From the Editor’s Desk
By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
Many may not agree with me that Ipoh is experiencing a gradual change in its social landscape. Although the transformation is subtle the change is a welcome sign. This one time sleepy hollow, which has gone into a prolonged hibernation after the demise of the tin industry in the early 1980s, is beginning to come alive. Unfortunately, many are still in denial not wanting to see the positive side of things. The prophets of doom will, as a matter of course, have nothing good to say.
The city’s robust economy is being fuelled mainly by the private sector, a phenomenon which was found wanting a few years ago. Investments by private entities and individuals, mainly home-grown, is a good indication that Ipohites, who left for greener pastures during the tin market slump, have now returned home, not to roost but to do business. This is not only healthy but also good for everyone in Ipoh.
The rippling effect of the economic boom will benefit small-time businessmen like the ubiquitous hawkers and traders that Ipoh is famous for. Food courts and hawker centres are springing up like mushrooms after a downpour. And the existence of a vibrant suburban community in once remote hamlets such as Kampung Tawas, Bercham, Buntong and Kepayang bespeaks a new-found vigour.
Based on the 2010 census, Ipoh, with a land size of 643 sq km, supports a population in excess of 760,000. Not bad for a state capital that boasts the most number of colonial buildings within a small confine. The city that tin built has gone a complete circle. Or has it?
Mayor Dato’ Roshidi Hashim believes it has and attributes the success to the hard-working and diligent city folks which consist of a healthy mix of races and creeds. Thus the notion that the success of a nation rests squarely on the shoulders of its citizens holds true. Therefore, racial polarity and religious bigotry, as being espoused by some in the ruling coalition is an anathema, a no-go. They will be committing political seppuku if the unthinkable happens.
Topping the list of insensitivities is the action of the Sungai Buloh school principal who confined his non-Muslim students to the school’s toilet for their meals during the fasting month of Ramadan.
Intolerance is a quality so endemic in Biro Tata Negara-trained officers these days. Sadly, they form the bulk of the bloated civil service. Such things never happened during my formative years in my hometown of Parit Buntar in the 1950s and 1960s.
Maybe life was not as unpredictable as it is today. We did not have much to look forward to in terms of entertainment, except for the occasional John Wayne movies shown at the town’s only cinema. I grew up when Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot and later, Ursula Andress, were the pin-up girls. We hummed to Elvis Presley’s ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and Cliff Richard’s ‘The Young Ones’. P. Ramlee’s ‘Gelora’ and L. Ramli’s ‘Dara Pujaan’ were our favourite local numbers. Investing hard-to-come-by coins in the jukebox at the town’s bus terminal was the best I could do to honour these crooners.
But that was then, today it is something else. The chasm between Baby Boomers like me and those from Gen X and Gen Y is as wide as the Pacific Ocean. Bridging this generational gap is well-nigh impossible.
Back to Ipoh’s changing social scene. On Friday, July 19, the newly-opened Symphony Suites hosted a talk by world-renowned shoemaker, Datuk Professor Jimmy Choo and Ipoh-born and controversial radio and television presenter, Patrick Teoh. The event was organised by Perak Academy as part of its Perak Lectures series, the 100th since its inception in 1999.
What was most exciting about the meeting of the two ‘giants’ were the liberal exchanges the duo engaged in on the making of Jimmy Choo, a name synonymous with ladies footwear in the volatile fashion world. A Jimmy Choo is worth its weight in gold, literally. A pair can fetch as much as USD10,000 (RM32,000), something beyond the reach of mere mortals like us.
But we take pride in the fact that a humble shoemaker from Penang had made it big in the international arena. And he did it by weaving his magic into the heart of the late Princess Diana, the Princess of Wales. Diana was hooked on Jimmy Choo’s shoes and had several designed by him before her tragic death on August 31, 1997.
The other was the Policy Talk organised by Harold Kong at his restaurant, St Mike’s Bistro opposite the famous FMS Bar. Harold Kong is a chartered accountant by profession. He is one of the many returning Ipohites who, having made his fortune abroad, decided to come home for reasons of expedience. This former St Michael’s Institution student wants to plant his roots here rather than in Australia and Hong Kong where he worked for over two decades.
Harold’s policy talk on Saturday, July 20 was the seventh in the series. The guest speaker was Professor Dr Abdul Aziz Bari formerly of Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia. Aziz was a law professor at the university and has written several papers on constitutional laws, something unheard of among our local academia. His assertion that a “country with a constitution may not be necessarily constitutional” is a sad reflection of our country. The fact that our Constitution has been amended over 800 times since 1957 confirms the belief that the principle of separation of powers between the Executive, Legislative and the Judiciary in Malaysia is a myth. “That was so until March 2008 when the ruling coalition lost its two-thirds majority in parliament,” said Aziz.
These two events exemplify the many social activities taking place in Ipoh. There are many more, some mundane some exciting. One must have a keen eye for these happenings. Looking up the Announcement column on page 4 of Ipoh Echo is a good start.