impossible considering our networking and influence,” said Khairul to Ipoh Echo.

The 6-month course is fully sponsored by workshops under the ambit of YBU. The training syllabus covers an extensive array of motoring subjects and upon completion, the students will be equipped with enough knowledge to start his own business or to improve his skills in motor repairs. “It’s geared to make him a complete mechanic and an entrepreneur,’ remarked Khairul.

Amirul Azmil Yaacop, 22, from Grik was grateful for the opportunity given to him by YBU. “I’ve gained considerably from the course. It’ll come in handy when I start my own workshop in a while,” he enthused.

Isma Aliff Ismail, 26, owner of Aliff Auto in Tasek, shared similar sentiments. “It’s a noble way to alleviate the problem of unemployment among youths in Perak. I am most fortunate to be a party to the scheme.”

RM

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

Listen, Listen and Listen

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I have never expected that the beginning of the New Year would be so tumultuous. Topping the list is of course the incident involving one overbearing lady berating a female undergrad at a university forum. The footage of the video, recorded on December 8, 2012, went viral and scored several thousands hits on YouTube and on online news portals. It embarrassed the Establishment so much that it prompted a deputy minister and the UMNO Youth chief to engage in damage control to prevent it from affecting the ruling coalition’s chances in the coming 13th General Election.

editor deskWhat is most infuriating, however, is the audacity of Sharifah Zohra Jabeen, the speaker at the Universiti Utara Malaysia forum, in chiding the poor student for speaking her mind. Zohra’s now famous mono syllable, “listen” which she repeated 11 times when confronting Bawani, the student on the lecture hall floor, has gained such notoriety that it has become the opening remarks of many speeches made in reference to the ruling coalition.

Zohra’s mannerism typifies the top-down mentality associated with those in the corridors of power. The contemptuous “you-listen-when-I-talk” attitude does not go down well with the rakyat today. The days of “the government knows better” paradigm are long gone. Perhaps, a more realistic and holistic approach in engaging the rakyat needs to be adopted. But this is easier said than done.

What is most disgusting about the whole episode is how unfazed this cocky little lady has been. After coming out of hiding, she issued a statement forgiving Bawani for her outburst and not one of remorse for her own actions. The extent of Zohra’s cockiness is simply mind-boggling. This could be the result of indoctrination conducted on a grand scale to re-orientate the minds of the youths, especially the Malays. One gets such subtle messages from the mainstream media, both the print and electronic forms.

The antics of Biro Tata Negara (National Civics Bureau or BTN) are well known. Established in 1974 as the Youth Research Unit (Unit Penyelidikan Belia) under the Youth and Culture Ministry, it was renamed and transferred to the Prime Minister’s Department in 1981. The bureau’s stated objective then was “to nurture the spirit of patriotism and commitment to excellence among Malaysians and to train leaders and future leaders to support the nation’s development efforts”.

However, no sooner had it been transferred to the PM’s Department, the programmes were revamped and syllabus revised. They became controversial and were deemed to explicitly promote Ketuanan Melayu (Malay Supremacy) and the legitimacy of the ruling coalition. In late 2009, opposition-held Selangor and Penang state governments issued a ban prohibiting state civil servants, employees of state subsidiaries and students at state-owned institutions from attending BTN courses.

That put paid to some of the lofty aims of the agency long regarded an appendage of the Establishment and often referred to as a propaganda machine akin to Joseph Goebbels’s infamous Reichskammer (Reich Chamber). Nazi Germany’s Propaganda Minister, Dr Joseph Goebbels had successfully divided the press, radio, film, music and literature into divisions or chambers with influential figures heading them. The objective of these chambers was the purge of Jews, socialists and liberals, as well as practitioners of “degenerate” art forms such as abstract art and atonal music.

One other disturbing development, which is, irrefutably, the work of a cunning mind, is the on-going Royal Commission of Inquiry on the granting of citizenship to illegal immigrants in Sabah. Former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir’s reasons for his “wisdom” seem so flimsy and devoid of substance. His allusion to first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman’s granting of citizenship to over a million Chinese, Indians and others prior to Independence Day on August 31, 1957 is in poor taste. This is definitely a cheap way to deflect criticisms directed at him.

On the subject of immigrants, both legal and illegal, one should take a ride into downtown Ipoh on weekends or on public holidays. You will be overwhelmed by their number. The city’s main thoroughfare, Jalan Sultan Idris, is literally swarmed by them. If the National Registration Department’s P6 programme to legalise these foreigners, conducted nationwide in 2011, is to be taken seriously, I am worried for the future of our children, and their children after them.

The result of the January 26 by-election in Singapore is a good indicator of what awaits those who have a stranglehold on power. Workers’ Party candidate Lee Li Lian, 34, a middle-class corporate trainer, beat People’s Action Party candidate Koh Poh Koon, 40, a prominent surgeon who was backed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in the ruling party’s stronghold of Punggol East. High on the voters’ list of discontent is the influx of immigrants which has resulted in job losses, rise in housing prices, social problems and straining public services. The scenario is no different here.

In view of the foregoing, I feel it is only appropriate that those in positions of power take heed of developments around them. The conundrum will only be answered if they listen, and listen attentively to the wishes of the rakyat. Doing a ‘Zohra Jabeen’ is definitely not the way forward.

Fathol Zaman Bukhari