Thinking Allowed

The good, the bad and the ugly in Ipoh and KK

Malaysians are not very good at making official complaints. They may make the initial protestations, but their follow through is poor. They may be loud in the coffee shop or amongst family members and friends, but few will put pen to paper, text, phone or see the customer services officer (CSO) of a company or government department. It is understandable.

When companies ask for documents or extra information, the complainant does not respond because, in many cases, they claim they cannot be bothered to gather all the information.

When the CSO wants exact details like name of a rude employee, or the time and place of an incident, few are able to recall the information. In most cases, they neglected to record this information, in the heat of the moment, or perhaps they waited too long after the incident and have forgotten some of the details.

Telekom Malaysia is one company, that has over the years, received many complaints about poor service. I recall a time, soon after privatisation, when we kept having to replace the overhead lines from the telephone pole, to the house.

Each time we reported bad reception on the phone line, Telekom would send their contractor to have a look. It cost a minimum of RM40 for the call out plus the cost of the repairs. As they were contacted a few times each month, the bill would naturally mount up. Each time we asked for an explanation, we were told, “termites”.

We called the pest company and they told us, “No. You do not have termites.” So, were households like us being fleeced?

A few weeks ago, the house was being painted and as I was allergic to paint, I stayed at a friend’s house in Jalan Tambun. My host was horrified to find that there was something wrong with the modem and phone line, as he knew that the internet is essential in my writing.

He phoned Telekom and they were very good. They spent about an hour trying to repair the line, by remote control from their head office but it was unsuccessful. The line was no good. The clerk promised to send an operative the following morning and true to his word, a Telekom employee, and a trainee, arrived around 10am.

They laid their instruments out by the phone, and tried to mend the line. It did not help that my friend had forgotten the password for his WiFi, but that was quickly rectified. They were in communication with their head office, but the problem persisted.

The more senior employee then played around with his set of tools, and after fiddling around for half an hour, managed to get the line working again. Sighs of relief all round.

We were very pleased with their service. The men were quick, efficient, and very polite. They quietly went about their work, and resolved our problem in a short time. I could resume my surfing on the net, and my friend could continue with his online purchases. Thank you Telekom Malaysia!

Later, fed up with waiting for the paint to dry at home, my friend and I decided to drive to Kuala Kangsar and visit the market by the river’s edge. We decided to stop by the Ubudiah mosque to take some photos. There were some stalls in the car-park and we decided to have a look at their wares.

Thinking that the hawkers would sell local snacks, or Malay kuih, we were surprised when we found that there were frankfurters, burgers and chicken nuggets on sale. Perhaps the hawkers thought that the many western tourists, who visit the mosque, wish to eat food that is familiar to them. Surely, during Visit Malaysia Year, the hawkers should be encouraged to promote local food items. Nothing beats a good pisang gorengcempedak goreng, or the mini murtabak, which the pasar at the river’s edge has made popular. Good, wholesome snacks are preferable to processed foods like nuggets and frankfurters.

At the rest and recreation service area just along the Kuala Kangsar highway, on the way to Taiping, we were impressed with the neat, landscaped exterior of the service area, but some things never change, in Malaysia. We could smell the ammonia coming from the toilets, and the floor was flooded. Is teaching Malaysians the art of keeping their toilets clean and dry an impossibility?

Back in Ipoh, we decided to wander to the Old Ipoh Post Office beside the Town Hall. The grand building is in a terrible state of decay. Didn’t it undergo a major renovation a few years ago at the cost of a few million ringgit?

The normal rakyat is bad about making complaints; but officials and politicians, are bad at keeping promises. We were told that the Old Ipoh Post Office would be converted to an art gallery.

In October 2014, the National Visual Arts Development Board director-general, Haned Masjak, told reporters at the Program Pior Perak, 1Malaysia Contemporary Arts Tourism, (1MCAT) that the art gallery would provide a higher level of recognition and appreciation to all local artists. He said that the new gallery would be housed in the Old Post Office building, and would open its doors to the public by mid-2015.

It is now almost the end of 2018 and the building is in a state of decay.

Malaysians mudah lupa (easily forget). In 2016, the Perak Tourism chairman, Mohamad Kamil Shafie, repeated the line that Ipoh needed a gallery to showcase artwork by local artists to tourists.

He said, “We need a place for visitors to stop a while to look at the artwork created by our local artists. It is our plan to make Ipoh a creativity hub for art, music, poem and dance.”

He is right. We are often given some song and dance about delays in various projects.

Mohamad Kamil, who represented the then Tourism Committee chairman, Nolee Ashilin Mohd Radzi, was pleased with the growing local art scene. He said, “We will have more art exhibitions to showcase their work. We are also worried that art lovers who come here have nothing to see if we don’t have more art galleries.”

Successive tourism representatives have failed us. They spent money on projects, including this art gallery, only to claim that complications and technical issues have delayed the opening. What technical issues?

We went to inspect the Old Post Office, and found trees growing from the floor of the corridor on the ground floor. As we looked up, we could see that in places, the ceiling was crumbling, presumably where a leak in the roof tiles had allowed water to seep in and rot the wood.

We tried to enter to see if the interior was badly damaged but the front gate was securely padlocked.

So what is the Ipoh City Council going to do with this beautiful building?

Why should we waste more of the taxpayers’ money on projects which are half completed? Which crony company benefited from this pointless renovation exercise? Why was the plan to endow Ipoh with an art gallery ditched? What has the mayor to say about this?

Mariam Mokhtar

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