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Datuk Bandar Failure

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Jerry FrancisMy Say

By Jerry Francis

 

Dato’ Roshidi Hashim was reported to have admitted that he had failed as the Mayor of Ipoh for being unable to keep the city clean.

I accept his admission at the last City Council’s full-board meeting, but I cannot accept his excuse that his failure was solely because the people could not be disciplined and refrained from throwing rubbish indiscriminately.

Does this mean that he and his successors are going to just accept the situation as “whatever will be, will be” and blame it all on the attitude of the residents? Dato’ Roshidi’s failure is largely due to the City Council’s lack of determination to restore the city’s lost image as one of the cleanest in the country.

The City Council needs to lead by example. If it failed in carrying out its responsibilities, then it can expect the residents to also adopt a “tidak-apa” attitude and discard their wastes indiscriminately and readily blame the City Council for its poor services.

My Say - Datuk Bandar failure

After all, preventing wastes from being indiscriminately discarded is only part of the overall efforts needed to keep the city clean. Clogged drains need clearing, rubbish collected efficiently, grass cut regularly, care of plants and shrubs along streets and roads, and proper maintenance of public parks and attractions. Every household in the city too must be directed to place all their domestic wastes in rubbish bins, not in plastic bags hanging on fences and trees, only to be scattered by dogs, cats and cattle. These are among the ingredients of a clean city.

Are all these not the responsibilities of the City Council? If so, would not the poor service we are experiencing now reflect on the efficiency of the City Council? Then why just put the blame on the people?

How is it that over two decades ago Ipoh was clean when it was just a municipality, but not now? The argument often put forward is that the city limit had increased in size, but let’s not forget that as the city grew, so did its manpower and budget.

Of course, the residents too are to be blamed for the thousands of illegal rubbish dumps scattered around the city. Their lack of cooperation is frustrating the City Council’s effort to clear the illegal dumps. The moment an illegal dump is cleared, a new dump begins.

One of the main culprits is the operators of small lorries for hire. They are the ones who cart the wastes and dump them at the nearest place convenient to them. Therefore, the City Council should consider taking stern action, including sending plainclothes enforcement officers to catch those responsible for throwing wastes indiscriminately. The City Council has the power to enforce the various enactments pertaining to health and cleanliness in the city.

It should not allow any “political constraints” to affect its efforts to keep the city clean. Those irresponsible residents will have to be prosecuted since attempts to discipline them into restraining from littering and illegal dumping of wastes had failed.

The City Council must bring those guilty of illegal dumping to court to show that it means business.

Ipoh Echo had in 2010 launched a “dirt vigilante” campaign calling on residents to report, with photographs, areas found to be filthy. Following this, the City Council had moved in to clear hundreds of illegal dumps, particularly in the Gunung Rapat area.

Of late, the City Council seems to be taking it easy. Not only the city is getting dirtier, cattle and buffaloes are reappearing in the city. They are endangering motorists at night and damaging plants in the housing estates.

Face-to-Face with Chin Peng

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Jerry FrancisMy Say

By Jerry Francis

Local veteran press cameraman Wong Tuck Keong had never expected to come face-to-face with Chin Peng, who was accused of all the atrocities committed during the long-drawn fight against communism in the country.

He had covered the security operations intensively throughout Perak and South Thailand from the early 70s to the signing of the Hatyai Peace Accord on December 2, 1989. Yet, he never had a glimpse of the man with the notorious name.

Face-to-Face with Chin Peng

Tuck Keong and I had formed a press team, described as “Tom and Jerry”. We were at the scenes of various incidents related to terrorists’ activities and security operations.

During those Turbulent Years in Perak, the communist terrorists had re-emerged from their defeat in the 12-Year-Emergency to be a formidable force capable of posing a serious threat to the security of the country until it was reduced to small bands hiding in the jungles and constantly on the run from the security forces.

Tuck Keong had also covered the assassinations of Perak Chief Police Officer Tan Sri Koo Chong Kong in 1975 and six other Special Branch officers in the state.

They, together with five others killed outside Perak, were described as the “systematic elimination of Special Branch officers by the communist terrorists to strike fear among the people and security forces.” The terrorists had even intimidated loggers and mining workers and as well as sabotaged the construction of the East-West Highway and the Temenggor Dam in Upper Perak.

Witnessing all these incidents had created a fear in Tuck Keong’s mind of Chin Peng, secretary-general of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). When Chin Peng died in Bangkok on September 16 at 89, I happened to be sitting with Tuck Keong and reminiscing about our “Tom and Jerry” days.

“I had expected to see a fearsome terrorist leader, after hearing all about him from the time I was in school,” Tuck Keong recalled his personal encounter with Chin Peng in Betong. “But, all that impression of him defused when I came face-to-face with him in December, 1989. Instead, I saw a cheerful man with a broad grin wearing a bush jacket and a cap. He appeared like a Chinese businessman,” he said.

Chin Peng had gone to the terrorists’ jungle camp in Betong to brief his comrades on the terms of the tripartite Peace Accord signed by the Malaysian Government, Thai Government and the CPM.

Members of the press corps, who heard that Chin Peng would be in Betong, had gathered at the Thai Border Police Patrol base in Betong. According to Tuck Keong, after about a two-hour wait,  a Thai military helicopter landed and the terrorist leader emerged from it.

“We rushed forward before he could get into a vehicle. On seeing us, Chin Peng gave a broad grin and waved,” added Tuck Keong. “He was friendly and responded to all our questions.”

Chin Peng answered the questions in whichever language hurriedly thrown at him by the press. He was fluent in English, Malay and Mandarin. However, he was quickly whisked off by his bodyguards to lunch at a restaurant where residents of the Thai border town who had lived under the shadow of the terrorists for decades, had gathered to have a glimpse of him. Betong Salient had been the sanctuary of the terrorists for decades. Chin Peng left for Hatyai after the lunch.

Following Chin Peng’s visit, the estimated 1200 terrorists in the southern region of Thailand handed over their weapons and ammunition for destruction and were given the choice of either returning to Malaysia or staying in Thailand, in accordance with the provisions of the Peace Accord.

Tuck Keong was in Betong again later on hearing that Chin Peng would be at a ceremony to witness the destruction of the firearms and ammunition in the camp. However, he was stopped by CPM members manning a roadblock along the jungle track leading to their camp.

 

Dangers Lurking on Pavements

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Jerry FrancisMy Say

By Jerry Francis

Sybas! Ipoh City Council for responding to the need to repair the dangers lurking on the pavements along some of the busy streets in the city. The city council had carried out the minor repairs by replacing the heavily corroded metal covers of manholes and missing interlocking bricks along the busy Jalan Dato Onn Jaafar.

Fearing that pedestrians could get hurt, I had highlighted these issues in June and had waited to see the response from the city council.

I was afraid that it would be yet another case of “no allocation” just as the missing drainage cover at the Pasir Pinji wet market where a number of people had fallen.

However, I was wrong. The quick response by the city council had also shown that  it is treating the comments from “My Say” as feedback. As I had said before it is not my intention to just criticize the administration, it is more as a means to bring some of the issues to their attention. I am glad that the city council had acted.

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Recently, the Pasir Pinji state assemblyman Howard Lee Chuan How and his team of concerned residents had to collect funds from the public to carry out repairs and put a concrete cover to the drain. Lee claimed that his team had forwarded the issue of the missing drain cover to the city council and was told that a preliminary investigation would be done first. “Because there was no allocation yet, the team decided to collect funds from the public and solve the problem immediately,” he said.

Is it not the responsibility of the city council to ensure the roads and pavements in the city are safe? If so, why wait? It would save the city council from being sued should there be a mishap resulting from dangers along the pavements.

 

Idolising a Scottish Planter?

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Jerry FrancisMy Say

By Jerry Francis

Are we not idolizing a Scot, whose only contribution to the country was being a rubber planter who left behind his unfulfilled dream to live like a White Rajah? Even Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz appeared to have admitted it when launching the new features at the Kellie’s Castle near Batu Gajah recently.

”Kellie’s Castle deserves to be appreciated not only for its design but to remember its former owner, Scottish planter William Kellie Smith, for his ambition to become a lord in this part of the Earth,” he said.

Kellie's Castle

Thanks to branding and successful promotion, this abandoned and yet to be completed monument to posterity, the so-called ‘castle’ has become a popular tourist attraction in Perak. But, having immortalized Kellie by promoting the site, is that not enough of an effort? Do we actually need to go to the extent of spending more taxpayers’ funds to furnish a lounge and bar areas of the building with replica of old English furniture, antique items complete with curtains, carpets and paintings to reflect how they might have looked during William Kellie Smith’s time?

Well, does anyone really care how William Kellie would have lived if he was alive and had completed the construction of his castle? No doubt, William Kellie could have given some indications of his choice. This is not necessarily how he would live and furnish the building.

Thus, those responsible for assembling them could only say that they are “60 to 70 per cent” similar to what Smith would have conceived them to be. Furthermore, what significance would these new features have on our Malaysian culture?

We do not have to imitate other well-known sites abroad. Like the exhibits in the Windsor Castle, the 14th century Kellie Castle in Scotland, and various mansions in the United Kingdom. Those old and exquisite collections once belonged to royalty and lords who had actually lived in the buildings and as such they could take the visitors through a memorable trip of the country’s past.

I was also horrified by the suggestion, of some tourism officials, to resume construction of the building and to complete it to its intended grandeur. Fortunately the suggestions were shot down, otherwise more taxpayers’ funds would be spent.

Kellie’s Castle is attracting tourists now largely because of the story of William Kellie’s failed dream to have a lifestyle of a maharajah of India and the ghost stories being spawned around it. And also because it is ideally located along the Simpang  Pulai-Batu Gajah Road.

These latest features in Kellie’s Castle were developed out of a RM5 million allocation from the Federal Government. I feel that any expenditure, in the case of Kellie’s Castle, should be confined to providing sufficient facilities, beautifying the surroundings and ensuring the safety of visitors.

If there is any need to reflect the lifestyle of anyone, it should be that of our own prominent personalities in Perak – that is to show the custom and tradition of Malaysian history.

It saddens me to see the federal and state authorities paying so much attention to Kellie’s Castle at the expense of other tourism sites in Perak, which are badly in need of funds for development and promotion.

One such important site which needs our immediate attention is the last of the tin dredges at Tanjung Tualang – a heritage from the glorious past of the tin mining industry in the Kinta Valley. Save the dredge before it disappears completely.

The state has great potential as a tourist destination in the country as it is endowed with various assets, such as natural attractions, heritage and archaeological sites as well as seaside resorts.

 

Just Fancy That – A Floating Market in the City

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Jerry FrancisMy Say

By Jerry Francis

It amuses me each time the Mayor or some VIPs propose certain tourism projects along the narrow Kinta River in Ipoh. Among them are a floating market, river cruise, boat race and other water-related activities. I wonder whether they have really given some serious consideration to the viability of their proposals.

Why do we have to emulate others who had successfully implemented such activities? Their rivers are wider and deeper. The 1.5km stretch of the Kinta River, from the bridge at Jalan Raja Musa Aziz (Anderson Road) to the Kinta Riverfront Park (formerly known as the People’s Park), is hardly 15m wide and 1m deep.

Just Fancy That _ A Floating Market in the City

Although a rubber dam has been built by State Drainage and Irrigation Department, which could create the depth of water suitable for small boats, it would not be ideal for a floating market or river cruise.

Introducing such activities along this stretch of the riverbank is therefore bound to be a failure.

We have seen so much failures and therefore should not venture into another without thoroughly studying how our own floating market could woo tourists. And knowing the city council, even if such a floating market materialised, it would not last for long.

What are the unique items we could offer at our floating market? Just because Thailand has been successful in promoting their floating markets, it doesn’t mean that we can be too.

Mayor Dato’ Roshidi Hashim, had after a visit to South Thailand recently, proposed the floating market. He foresaw that a floating market would be a new tourist attraction in the city.

If there is any chance of such water-related activities being successful, they should be introduced along the Perak River, preferably in the Royal town of Kuala Kangsar.

The Kuala Kangsar District has much to offer in terms of tourist attractions, products from cottage industries that are unique and also has abundant local fruits and other agricultural produce. These could be the catalyst for a sustainable floating market. What is there for Ipoh to offer?

However, instead of a floating market, the city council could consider having a Weekend Bazaar along the riverbanks by relocating the Sunday street market along Jalan Horley. Such a move would induce and inspire the creation of a viable tourism project in the city. One side of the riverbank is for traders and the other for eateries as the beautifully designed pedestrian bridges provide easy access to both sides.

And, if we are still keen on water-related activities, why not revive them in the artificial lake of Taman D.R. Seenivasagam. After all the lake is just beside the “River Walk”.

While efforts to beautify the riverbanks are commendable, the enthusiasm that started a few years ago seems to progress rather slowly. Some sections have been abandoned and neglected.

During the day, the site appears to be dull, but at night it is like a fairyland and is attracting the city folks. The coloured-lighted trees installed along both sides of the riverbanks would reflect on the river concealing the polluted water and rubbish floating by.

I had hoped that a more concrete effort would be carried out to beautify this stretch of the Sungai Kinta, which bisects the city into the Old Town and New Town sectors, not in an “ad hoc” manner.

It must be remembered that rivers have been the focal point of many cities around the world. Sungai Kinta can be one of them.

Is Our City ‘Pedestrian Friendly’?

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Jerry FrancisMy Say

By Jerry  Francis

Nearly 600 pedestrians were killed in road accidents annually for the last three years in the country, most of them children and senior citizens. According to the federal police, this figure accounts for 10 per cent of the traffic accident fatalities.

Over 70 per cent of these pedestrian casualties happened because people did not use the facilities provided or crossed roads at wrong places. Pedestrians are therefore advised by the police to always use pedestrian bridges, pathways and crossings.

But, what have the police done towards ensuring there are sufficient pedestrian pathways and crossings in the towns and cities in the country. The police can make a difference as they sit on most of the traffic advisory committees in the local authorities.

Let us examine our city, Ipoh, which has a high population of senior citizens. Is it ‘pedestrian friendly’? Personally, I do not think so.

Of course, there are pedestrian bridges and crossings in the city centre. The pedestrian bridges are too steep for senior citizens and people with disabilities to climb up and down, while the pavements at the crossings and along the streets are without ramps to facilitate elderly and wheelchair-bound persons to get onto the pavements. While in many places, there are no pathways and pavements.

And, despite the existence of by-laws in the city forbidding obstructions along pavements and five-foot ways, they are rampant. Often pedestrians need to get down from the pavements and five-foot ways onto the roads in busy streets because they are obstructed by some structure or goods, thus risking  life and limb.

Pavements are also poorly maintained. There are gaping holes caused by loose and missing interlocking bricks that can cause pedestrians to trip over and injure themselves.

Making matters worse, there are even damaged manhole covers on the pavements. A few of these corroded metal covers are located along the busy Jalan Dato Onn Jaafar.

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It will be only a matter of time before a pedestrian steps on one of them and falls into the manhole (see picture). Please, city council, look into these hazards to pedestrians immediately.

Much as I dislike criticizing the authorities, I also dislike seeing negligence on the part of the authorities. Is the city council not liable should a pedestrian get hurt due to its negligence?

The Mayor and city councilors, should in one of their ‘turun padang’, take a walk around the city centre and see for themselves whether our city can be considered ‘pedestrian friendly’.

If I may suggest, since the Kinta River bisects the commercial sectors of the Old Town and New Town of the city, the city council could perhaps consider constructing covered pedestrian walkways at the bridges along Jalan Sultan Idris Shah and Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah for protection from rain and sun. It will encourage more people to walk between the two sectors.

Foul Odour Leads to Discovery of Illegal Fertilizer Plant

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Jerry FrancisMy Say

It took a strong unbearable foul odour to reveal the existence of an illegal fertilizer processing plant in the city. The stench affected residential areas within a one-kilometre radius.

For months, the residents in Taman Rishah and surrounding areas have been puzzled as to what was causing the stench. Some of them thought it came from dead animals, while others thought it was from chemicals or fertilizer used by a nearby farm.

Imagine how shocked they were when they traced the source of the stench to a fertilizer plant in their midst. So early this month, some of them decided to organize a rally to protest against the existence of the fertilizer plant. Leaflets were sent to the houses in the affected areas calling on the residents to meet at a nearby restaurant where they  drafted a memorandum and delivered to Ipoh City Council.

In response to their memorandum, it was reported that the council’s Health Department stated that the factory was operating illegally. The operator was said to have submitted an application to get approval from the department, but was rejected on the ground that it failed to fulfill the required conditions.

The department has since compounded the operator. “We will take the operator to court as a last resort,” assured its spokesman.

The residents can now heave a sigh of relief as they are free from the foul odour, but will it be permanent or temporary?

The question being asked by most of the residents was how did the fertilizer plant manage to operate illegally for so long without being detected by the authorities? What if the residents had not protested to the city council, would they have continued to live in misery of the foul odour?

The residents found chicken feathers and their entrails strewn in the compound of the alleged factory. It is also located next to a food processing factory, creating a very unhealthy situation. Some residents claimed that the odour had affected children suffering from asthma, while some were experiencing skin irritation.

The apparent failure of the enforcement units of the city council to detect and act against such illegal factories will undoubtedly affect the Mayor Dato’ Roshidi’s target of 85 per cent Clean Ipoh by August, this year.

It is my hope that  everyone, council’s employees and residents, will co-operate efficiently to achieve the target. Let’s bring back the lost image of Ipoh as – “one of the cleanest cities in the country.”

Jerry Francis

Amanjaya Bus Terminal

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jerry_francisMy Say

By Jerry Francis

The relocation of any facility will always be beset with problems. There will be those against the idea and those in favour of it.

The main issue is location. It may be convenient to those living close-by, but not to others further away who may be faced with having to get to the new location. However, such movement may be necessary in the name of progress.

Thus, the relocation of the centralized out-station bus terminal from Medan Gopeng in Ipoh to the Amanjaya integrated bus terminal in Bandar Meru Raya, just north of the city, is no exception.

Amanjaya Bus TerminalThere has been a long tussle with the 50-odd bus operators affected by the move, which threatens to turn the newly-constructed Amanjaya bus terminal into a “white elephant.”

A huge amount of funds has been spent on the construction of the new bus terminal. Unlike the one in Medan Gopeng, which was not built for a bus terminal, the Amanjaya integrated bus terminal had been painstakingly planned to provide all the facilities and comforts of long distance bus passengers.

It is an impressive complex beside the North-South Expressway and in the midst of the commercial areas of the new township. Located in the complex are ticketing booths, a comfortable waiting area with TV screens displaying information on arrival and departure, food outlets, shops, a budget hotel, taxi-station and ample car parks. The passengers’ arrival area is located on the higher level, which is connected by two lifts and escalators. There are 19 platforms for buses with space for 30 more on stand-by.

“We have discussed with those running the bus terminal at Medan Gopeng and they agreed that all the express bus companies operating there would move to the new terminal within a month,” said executive chairman of the Combined Bus Service Sdn Bhd, Encik Mohamad Hj. Mat Isa. His company is managing the Amanjaya Bus Terminal.

“This matter has been dragging on for the last six months. Currently, about 23 bus operators have moved to Amanjaya bus terminal. ”

Mohamad said that the rest will have to move into the new complex soon as the Perak Development Corporation, which owns Medan Gopeng, has other plans to turn the building into another state tourism icon.

Meanwhile, the Combined Bus Services is encouraging travellers to use the new bus terminal. “We have launched a promotion. Those who book their outstation bus tickets and disembark at the Amanjaya terminal are entitled to a RM5 voucher to be spent at the terminal,” he said.

The company is also planning to introduce more shuttle buses to connect Amanjaya bus terminal with the various residential areas around the city.

Danger on the Streets of Ipoh

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jerry_francisBy Jerry Francis

Are the exposed electrical wires at the base of the metal street lamp-posts (see pics) around Ipoh City safe to be touched?

This question is always on my mind whenever I come across them while walking along the busy streets and in some cases close to schools. There are not just one or two, there are a number – some with the covers missing, while others with the wires jutting out as the covers are loosely held.

My Say 2My Say 1

I get jittery each time I pass such exposed wires ever since I saw three buffaloes electrocuted in Silibin area some years ago. I am also reminded of the case where a 10-year-old boy was electrocuted when he accidentally fell and touched an exposed high-voltage wire on a lamp post at a playground near his house in Shah Alam last year.

My concern is what happens if someone, particularly children, unwittingly touched the wires while walking along the pavements.

Can the relevant authority give an assurance that such exposed wires are safe? If not, such negligence should be quickly looked into before mishaps occur.

Jalan CM Yusuf fountain

Once a Beautiful Fountain, Now a Sorry Sight

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jerry_francisBy Jerry Francis

The fountain on the roundabout along Jalan C.M. Yusuf was once beautiful with water spouting high and lit up at night. It had even appeared on postcards of Ipoh City.

It was a soothing sight for the hundreds of motorists, who passed the small roundabout daily. Today, it is in a very sorry state. No longer spouting water and no longer lit up at night, its beauty faded and forlorn in its neglect.Jalan CM Yusuf fountain

It is a shame that the city council can allow the fountain to deteriorate, reflecting its inability to maintain it over the last 20 years. I first highlighted the ‘plight’ of the fountain and called for something to be done in 1992. The explanation given by the city council then was that it had other plans for the roundabout.

Ever since, each time the condition of the fountain was highlighted, the city council would make some minor adjustment and it would spout water again. The city council must be waiting for another round of criticism to start moving again. Meanwhile, its plans to develop the roundabout has taken more than two decades and there is no movement in sight.

Jalan CM Yusuf fountainI am inclined to believe that Jalan C.M. Yusuf, which was named after a prominent local personality, is one of the places ignored by the city under its beautification plan. Some may consider it a small matter but what will visitors to our city think? Certainly, it will not cost a lot for the city council to carry out some cosmetic work to make the fountain look more pleasant; at least for the time being until they can come up with other plans for the redevelopment of the roundabout.

If the city council cannot maintain a simple fountain like this one, how does it hope to maintain the proposed costly “musical fountain” in front of the iconic railway station?

I always feel that the city council needs to have a special squad, if it does not already have one, to carry out minor repairs. Such a squad can carry out maintenance works quickly, such as replacing broken slabs on pavements, cracked drains and other minor jobs around the city.

The existence of such a squad can save the city council money as repairs can be done quickly rather than allowing it to get worse and then having repair jobs contracted out.