By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
My wife lamented that her cousin and classmate had died of pancreatic cancer too early in life. She was in her early sixties and is survived by her two daughters and a bedridden husband. The cousin’s untimely demise, which went unannounced, riled my wife further and she blamed herself for not checking on the poor woman although she was aware her cousin was in poor shape.
I listened attentively while she poured out her regrets. The cousin was a close friend having grown up together and attending the same school in Ipoh. I did not say much, as it would be improper of me to interject while someone was in mourning. I could only offer my sympathy, and having done so said, “It’s her destiny, my dear. You’ve to come to terms with the loss.”
Well, I am not about to preach the goodness of being a dutiful husband at the beck and call of one’s wife. It has nothing to do with what I am about to discuss – the uneasy relationship between the media and Ipoh City Council. The similarities are there. It has much to do with human failings, prudence being a major factor.
Since Dato’ Roshidi Hashim retirement as mayor of Ipoh in November 2013, the once cordial relationship between the media and Ipoh City Council took a plunge. It reached an all-time low when media representatives boycotted the Council’s functions by giving them a wide berth. The absence of news coverage and reports on Council-sponsored activities in the media became so bad that Syahrizal, Roshidi’s former public relations officer, had to be recalled to take on the job of the Council’s PRO.
Sharizal has been on the job since the early 1990s. This Kedah-born guy is a natural-born PRO as he loves people. You cannot be a good public relations man if you don’t like people. Unfortunately, his superiors are not and that includes the chief honcho in the Council.
The present mayor, Dato’ Harun Rawi, has openly admitted that he prefers to be “the man in the background” leaving his officers to do the talking. Whether this is the preferred way, I shall leave it to your better judgment. The downside of adopting this posture is the immeasurable goodwill Harun stands to lose. And being a mayor, the loss is irreplaceable.
So a truce was called. Syahrizal played a pivotal role in regaining the lost enthusiasm. He created a new WhatsApp group known as ‘MBI & Media’ which is more proactive in nature. He got all of his former media friends into the group. His pleasant disposition is the reason why newsmen are ever willing to rally around him.
A lunch with media representatives was held at Pakeeza Restaurant on Thursday, January 29. Food is a convenient medium for dialogue and the choice of Pakeeza, noted for its delectable northern Indian cuisines, was welcomed by all. Over 60 reporters and photographers attended and the year-long impasse was resolved, more or less.
I was given the honour to speak on behalf of the local media. And this was what I said:
“The relationship between Ipoh City Council and the media is made in heaven. It’s not something superficial and neither is it artificial.
We have to coexist, we have to support one another and we cannot live in isolation.
One administers, the other propagates. That is the name of the game. It’s about giving and taking, whichever way one sees it.
It should never develop into a love-hate relationship where one party benefits while the other suffers. And one maxim I used to recant is, ‘good or bad publicity is publicity nonetheless’. I rest my case.”
Having undergone this rather awkward situation, those helming Ipoh City Council should be more circumspect in their dealings with the media. Things would not have reached such heady levels had the mayor exercised some wisdom and come to terms with reality.