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Perak MP Spearheads Cost Cutting

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By Mariam Mokhtar

Perak MP Spearheads Cost CuttingWhen the Defence Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also the MP for Bagan Datoh in Perak, rallied Malaysians to unite against a common enemy, he was not disappointed. Last month Tony Fernandez, the CEO of AirAsia, the budget airline, answered the call of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to help defend Sabah against an armed incursion of Suluk invaders.

The MOD needed to deploy extra soldiers, quickly, to boost the security forces in Sabah. Fernandez came to the rescue and rescheduled the airline’s tight timetable, so he could divert a few Airbus aircraft, to fly to Lahad Datu.

Despite mounting criticism that he had deliberately inconvenienced commercial and fare-paying travellers, Fernandez was adamant that serving one’s country was of paramount importance.

A pilot who refused to be named said, “I was proud to play a role in national security and ferry our troops to defend Sabah. I hope the flight was comfortable and with minimal delays.”

His call was echoed by a member of the cabin crew who said, “The men were very disciplined on board, unlike some fare-paying passengers. It was a pleasure to serve them, although some were disappointed with the choice of food sold on board.”

Fernandez had twice twittered to an irate public, “Flights are rearranged today as we are helping the army transfer staff to East Malaysia. Pls be patient,” and later, he said, “As mentioned please be patient with some flight arrangements on flights as we are helping the army”.

Switchboard operators and check-out staff at AirAsia counters faced a barrage of complaints from furious passengers because of postponements and cancellations. They were concerned about compensation and refunds, but claimed that their concerns were ignored.

The patriotic Fernandez was praised by security chiefs, for his efforts in promoting national security. The flights carried at least two battalions of soldiers so that the more cumbersome military aircraft could be deployed to transport heavy artillery, tanks, lorries and supplies to Sabah’s east coast.

Zahid had waved off the first of the battalions at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) and was pleased with the trial run of transporting soldiers by commercial airline. He was satisfied with the rapid response of AirAsia and at the cost savings made by the MOD.

As a consequence, he has proposed that AirAsia be utilised for further troop movements and that some AirAsia planes be painted in military camouflage colours. Various defence officials have made additional requests – the cabin crew would be allowed to retain their short skirts and figure hugging uniforms, to boost troop morale but they would have to wear camouflage and not the current red uniforms.

Unconfirmed sources allege that the test run by AirAsia prompted Zahid to set up a special committee to look into ways to reduce spending. Several proposals to tighten the government belt were presented to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak in an attempt to avoid future austerity measures.

Zahid’s proposals initially caused a stir in government circles but his background as a banker persuaded Najib that these measures would convince the rakyat of the government’s seriousness in tackling the budget deficit.

Political insiders have alleged that ministers and senior state officials were delighted to spearhead these spending cuts. One proposal involved a ban on all government servants using the national carrier, Malaysia Airlines (MAS); in future they would fly AirAsia, if the routes were served by the budget carrier.

A senior civil servant said, “If our law-makers were to use AirAsia, its management might be induced to improve their services, as MPs want to make best use of their time. It would also help our politicians and civil servants empathise with the public.”

One junior official said, on condition of anonymity, “Millions of ringgits would be shaved off the ministerial budget. Our annual expenditure for overseas assignments is wasted on excess luggage charges incurred by officials and the shopping of their spouses and the bloated entourage.

“In future, if MAS was the only option available, no official will be upgraded. With more of the expensive seats available for legitimate fare-paying passengers, the revenue for MAS would increase.

“On AirAsia, officials will only be allowed one piece of luggage at the taxpayer’s expense.”

Another committee member examining the cuts said, “We also looked at reducing at the size of the entourage. Accompanying spouses will be banned, as they are a distraction. All officials will travel exclusively by economy class with MAS.

“Officials on overseas assignments would share a room, and use only budget hotels like Tunes. Heads of Departments or Pengarahs may be upgraded to a ‘bed-and-breakfast’.

“Airline employees or Malaysian High Commission or Embassy staff will not be allowed to meet the government servant on arrival, or see him off at departure, as it wastes valuable working time. The head of the overseas mission, will be entitled to use the national car, the Proton, as it will show our pride in our local car industry”.

According to this civil servant, the same vehicle proposal has been outlined for Cabinet ministers and state officials. “Imported foreign cars will be auctioned off and only the Proton will be used. No outriders will be allowed for ministers, and the Agung will be allowed one outrider.

“Ministerial spouses and children will not get preferential treatment. Where possible, the use of public transport will be encouraged. If ministers use their cars and get stuck in the traffic jams, so be it. It is time our politicians get a grip on the transport woes of the rakyat. They can only do  so if they were to experience the same suffering as the taxpayers”.

According to a source in the PM’s Department (PMD) and the offices of Menteris Besar throughout Malaysia, the initial resistance to these measures was overcome when senior politicians agreed that the benefits outweigh the minor discomforts that they would have to endure.

SeeFoon walks down memory lane at Festival Walk

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musings on food - food reviewsMusings on Food

By See Foon Chan-Koppen

Ah for the nostalgia of my two years living in Japan. I can still recall as vividly as if it were yesterday, my first en-counter (pun intended) with sushi, perched at the traditional counter, watching the chef deftly slicing up the various fish, and when our order finally arrived, I was totally blown away by the spectacle. The fish head with its mouth still flapping and the gills moving, the central bone revealed and artistically displayed with the fish meat slices arrayed on either side, was beckoning to be eaten. No sashimi could be fresher than that my friends told me, egging me on and cajoling me to use my chopsticks on the still pulsating fish slices, dipping into the wasabi and soya sauce and popping it into my mouth.Sushi Zento-07

Sushi Zento-03Well it took me a few minutes to summon up enough courage to do that, never having eaten raw fish in my entire young life (20 something then) but what a big step that was. Since then, as the saying goes, “I’ve come a long way baby” eating as much sushi and sashimi as I can lay my hands on and always trying to reproduce that quintessential freshness of that first Japanese experience of the still breathing fish. These days, with the plethora of Japanese sushi places popping up all over, I find myself eschewing sushi restaurants, finding most places ‘wannabes’, with little respect for the fine tradition of craftsmanship that sushi chefs in Japan undergo years of training to achieve.

Sushi Zento-05   Sushi Zento-02  Sushi Zento strives to be different, prepared to stand out from the crowd with a large and varied menu and specialty fish, air flown from Japan and USA every Tuesday and Friday. With Chan Nam and Dato’ Chan Yew Mun who are avid fans of Japanese cuisine, we descended on Zento one lunch time and taking one of their three smaller private rooms (one large for 20 pax and two smaller ones for 8-10), we proceeded to order up a storm given that the menu was so interesting and inviting.

Sushi Zento-06I still remember the words of Dato’ Chan Yew Mun at the wedding of an Ipohite when he praised the qualities of Ipoh ‘boys’ repeatedly calling them kind, considerate and generous to a fault and these are the exact words I would use to describe my host Chan Nam especially when the bill came to a grand total of RM850.

But then when the bill of fare included a whole live lobster served two ways, first as sashimi, each slice, umami freshness and perfection in every bite, followed by a broth (Nabe) made from the head, shell and claws, its understandable that the bill would be so high. Lobster RM220 medium RM240 large.

Sushi Zento-04Lest I put my readers off with the prices I just quoted, let me assure you that there is a good meal to be had for much, much less. There is the usual carousel from which one can pick the revolving plates of sushi and tidbits which vary from RM1.80 for the egg sushi to the most expensive of RM7.80 for the seaweed, jelly fish and clams or whelks. The quality of these are good and highly popular.

Or one could opt for one of the sets which are priced from RM35 to RM58. These would consist of minimum six dishes of soup, rice, main course of meat or fish, fruit, steamed egg or chawan mushi, and a salad. The RM58 set has an extra dish with both raw fish and meat.

On the day of our lunch, we had as appetizers, the fried white bait RM15 and fried baby shrimps RM10, both crispy and utterly delectable. A fresh salad topped with soft shell crab and salmon skin at RM20 followed by a plate of salmon belly sashimi RM35 kept the hunger pangs at bay. Then the magnificent lobster sashimi arrived, more shell and decoration than actual meat but nevertheless most impressive.

Naturally we were still hungry as we were ten people around the table so it was time to have the Buta Kakuni Stewed Berkshire pork belly with sauce RM18, tender morsels braised to perfection, not unlike the Chinese ‘Dong Po Yoke’. It was so good we had to have two portions.

For those on a budget and who love Japanese food, I would certainly recommend their Ramen, apparently one of the signature dishes of the house. The Kyushu Ramen comes in a robust pork broth which the manager assures me has been coaxed from pork bones overnight, the noodles still chewy on the bite, with slices of barbecued pork, a perfectly cooked half-boiled egg with the yolk still runny and topped with fish paste slices. Other combinations are available and makes for a satisfying meal on its own – RM18-20.

The last to come was the Nabe made from the lobster shells and claws. This was a hearty broth with the two claws which we shared amongst ourselves, with leeks and scallions lending additional flavour to the broth. A satisfying ending to a great meal.

Sushi Zento

Festival Walk, Jalan Medan Ipoh 1

Medan Ipoh Bistari. Tel: 05-545 2966

Open: Mon-Thurs: 11.30am-2.30pm; 6pm-10.15pm

Fri-Sun: 11.30am-10.15pm

Sushi Zento-01

A First in Perak

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Ipoh-based Indian music and cultural dance school, Swaralaya Sangeetha Kalalayam, now has its very own building. The school, specialising in Indian fine arts classes, is the first of its kind in Perak – a proud distinction jealously guarded by its founders. It is located in First Garden, Ipoh.

Swaralaya Sangeetha Kalalayam - Indian music & cultural dance school

Dato’ S. Veerasingam, the special advisor to Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abd Kadir, officiated at the opening recently. With him were MIC Youth leader, Sivaraj and Ipoh Fine Arts President, Mrs Shanti. In attendance were students of the school and their parents.

The first half of the programme saw some very energetic display of rhythmic yoga followed by dances, vocal and violin recitals performed by the school’s students. Ms Panbarasi, a lecturer at the Ungku Omar Polytechnic, Ipoh, who was instrumental in setting up the training school, thanked her mother, Mrs Sarojini, for her guidance, encouragement and support in her acknowledgement speech.

She went to on to describe how apathetic the local Indian music and cultural scene has been and the hardships she had undergone as a budding artiste. She hoped the well-heeled from among the Indian community will rise to the occasion and help, in whatever ways possible, to overcome the lingering apathy, resolve problems and stop the erosion of the community’s traditional values.

The “Kalalayam”, she enthused, would be a convenient platform for aspiring students to hone their skills in Indian cultural music and dances. “It’s a dream come true, of sorts” she added.

Swaralaya Sangeetha Kalalayam was founded in 2006. The school conducts vocal training, dancing and recitals classes. It also teaches students to play musical instruments such as violin, tabla, mridangam, dholak and bhajan. Yoga classes are also available. Those wishing to know more about the school can contact Ms Panbarasi at 010-566 2395 for details.

Kani

UTAR Holds its 16th Convocation

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Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) held its 16th convocation recently at Dewan Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik at its Perak campus in Kampar.

There were 1508 students graduating from 55 programmes that comprised 45 Bachelor (Honours), nine Master and one PhD programmes. These included the pioneer batch of graduates from five programmes: Master of Philosophy (Business and Finance), Master of Science (Project Management), Bachelor of Science (Hons) Architecture, Bachelor of Corporate Communication (Hons), and Bachelor of Media and Creative Studies (Hons).

UTAR Holds its 16th Convocation2

There were two postgraduate students Koh Siong Lee and Mok Siew Ying receiving PhD in Engineering and 21 postgraduate students receiving Master degrees.

Invited as guests-of-honour in the three sessions of convocation held over the two days were: Dato’ Ir (Dr) Teo Chiang Kok, Director of See Hoy Chan Holdings Group, Yang Berhormat Mulia Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Tan Sri Lee Oi Hian, Chief Executive Officer of Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad.

The convocation ceremonies were declared open by UTAR Council Chairman Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik while UTAR President Ir Professor Academician Dato’ Dr Chuah Hean Teik presented the graduands for the award of their respective degrees and also the Book Prizes and Award Recipients.

UTAR Holds its 16th Convocation1

Dato’ Ir (Dr) Teo, advised the graduating students to always have faith in themselves. He said, “Life will not be smooth sailing all the time. When you are faced with challenges, you have to meet them head on and positively.”

“The learning process in life does not end with your graduation. There is a bounty of knowledge out there that you can acquire throughout your life. Life itself is a learning curve. So do not shy away from acquiring new knowledge and skills to better yourself and hopefully also benefit others in the process,” said Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, urging the students to be the driver in a knowledge-based society.

Tan Sri Lee motivated the graduating students to be determined persons by quoting the famous saying of the 16th US President, Abraham Lincoln, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other.”

With the addition of 1508 graduates from its 16th convocation, the University’s alumni now stands at 30,415 since the inaugural convocation in 2005.

Of Heroes and Villains

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By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

The Lahad Datu incursion by a band of armed men claiming to be soldiers of the displaced Sulu Sultanate caught the whole nation by surprise. The standoff began when Agbimuddin Kiram, one of the claimants to the Sulu Sultanate, landed with at least 101 of his followers in the village of Tanduo in Lahad Datu District on February 11. They had arrived from the nearby islands in Southern Philippines by boats like their forefathers had done before them.

Of Heroes and Villains

Kiram’s singular intention was clear. He wanted to exert his claim over Sabah, which he and a couple of his relatives have been pursuing, without much success, since the formation of Malaysia in September 1963.

Incidentally, the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu receive a RM5300 cheque yearly from the Malaysian Embassy in Manila. The money is considered as cessation payment pursuant to the 1878 Agreement between the British and the Sulu Sultanate. The heirs, however, term the payment as “rent” and, therefore, have every right to ask for an increase or an abrogation of the agreement in its entirety.

It has been almost seven weeks now and the standoff between remnants of Kiram’s followers and the Malaysian security forces has not diminished in size and significance. Conflicting reports coming from the troubled spots in Lahad Datu had armchair analysts making all sorts of comments, some discreet and some very malicious.

I do not wish to add on to the exchanges although I find some of the comments completely off-tangent. Talks of a political conspiracy and of Anwar Ibrahim having a hand in the conflict are simply incredulous. The lengths some would go to ruffle feathers of those on both sides of the political divide is mind-boggling. They would do anything for a “fistful of dollars (ringgits)”.

Nothing beats experience, they say. Being someone who had served in this part of the country, not as a paper-pushing desk clerk at some nondescript government office in the Sabah heartland, but as a rifle-toting soldier on the shores of Kudat, the island of Bangi and Tawau in the late 1960s to early 1970s, I speak with a measure of accuracy and authority.

Let me start by saying that the borders of Sabah, especially the parts that face Southern Philippines, are very porous. People living in these border regions, like others in a similar situation, criss-cross each other’s territory as they please.

When I was stationed in Kudat and Dogoton on Bangi Island my primary task was to prevent the smuggling of contraband goods from the Philippines from reaching Sabah shores. My other responsibility was to secure the areas where we were stationed.

The task of securing was achievable but not smuggling. It was like a delicate balancing act. The islanders simply rode by in their motorised kumpits without so much as stopping to be checked. I gave up and  the Marine Police took on the job. How successful they had been I never got to ask.

The intruders, now termed as terrorists, are being hunted down. And at the time of reporting, some five battalions, army and Police, are in the vicinity to keep tabs on what remains of the “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo”. Casualties and losses stand at 62 dead, 11 injured and 79 captured on the side of the terrorists while security forces suffered 11 dead and 16 injured. As in the case of land battles, the worst off are the people caught in between. Six civilians were killed.

Incentives to boost security forces’ morale were announced, post haste. And the one which many ex-soldiers like me cried foul was salary adjustments for both Officers and Other Ranks.  Army corporals and sergeants will enjoy an increment in their pay scale from Grades 17 and 18 to Grades 22 and 23, respectively. Officers of the ranks of captain to colonel will now be placed in Grades 42 to 52 bands. This is a hefty jump from the previous. I should have remained but that is another issue.

Opposition leader Tian Chua of Parti Keadilan Rakyat has been hounded for making a callous remark. He said those killed in Lahad Datu as “mati katak” (died in vain). This term may sound offensive to some but when we were fighting the communists at the height of the Second Emergency (1975 to 1989) so many of us “mati katak”. I can quote many incidents where soldiers and police personnel were killed without a fight, mostly in ambushes.

The winding Klian Intan-Keroh (Pengkalan Hulu) Road had witnessed many deadly ambushes sprung by the terrorists. In early 1975 a Police Field Force section on its way to collect rations in Keroh was fired upon. The entire section was wiped out. The same year a platoon of soldiers was caught in another ambush in Lapang Nenereng. Eight lives were lost. My soldier bled to death on top of a hill deep in the Gubir jungles of Kedah. He stepped on a booby trap. The poor chap could not be evacuated, as it was nighttime and the helicopter could not land.

These brave men “mati katak” but no one protested or made police reports on our behalf. Neither did we get a pay revision for our troubles. What luck!

Dr S.S. Gill - opthalmologist

World Glaucoma Week 2013

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Resident Consultant Ophthalmologist, Hospital Fatimah Ipoh
Dr S.S. Gill

Eye Health

Dr S.S. Gill - opthalmologist

In conjunction with the recent World Glaucoma Week 2013, Ipoh Echo talks to  Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr. S.S. Gill about this “SILENT THIEF OF SIGHT”.

World Glaucoma Week 2013 - 2What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that result in progressive damage of the optic nerve (the “main cable” that carries visual information from the eye to the brain). If glaucoma is not treated, it permanently damages vision in the affected eye(s) and results in blindness. It is often, but not always, associated with increased pressure of the fluid in the eye (aqueous humour).

Glaucoma has been nicknamed the “silent thief of sight” because the vision loss normally occurs gradually over a long period of time without significant symptoms until you eventually lose significant vision. In other words, it means that one will only notice poor vision when the disease is serious and the damage to the optic nerve is advanced.

Dr S.S. Gill - opthalmologistWorldwide, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness after cataracts. Glaucoma affects one in 200 people aged fifty and younger, and one in 10 over the age of eighty. As many as 6 million people are blind in both eyes from glaucoma today. Most of these people were once unaware they had this disease until they lost significant vision in one or both eyes.

One reason why a person may not realise that he or she is losing vision is because the vision loss involves the peripheral part of a person’s vision. This peripheral vision loss is the reason why it goes unnoticed by the patient until the very late stage when the central vision starts being affected. Rarely, in some patients there may be symptoms of slight eye discomfort, mild headache and haloes around lights.

Any person who is 40 years and above should go for glaucoma screening. More so, if you have a family history of glaucoma and have never been screened for glaucoma yourself, you should go for an eye check as soon as you can. Don’t wait for vision problems before you do. It may be too late.

For more information, call  05-5455582  at  Hospital Fatimah  or  email  gilleyecentre@dr.com.

Police Contingent Celebrates Police Day

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The Perak Police Contingent observed its 206th Police Day celebration on a modest scale. A parade was held at the Federal Reserve Unit camp in Sg Senam, Ipoh on Monday, March 25. The theme for this year was, “Community Well-Being Our Commitment”. Police Day is celebrated annually on March 25 to remember the deeds of police personnel who sacrifice for the peace and security of the nation.

Police Contingent Celebrates Police DayThe parade, mounted by police personnel, was inspected by the state CID chief SAC 1 Dato’ Pahlawan Mohd. Dzuraidi Ibrahim. He stood in for the state police chief, DCP Dato’ Pahlawan Mohd. Shukri Dahlan.

Dzuraidi delivered a speech by Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Utama Ismail Omar, who commended on the bravery of police personnel in “Ops Daulat” in Sabah. He then presented certificates of commendation and letters of appreciation to members of the police force and the public, respectively. The certificates and letters were a form of recognition for their contributions to the Police Force.

Dzuraidi said that the Perak Contingent will be supplied with 135 units of scramblers in April. The bikes will be used for crime prevention in selected hot spots in all districts in the state.

He announced that personnel from the State Contingent Headquarters and the Ipoh Police District Headquarters here have collected a sum of RM27,427.20 for the “Ops Daulat” fund. Total amount collected, including public donations, is RM132,262.20. It will be forwarded to Bukit Aman.

Emily

A Malaysian Hero

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Clement Liang,  Treasurer of Dr Wu Lien Teh Society
Clement Liang,
Treasurer of Dr Wu Lien Teh Society

The Perak Academy held its monthly lecture on March 22 at the Ipoh Specialist Hospital. The talk, “Remembering Dr Wu Lien Teh, a Malaysian Hero” was given by Clement Liang, Treasurer of Dr Wu Lien Teh Society. Around forty attended the talk and they included the daughter (and her daughter) of the younger brother, and the granddaughter of the eldest sister of Dr Wu Lien Teh. Dr Wu Lien Teh was famous for his epic work in controlling the plague epidemic in Northern China in the early 1900s. He was decorated by the Emperor of China and was also responsible for the modernisation of medical services in China. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1935.

Although born in Penang, he returned to Ipoh at the age of sixty and continued a quiet practice till his death at the age of eighty. He was also responsible for raising funds for the Perak Library in 1950. There is a road named after him in Ipoh Garden.

Dr SK Teoh

A Malaysian Hero2

City Parks’ Ponds Restocked

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The theft of ornamental fish from the Japanese Garden pond within Taman DR (D.R. Seenivasagam Park) was highlighted during the recent launch of the Ipoh International Waiters Race 2013. Taking note of the loss,  Dato’ Lee Seng Hee of Team Keris Bhd came forward, to not only replace the “stolen” fish at Taman DR but to release 500 new fish into the Taman Rekreasi Sultan Abdul Aziz (Polo Ground) pond.

City Parks_ Ponds RestockedThere will be some 30 varieties of Koi, ranging from those with colourful scales to those without scales. The fish, at about 12cm in length, can grow to about 100cm in five years.

Two years ago, Mayor Dato’ Roshidi Hashim had forked out his own money to buy 2000 ornamental fish and had them released into Taman DR’s Japanese Garden pond. The objective was to strengthen ties with Fukuoka, Ipoh’s twin city. However, irresponsible visitors to the park have stolen the fish.

Roshidi thanked Lee for his generosity. Team Keris Bhd, incidentally, is actively involved in beautifying Ipoh through its “1000 Parks Project”. The mayor warned those who intend on doing the unthinkable, to stay away from the two ponds. “Those caught stealing will be charged under Section 379 of the Penal Code,” he told reporters.

Lee presented the mayor with a special shirt printed with the Kohaku Koi fish, named M Legend. He urged the public to feed the fish with proper fish pellets, not just any food. A similar fish-releasing programme will be organised at Gunung Lang next month. Lee suggested that City Council declare a one-day environmental day for Ipohites to appreciate the beauty of the city. The mayor was receptive to the suggestion.

Roshidi later presented a mock cheque for the sum of RM11,111.11 to SAC Zulkapli bin Ahmad for the Lahad Datu Heroes’ Fund. The sum donated came from MBI Councillors’ Club, MBI Senior Officers’ Club, MBI Sports Club, MBI Cooperative Ltd, Puspanita and personal contributions.

Emily