Tag Archives: James Gough

85% Clean Ipoh –Are We Getting There?


By James Gough

Stories and reports about the cleanliness and rubbish about Ipoh are two consistent topics that has never failed to make it into the newspapers every week for the past two years. From Bercham to Pasir Puteh and Buntong the entire Ipoh community has contributed their share of complaints to the media and Ipoh City Council. The often used slogan, SLR or sampah (rubbish) longkang (drain) and rumput (grass) seems to be on the lips of all concerned Ipoh residents. Ipoh Echo too has contributed its share to helping identify a solution. Our June 16, 2012 issue 145 titled, “Cleaning Ipoh-A Joint Responsibility” touched on ‘illegal dump sites’, public education and enforcement.

85% Clean Ipoh85% Clean Ipoh

MB takes up the cudgel on cleanliness throughout Perak State, adding two more tasks: Street Lighting and Potholes

A follow-up issue, #151 on September 16 under the title of “Mayor Targets Ipoh To Be 85% Clean in 1 Year”, highlighted the standard operating procedures for Rubbish Collection, Grass Cutting and Drain Cleaning and the scope of work of the contractors. The same issue also carried a list of Ipoh Councillors and their contact numbers. The purpose of the overall report was to create awareness for residents to call their respective councillors if the specified procedures were not being followed.

Statewide Concern

Zambry: five main tasks
Zambry: five main tasks

Apparently the goals are not being attained as this topic of cleanliness took centre stage in early February, specifically after the weekly State Exco meeting on February 6, when Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir joined in the chorus of complaints and issued a stern warning to all Council Presidents and Councillors throughout the state to “improve their efficiency and productivity” in keeping the state clean.

Stating that he had received numerous complaints constantly about “councils and councillors” from all the districts in the state, for failing to carry out their responsibilities, Zambry reminded the relevant authorities “to set a good example and provide a good service to the residents”. He further added that he would be making spot checks and would not be “lenient anymore”. Not surprisingly Zambry listed the regular complaints of Uncollected Rubbish, Clogged Drains and Uncut Grass or SLR and included two other complaints: Faulty Street Lighting and Road Potholes. “These are the basic services and the five main tasks that the local authorities need to focus on and provide effective services to their communities”.

First Spot Check

True to his word, Zambry did make a spot check exactly a week later on February 13, immediately after the Chinese New Year break and after the State Exco meeting, to Ipoh City Council where he again repeated his expectations of the five main tasks to service the community.

Shabby signboard
Shabby signboard

When asked about Mayor Dato’ Roshidi’s target of 85% Clean Ipoh by August this year, Zambry commended Roshidi for setting the goal but clarified that being an ongoing SOP (standard operating procedure) the goal should be 100% immediately and the standard should subsequently be consistently maintained.

Much as Zambry’s statement is to be applauded, it will be a long and arduous task to re-educate local residents’ mindsets after such a long period of wanton lack of discipline.  At a recent Chinese New Year gathering organised by MBI with Bercham’s Councillor Ir Lai Kong Phooi, Dato’ Roshidi stressed the issue of cleanliness and provided forms for residents to fill up requesting MBI to assist in cleaning their neighbourhood be it their drain or illegal rubbish. One resident Mrs Ho even went to the extent of personally approaching Dato’ Roshidi to pour out her frustration about her filthy neighbourhood.

85% Clean Ipoh

85% Clean Ipoh

Appointment of Garden Waste Contractor

In a recent interview Roshidi updated Ipoh Echo that Ipoh City Council had recently met with all its 24 supervisors and regulators who had given their support and commitment towards achieving the Council’s 85% Clean Ipoh goal. Roshidi also highlighted that during the Council’s last meeting on cleanliness it had approved the privatization of the collection of garden waste. The respective department in charge is currently working out the details of the operation and this collection service is anticipated to begin by April 1 or earlier.

Once finalized, the Council will proceed to initiate a gotong royong simultaneously with zone councillors and heads of departments in 17 zones in Ipoh. Roshidi anticipates that this total operation, when it takes place, will be a positive move towards achieving the 85% Clean Ipoh goal for the long term.

With regards to enforcement, Roshidi stated it was ongoing and since the beginning of 2013 over 300 summonses for cleanliness has been issued to offenders.

Project Showcase

Roshidi has also proposed to showcase the cleanliness programme and has tentatively identified the location fronting Jalan Lau Pak Khuan and bordered by Jalan Canning Estate, Jalan Devadason and Hospital Fatimah.

Ipoh Garden project showcase
Ipoh Garden project showcase

This location although small has a mix of activities residential and commercial. These include two fields, a hotel, Courts, a post office, a hospital, several banks and restaurants.

Despite its small area the basic SLR services are lacking. A resident, Augustine Basnayake welcomed the initiative. He reported that the 3 times per week rubbish collection was good. However, the drains were not cleaned nor grass cut per schedule and the garden waste dumps are an eyesore. A quick recce around the neighbourhood by Ipoh Echo confirmed the report by Basnayake and although relatively clean was very shabby in appearance. The commercial establishments too were receptive to the idea.

Ipoh Garden a small locatuion with a mix of activties
Ipoh Garden a small locatuion with a mix of activties

Several customers at the Ipoh Garden Post Office said the uncleared rubbish in the drain surrounding the Post Office would float into the Post Office compound after a heavy rain and this was unpleasant as the Post Office regularly has foreigners using the postal service. A bank officer, not wishing to be named, said the initiative could help instil a cleanliness attitude in its customers to throw their ATM statements in the bins provided, accurately.

Creating a Cleanliness Culture

Ceylyn Tay, the Councillor for Canning
Ceylyn Tay, Councillor for Canning

Ms Noraslinda, the Branch Manager for Courts welcomed the move saying “it will create awareness for a cleanliness culture among our staff, which will be good for the community and benefit our customers.”

Ms Ceylyn Tay, the Councillor for Canning fully agreed with the idea and was willing to work with Dato’ Roshidi to achieve the goal. Also acknowledging that the small area was not the issue but providing good services is and she hoped the project will influence residents to keep their neighbourhood clean at all times.

With the appointment of the garden waste contractor, theoretically, our neighbourhoods should be neat and tidy always. Hence the next few months could see the turning point towards achieving the former title of “the cleanest city in the country”.

YBU: Empowering the Poor Shows Positive Results



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


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.

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”.

St Michael’s Institution Centenary Celebration


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


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


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”.

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.

K-Perak Forging Ahead


By James Gough

Triple O Innovations - K-PerakK-PerakK-Perak, which was established in 2007 by the Perak State government to provide infrastructure and facilities to ensure the delivery of information and knowledge to all layers of society, has seen its five initiatives bear fruit. One of the companies in its multimedia arm, Spacetoons Media Hub, a joint venture between the Perak State government and Dubai based Spacetoons International, has recently signed co-production agreements with US company SD Entertainment of Los Angeles USA (the producer of The Pink Panther Animated series and The Smurfs), Cyber Group of France and Sabine of Canada (a top French/Canadian animation distributor and production company). The deal with SD Entertainment will be to produce 52×11-minute pre-school animation series with the title Tiggy World which is guaranteed to be broadcast in the US.

Five Knowledge Initiatives Creating Paradigm Shifts

K-Perak with the K abbreviated from the word Knowledge, has five knowledge initiatives or K-initiatives: K-Government, K-Workers, K-Infrastructure, K-Society and K-Economy. Its tagline ‘From tin mines to MIND industries’ focuses on Multimedia Content, IT Outsourcing (SSO/BPO), New Media and Data Centre, Research, Development and Design.

According to K-Perak’s acting CEO En Saidon Puteh, going into its fifth year, the efforts of the company has begun to show results as evidenced by the recently signed co-production agreements mentioned in the foregoing page.

Spacetoon Malaysia
(L-R) K-Perak Acting CEO, Saidon Puteh with Spacetoon Malaysia Chairman, Fayez Weiss Al-Sabbagh


Its K-Government initiative has resulted in the introduction of Gerbang Mesra Rakyat a people friendly gateway to enable online applications.


Its K-Infrastructure initiative has seen an improved speed to access the state government portals while Internet penetration now covers 53.29% of all households in the state which “is above the national average,” added Saidon.

However, it is the K-Worker, K-Society and K-Economy initiatives that have made new strides at restructuring society that can best be described as ‘paradigm shifts’.


The K-Society Initiative encourages people to use ICT in their everyday lives.

This is the kampong project where every kampong has their own website and portal where the communities can communicate with each other. To achieve their goal, the K-Perak Team created a Facebook page www.facebook.com/webkampung and went round the state to train the Village Development Committees and village heads on how to use a computer.

The training was a basic 2-hour training teaching the villagers to create an e-mail and Facebook account whose administration was handed over the same day. According to Ms Norzalena Zakaria, the executive tasked to train and implement the initiative, the groundwork started last October and training was conducted since April this year.

There are over 2015 kampongs in the state of which training has been provided to 818 main kampongs and covers “even the Chinese and Indian villages”. Once trained, villagers have posted information about their villages and made complaints about their villages direct to government agencies.

Although the implementation is extensive she admitted that there are still problems with the infrastructure. To create awareness and bring users to share their issues, a carnival is planned at Arena Square Batu Gajah for September 28-30 this year. Additionally, it is hoped that the private sector will come forward to participate in this project.


The K-Worker initiative is a training provider for government offices, which has extended its  training to create a talent pool in the area of 3D application, office productivity, design, photography and digital forensics, or anything to do with ICT, since end 2007. It offers three to four courses per month.

Students are mainly SPM school leavers from community colleges who are provided vocational training in 3D animation using blender and open source software programs to create animation products. One of the products which is currently in production is Perak Boy slated to be a television serial.

Students taking this course have a wide scope of jobs to enter, related to design fields such as landscaping, fashion modeling and also film animation. Since its start four years ago, over 4000 students have walked through its doors.


The main role of the K-Economy initiative involves the product development and technology innovation of the creative multimedia industry and animation industry. Of the five K-initiatives, K-Economy is the one that has shown the most  dynamic results.

Currently there are six animation companies operating at K-Perak. Five are local companies and Spacetoons Media Hub, a joint venture between the Perak State government and Dubai based Spacetoons International. K-Perak’s requirement stipulates that the companies must operate at their Perak Trade and Technology Centre (PTTC) and with the exception of Spacetoons, the training must use open source free download software.

Triple O Innovations - K-PerakTriple O Innovations - K-PerakTriple O Innovations - K-PerakK-PerakHome Grown Products – Perak Boy, Mantera and Tiggy World

Local company Triple Q Innovations, despite using open source software, has come out with its own 3D product Perak Boy whose story line has him looking for the Perak Man. Slated to run as a local TV serial, it was created by Triple Q Innovation CEO Kamaruzaman Jahidin but the majority of its production work was done by its K-Worker students.

For Spacetoon Media Hub/SMH, since the start of their operations 4 years ago, they have produced five products one of which was a 3D live action movie Mantera screened at local cinemas late last year.

According to Spacetoon Malaysia Chairman Fayez Weiss Al-Sabbagh, Mantera was a marketing tool to attract international recognition of the capabilities of the Ipoh production house.

Mantera took 3 years to make but its success is reflected in the recently signed co-production agreements with SD Entertainment who will also bring in their talent for the production and in doing so will train the local team, upgrade the studio and processes and provide an opportunity to understand the US work culture.

Tiggy World was created by Spacetoons Malaysia and has the International property rights for it. Hence it has created a line of spin-off merchandise such as toys, games and applications for education. Similarly, the deal with Cyber Group of France is targeted for preschool audiences and is a 39×11-minute edutainment series called MIA which will be broadcast worldwide.

Valuable Learning Experience

Al-Sabbagh is excited at these new ventures saying “it will be a good and valuable learning experience for all at the centre to understand the European and US style of work culture.” Regarding the local work force, Al-Sabbagh described them as “now they are very good; earlier they were good but too fresh and inexperienced.” He also described the method  of learning a skill while working on a live project as being positive teaching strategy.

Spacetoons products cater to four categories of the market: 1) Preschool category: Tiggy World, 2) Girl Category: Mouia, 3) Boy Category: Space Crater and 4) Live CG Category: Mantera.  Spacetoons Malaysia has also been approached by The Sanderson Group to set up a theme park in the Meru area using Tiggy World characters as the theme.

Putting Ipoh on Global Animation Map

During the interview Al-Sabbagh also announced that Spacetoons Malaysia will be expanding into the education business and will be developing an animation university in collaboration with University of Quebec offering two curriculums multimedia and lifestyle.

To be located at a 50-acre site at Meru, the university will cost RM229 million to build and is scheduled to be completed by end 2014. It will have an intake from 500 to 2500 students.

It appears that the initiatives of K-Perak have given birth to a new industry in Ipoh: Multimedia. If all the plans do materialise, it should put Ipoh on the global animation map. Hopefully all in the K-Community will be able to participate and partake of its benefits.

Ipoh: Hockey Hub of Asia


By James Gough

It looks like the vision of HRH Sultan Azlan Shah to make Ipoh the Hockey Hub of Asia is fast becoming a reality judging by the three prestigious and noteworthy events of the recently concluded 21st Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, Men’s International Hockey Tournament. Deemed a huge success, especially by those in the Hockey fraternity, the three events held at one location enabled participants to view a top class international competition simultaneously.

International standard.,Stadium Azlan Shah

What started as an initiative to expose Malaysia’s hockey players to challenging experiences is beginning to bear fruit

Held over a two week period during the first term school holidays from May 24 to June 3 the tournament programme included the international level Sultan Azlan Shah Cup held at Stadium Azlan Shah where seven teams participated, six of them ranked in the top 10 category with Malaysia which was ranked 13.

(Left photo front row) Zambry, Tan Sri P. Alagendra, Leandro Negre (FIH President), HRH Sultan Azlan Shah, Tengku Abdullah (MHC President) and Dato’ Rahim (PHA Chairman) together with 2012 SAS Champions New Zealand. (R) Malacca won the Womens Indoor Hockey Tournament this year

Concurrently, the National Indoor Hockey Tournament since named the Raja Ashman Shah Cup, held at at Stadium Indera Mulia, saw 22 teams from throughout the country participating in the event and the AHF-MHC Technical Officials course attended by 35 participants from 14 Asian countries.


(l) FIH President Leandro Negre presenting certificate to Asian Hockey official (r) Asian Hockey Officials

The first Sultan Azlan Shah Cup was in played in 1983 in Kuala Lumpur. It was a biennial competition until 1998 when it became an annual event. From 1983 till 2006 the tournament was held in either Kuala Lumpur or Ipoh. However since 2007, on the instructions of HRH Sultan Azlan Shah, the tournament has been permanently held in Ipoh, a move that has seen the quality of the sport gradually improving.

As the name suggests, the SAS Cup is totally the initiative of  HRH Sultan Azlan Shah, then Raja Tan Sri Azlan Shah, the Lord President of the Federal Court of Malaysia, an avid field hockey enthusiast who was also the President of the Malaysian Hockey Federation from 1976 until 2004.

Long Term Strategy

According to Tan Sri P. Alagendra, the current Secretary General of the Asian Hockey Federation who was the Vice President of MHF then,  the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup was created to improve the performance of the Malaysian teams.

In 1975, at the Hockey World Cup tournament held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia emerged 4th after they were beaten by Germany, ranking them as 4th best in the world after India, Pakistan and West Germany. Subsequently, in the Junior World Cup held in Paris in1979 and again in 1982 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was ranked 4th in both events.

In order for Malaysia ‘to achieve a podium finish’ the strategy was to have Malaysian teams play at good tournaments with teams stronger than them and at the same time ‘inspire youth to take up the game’ explained Alagendra.

Back then the only opportunity to play world class hockey teams was at the Asian Games and Hockey World Cup. There was the Indira Gandhi Invitational but that was irregular and did not serve the purpose.

Hence, the Azlan Shah Cup international invitational Hockey Tournament was started. Its first tournament in 1983 had only 4 teams participating but today it is the longest surviving invitational hockey tournament and is included in the International Hockey Federations (FIH) calendar of events annually.

The tournament structure is limited to 7 teams which allows the teams to play more games and would give the Malaysian team the opportunity to compete against different styles of teams from Asia, Europe and Oceania. The teams that competed in this year’s tournament were from Great Britain (ranked 4th), Korea (6th), New Zealand (7th), Pakistan (8th), Argentina (9th), India (10th) and Malaysia (13th).

Becoming the Hockey Hub

According to Dato’ Abdul Rahim Md Ariff, Chairman of the SAS Cup Organising Committee, the vision of HRH Sultan Azlan Shah to make Ipoh the Hockey Hub of Asia is facilitated by the infrastructure that has been put in place.

These include the Stadium Azlan Shah for field hockey, the Stadium Indera Mulia the venue for international indoor hockey tournaments and the AHF-MHC Hockey Academy which trains hockey officials from all over Asia.

Stadium Azlan Shah, built in 1984 to Olympic standards, is the permanent venue of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. It has a seating capacity for 10,000 spectators and full media facilities. The stadium’s Astroturf was upgraded this year from green to blue and pink in time for the tournament.

“Stadium Indera Mulia indoor stadium is the only indoor stadium in Malaysia that has complete indoor hockey facilities”, Rahim declared. The first Asian Indoor Hockey Tournament was held there in 2008 and has been held there since. Rahim went on to  explain that indoor hockey was a strategy of the future where the basic hockey skills were learnt at indoor hockey and transferred to field hockey later.

The Asian Hockey Federation-Malaysian Hockey Confederation or AHF-MHC Hockey Academy was opened is May 2011 last year with the goal to accelerate the development of the game in Asia. The academy conducts four courses per year on coaching and umpiring with one course to be held during the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament to provide exposure for the officials. Each course can accommodate 30 participants.

As testimony of all the efforts initiated, for the first time this year, Malaysia won the Junior Asia Cup in the competition’s 25 year history, when they beat Pakistan 2-1. On the national level Perak’s under 18 boys and girls teams took the champions titles during this year’s Malaysia School Sports Council/MSSM games.

Local supporters at this years Sultan Azlan Shah Championship

Similarly, during this year’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2012, Malaysia’s fielding of the senior and junior players paid dividends in terms of more spirited and creative play which showed in the results when they drew 1-1 with Korea, 3-3 with Great Britain and even managed to beat the Pakistan Team 3-2. Although finishing in 6th place, it nevertheless reflected a new spirit of play by the players.

Target – Asia Cup

Rahim, who is also the Chairman of MHC’s Competitions Committee revealed that Malaysia’s next target is ‘to win the Asia Cup to be held in Ipoh in the 2nd quarter of next year. The winners of the Asia Cup will qualify for the World Cup tournament to be held the following year.

“That is the reason that Tuanku is bringing the Asia Cup to Ipoh next year,” exclaimed Rahim, explaining that Malaysia’s chances of winning against the Asian teams was strong. Malaysia is part of the top 4 Asian teams, the others being India, Pakistan and Korea. A review of its scores against the teams of India, Pakistan and Korea is a good indicator of its strength.

With the Asia Cup being held in the 2nd quarter of next year, the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup has been pushed forward to the 1st quarter, probably in February-March. Due to this rescheduling, the committee hopes to have more European teams participating.

It is apparent that what started as an initiative to expose Malaysia’s hockey players to challenging experiences is beginning to bear fruit. The notion of being a Hockey Hub is feasible as Rahim says “we already have all the facilities for indoor and field hockey, an international class stadium plus an academy and we have the support of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) who include us in their calendar of events annually.”

At the start of this feature the intent and purpose was to highlight the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Invitational Hockey Tournament as an international sporting event unique to Malaysia and more specifically to Ipoh.

However, after the research it became apparent that the goal is to make Malaysia the No. 1 Hockey Team in Asia. It may have been a long journey but with all the initiatives put in place to upgrade the standard of the game, the light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to look brighter.

Currently the short term goal is to win the Asia Cup but as Rahim so nonchalantly put it “they hope to put in more goals for the World Cup, Asian Games and ultimately the Olympics.”

Sungai Pari - Pari river

Hope for Success the Second Time Around


By James Gough & A. Jeyaraj

Sungai Pari - Pari river
Sungai Pari

There is good news ahead for residents along Sungai Pari and Sungai Pinji. Under the third rolling plan of the 10th Malaysia Plan, RM50 million has been allocated for the flood mitigation project which since the first attempt failed in 1992, hopefully  should stop the flooding which has besieged residents of Pari Garden, adjacent Lim Garden, Merdaka Garden, Hock Aun Garden, Gugusan Manjoi, Tai Le Village and Buntong especially the last big one which happened in the early hours of 20 February 2012 when the Pari River overflowed its banks and flooded many of the suburbs that ran parallel alongside it.

Failure of Flood Mitigation Project in 1992 Cause of Current Woes

A resident of Pari Garden that lies adjacent to Lim Garden had awoken at the usual time of 6am and walked into a watery kitchen floor to realize that the Pari River was flooded, a sensation he hadn’t felt in over ten years ago.

At Lim Gardens school children going to the nearby Tarcisian Convent had to wade through a flooded road knee deep high for 50 meters to get to school. Similarly motorcyclists were seen pushing their vehicles through the flood waters and further up on Jalan Hassan a motor car was seen motionless with flood waters swirling round it’. Merdeka field off  Jalan Lumut was a ‘placid lake’ while a former resident of that area recalled it was over 20 years since he had seen Lim Garden experience a flood of this extent.

At Gugusan Manjoi the situation was worse. At 11am when Menteri Besar Dato Seri DiRaja Zambry Abdul Kadir toured the location the water level at the Pari River was almost the same height as the top of the river bund. Here over 150 people had to be evacuated and another 20 families had to be moved to the nearby community hall.

At the homes located parallel with the river the flood waters were still 1 foot high while at the other bank Search and Rescue personnel were seen ferrying the sick and elderly by boat to their lorry to be evacuated. The scene at Jalan Raja bridge Manjoi was very busy as MBI personnel were seen clearing debris from under the bridge which was hampering the flow of flood waters. Four lorry loads of debris had already been removed and more trucks were waiting to be loaded.

On the eastern river bund 300 meters from the bridge a technician was repairing a pump which failed to discharge water from the retention pond back to the Pari river while 1km upriver at Merdeka Gardens where the discharge pump was working no flooding occurred.

Root Causes and Proposed Solutions

Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) Perak
Datuk Abdul Razak Dahalan

Datuk Abdul Razak Dahalan, Director of the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) Perak when interviewed said ‘the flooding at Lim Garden and surrounding areas on 20 February 2012 was due to excessive rain fall. An exceptionally heavy four hour downpour had caused a sudden increase in the volume of water flowing into Sungai Pari’. He cited the case of flooding in Thailand which was due to heavy rainfall.

Razak also said that ‘the floodgates along the river were damaged while the fibre floodgates were stolen’ explaining that if garbage is thrown into the drain then the rubbish would get stuck between the floodgate and pipe and the gate would not shut tight resulting in a backflow of water. Razak added that after the flooding, RM2.5 million would be spent on upgrading and replacing the floodgates.

He said that the housing project in Lim Garden is one of the earliest approved projects where the houses were built on low lying areas.

Initiative by DID

A report  titled ’Flood Risk Mapping for Pari River’ done by River Engineering and Urban Drainage Research Centre (REDAC) of USM Engineering Campus, 2002 states that a flood mitigation project for Pari River was initiated by DID in 1992 originating from Meru River at the upstream down to Kuala Pari Village at the downstream, covering a length of 8km.

The report added that ‘flooding in 1996 and 1997 proved that the flood mitigation had failed to control the floodwaters’ adding ‘that the river bunds were breached causing water to overflow to surrounding areas’. The report also stated the affected locations which were the same affected locations this year.

Studies on Pari River

According to Razak many studies have been carried out about flooding of Sungai Pari and the problem was identified as early as 1930.  When asked whether the recommendations of these studies were implemented, Razak responded that only a few of the recommendations had been implemented due to lack of funds.

Future Plan

The RM50 million allocation for the new flood mitigation project will include the following:

Retention Ponds: Three regional retention ponds will be built. One is currently being constructed at Merdeka Garden at a cost of RM3.8 million and is scheduled to be completed by November this year. Two others will be built upstream. Additionally a number of mining pools along the river will be converted to catchment ponds. Currently these mining pools have been leased to individuals and acquisition of the land is in progress.

Upgrading of bridges: All low decked bridges such as the Jalan Raja bridge Manjoi will be raised. This job would be jointly done by DID and MBI. Bidding for one of the bridges is already out. The level of the service deck adjacent to the bridges will also be raised.

Replace retaining slabs:  Concrete retaining slabs along Sungai Pari has fallen off in many places. These slabs will be replaced by stones.

Upgrading of drains: The state government has set up a fund for the upgrading of drains. All developers in the state carrying out project works must contribute to this fund as some drains over 40 years old are damaged and do not serve their function.

Successful Example Set by Kinta River Mitigation Project

As the DID implements the Pari River flood mitigation project, it is hoped that their endeavour this round will be a permanent solution, similar to the Kinta River mitigation project. The Kinta River Flood Mitigation Scheme was launched a year after the 1926 ‘Great Flood’ in Ipoh which inundated Old Town and its goal was to make Ipoh ‘Flood-Free’.

Kinta River - Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Kinta River

The scheme was exercised in three phases (1929-1930) and included constructing a channel through Ipoh Town, diverting the Sungai Choh and clearing the Kinta River and its main tributaries. The scheme worked but flooding still continued though not as seriously.  Subsequently the Perak State government together with five major mining companies undertook to divert and straighten the Kinta River. By the 1950s the project had straightened 38 miles of river from Ipoh to Kuala Chenderiang which resulted in Ipoh not having seen a major flood since.

Hopefully too flooding on the Pari River will be history in the next few years. To borrow the words from a song,  “Success is Lovelier, the Second Time Around”.

Minimum Wage Implementation – FMM Warns of Backlash


By Sylvia Looi & James Gough

The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) Perak branch has warned of a backlash if minimum wage is implemented across the board and simultaneously in the country. Its chairman Dato’ Gan Tack Kong said if minimum wage was implemented, it would lead to a host of problems such as retrenchment, increased operating costs and may even affect investments in the country.

ipoh echo issue 143, cover story, Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), sylvia looi, james gough
FMM Perak Branch Chairman, Dato’ Gan Tack Kong

“Give SMEs Three Years to Adjust” – Dato’ Gan

Citing a multi-national company, which pays between RM500 and RM600 for an unskilled worker prior to the introduction of minimum wage as an example, Gan said by increasing the salary of the worker to RM900, the company might end up retrenching the worker.

“This will lead to a black market for the workforce whereby hard pressed retrenched workers will be willing to return to work below the minimum wage,” he told Ipoh Echo, adding that among the sectors that would be deeply affected by the move are plantation and construction sectors, which are labour intensive sectors.

He added that to push for higher productivity to substantiate the higher wages, employers may be forced to increase their workers’ working hours.

“This may affect the morale of workers especially those in the rural areas, who tend to lead a more laid-back life.They may not take it kindly that they need to work longer hours thus may opt to stay at home instead,” he said.

FMM, noted Gan, had received complaints that the implementation of minimum wage would increase manufacturers’ production costs. Giving a manufacturing company in Teluk Intan as an example, Gan said with the introduction of minimum wage, the company estimated it would need to fork out an addition of RM400,000 monthly for their employees’ wages.

“One of the reasons companies chose least developed states to invest in was the low cost and abundance of workers but with minimum wage, these states will be less attractive,” he said.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had, on the eve of Labour Day celebrations recently, announced that employees in the peninsula would get RM900 monthly while workers in East Malaysia would get RM800. It covers employees in all economic sectors except those in the domestic service sector like maids and gardeners.

The move would take effect in six months from the date the Minimum Wage Order is gazetted.

For small-time employers or micro enterprises, the effective date had been extended by another six months to give them time to make preparations so their businesses would not be affected.

To avoid the negative effects of minimum wage, Gan suggested wages to be determined by market forces. “Unskilled workers should also receive constant training to ensure their skills are on par with the wages they receive,” he said.

SMEs, Gan added, should also be given three years to adjust to the move. “This is to allow them to plan ahead,” he said. He also said the implementation should be carried out according to zones. “Start with the more developed states first before moving to other areas,” he said.

ipoh echo issue 143, cover story, Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), sylvia looi, james gough
Tony Khoo

Concurring with Gan, developer Tumbuh Merata Sdn. Bhd.’s director Tony Khoo said those without experience cannot expect to be paid a high salary. “While the move will ensure protection for those entering the workforce for the first time, it may lead to a slowdown in taking in new employees as employers will be reluctant to pay the minimum wage,” he said, adding that sectors like manufacturing and construction should be exempted from minimum wage.

Khoo, who felt the move was bulldozed through without consultation with all sectors, said if it is implemented, it will lead to a higher priced employment market.

Meanwhile, the Perak Branch Chairman of the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI), Mr Leong Hua Kooi, echoed similar sentiments as Gan and Khoo saying that “productivity should be the driving force for higher income where higher productivity will naturally lead to a higher income.”

ipoh echo issue 143, cover story, Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), sylvia looi, james gough
MICCI Branch Chairman, Leong Hua Kooi

Leong feels that  the availability of foreign workers is keeping wages down. “Foreign workers are generally work orientated, flexible and have a higher productivity, hence we have to improve the productivity of our own people.”

“The education system too must be improved to produce skilled workers relevant to the market. Producing graduates who are unable to find jobs will not help. The Government must now look seriously at improving the overall productivity and competitiveness of our industries to be fair to the business community”.

The various industries, from hotels to manufacturing, have now provided suggestions on how to implement the minimum wage whether in cash or in kind such as fixed incentives or possibly commissions or accommodation and get it recognised as part of the minimum wage.

Overall MICCI members are waiting for a clearer definition of implementation guidelines.

Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran, who also sits on the parliamentary caucus on labour and migrant workers, meanwhile said the introduction of minimum wage was long overdue.

Although welcoming it, Kulasegaran felt the implementation was haphazard. “More consultation on the matter is needed with all stakeholders before it is announced,” he said, adding that the quantum of RM900 for peninsular and RM800 for East Malaysia was too low. “How do you sustain in big cities like Kuala Lumpur with RM900?” he questioned.

Kulasegaran agreed with Gan that the pitfall of having minimum wage is that it would strengthen the dependency on illegal foreign workers as employers would be hard pressed to go into black markets for cheap labour.

Meanwhile, the State Exco for Industry, Dato’ Hamidah Osman, when contacted, responded that as at the time of Ipoh Echo going to press, she had not heard of any feedback on this issue.

Acknowledging that the minimum wage of RM900 was “reasonable” she nevertheless noted that this policy “only affected the private sector” which has been offering a very low wage.

Hamidah also acknowledged that this policy “will burden industry but will nevertheless help the lower income earners”.

Hamidah added that currently government servants like drivers or Pegawai Am Rendah, enjoy an “all-in starting salary” of over RM1,000 which is higher than the minimum wage.

Reiterating that she still did not have the full scenario she nevertheless repeated that she would be sitting with the relevant NGOs to hear their views on this issue.