Toastmasters International, world leader in communication and leadership development organised a press conference to announce the upcoming District 51 Semi Annual Convention (SAC).
Lieutenant Governor Education and Training, Wendy Wong informed the media that the theme of the convention is ‘Reach for the Stars’ to be held at Kinta Riverfront Hotel & Suites in Ipoh on the November 8 and 9.
This convention will see nearly 400 delegates from around the region congregating in the city of Ipoh. The positive response from delegates showed the support towards the convention since it opened registration eight months ago. The convention organiser is delighted with the positive response and is committed to deliver an exciting and memorable convention.
Some of the exciting events lined-up are Gala Night, District Level Humourous & Evaluation Speech Contests, Student Forum, Workshops and a Hawker-Style Dinner. Delegates will gain unlimited knowledge, experience and get to widen their network.
Toastmasters International (TI) is a non-profit organization founded in 1924 by Dr Ralph C. Smedley devoted to making effective oral communication a worldwide reality. To date, more than 4 million men and women have benefited from this programme. Membership worldwide is 292,000 strong. These members improve their speaking and leadership skills by attending one of the 14,350 clubs that make up the global network of meeting locations in 122 countries.
For further information, log into the convention website www.d51sacipoh2013.org or the Toastmasters International website www.toastmasters.org.
Ipoh’s night life has improved, so said several people working outside of Ipoh, when they returned over the extended Merdeka weekend recently.
Indeed their observation is spot on, for over the last two years, the night scene has been heating up all around town with more outlets opening and being upgraded in Greentown, New Town and also Old Town at the heritage enclave surrounding Concubine Lane. These new outlets offer more than just drinks and are now offering a wider variety of light snacks and meals for the family, with live music included.
The Changing Scene
Just two years ago when returning children came home to Ipoh for long weekends and holidays, their night hangout joints would be at Ipoh Garden East. On major public holidays, the roads leading to the pub stretch between Medan Ipoh 1 to 5 would be jam packed with cars and patrons would socialize, party and eat at the scores of pubs, coffee houses and eateries there. It was the place for a night out in Ipoh which ultimately earned it the title of being called the Bangsar of Ipoh.
The choice was pubs and karaoke outlets at Medan Ipoh 4 while Medan Ipoh 5 was where the food stalls were located and where whole families would come out for dinner and supper. The other alternative night outlets then were in Greentown with similar watering holes and establishments. However the variety and concentration of outlets in Greentown could not compare to Ipoh Garden East. As such Ipoh Garden East had remained the night location of choice for close to 15 years.
With the proliferation of more hotels both starred or budget now opened throughout the whole of Ipoh, an inevitable outcome was a demand for new establishments both for entertainment, drinks as well as food within the proximity of these hotels.
A new F&B (food and beverage) concept that has now caught the fancy of Ipohites, and has seen the establishment of quite a few of them, is that of the Gastro Bar. Originally conceived in the west to combine elements of good gastronomy with the more relaxed pub style drinking, the Gastro Bar is best epitomized by some of the newer establishments that have popped up all over town, one of these being Bricks & Barrels.
Owned by brothers Calvin and Kenny Leow, both Ipohites and former Michaelians, they established the outlet as they found it difficult to find an enjoyable outlet for a drink and some music when they returned home to Ipoh from Kuala Lumpur where they work as engineers.
They enjoy a social drink, don’t smoke, love to cook and return home regularly. So they came up with the concept of Bricks & Barrels, based on the English pub and where one can dine comfortably on good, even gourmet food while being entertained with live music.
The location at Lau Ek Ching Street was selected because its facade was similar to an ‘English town house’, two heritage houses joined together where the front and back walls are opened to create one expanded unit to enable happy hour chill out meals whether at the front yard or more privately at the back air-well area.
Besides attracting the evening happy-hour crowd of office executives, it also has a family meal following who patronize the outlet for its good food.
Calvin Leow describes B&B as a Gastro Bar. “Actually it was originally created for the whole family. However, the initial concept was for just a bar. Now that our kitchen is being better recognised we want to attract whole families.”
The families usually come in for dinner and leave when the drink crowd comes in although some stay on for the live music.
Drinks with a Decent Meal
The concept of having drinks with a decent meal has certainly paid off for James Kennedy the owner of Barbeza outlet at Medan Ipoh.
Barbeza is one of very few outlets in Ipoh Garden East that has lasted for five years without changing hands, unlike scores of other neighbouring outlets that have changed hands several times.
Kennedy attributes his success to the fact that he caters to his customers’ requirements and creates events to consistently attract his regulars. Additionally, his kitchen, which serves Italian cuisine, contributes 25 per cent regularly to the monthly revenue and has a regular family following who come for their meals in the early evening. Regular pizza takeaway orders are also a common request.
Over at Greentown the scene has grown. As is usual, pubs have changed hands over the years although Mikes Place at Lebuh Satu has remained at the same location and with the same owner since it started 10 years ago.
What has also changed with each change of ownership is the theme of these outlets. Secret Garden over at Jalan Cheah Cheng Lim is a pair of old colonial bungalows with spacious compounds converted to a coffee house that serves drinks and full meals. Bar.Racuda, another bungalow outlet recently opened several months ago, offers similar and very interesting food and has live music during the weekends.
Obviously anticipating better times ahead, Bryan Ngan who first started the Haven (across from the Syuen Hotel) five years ago, has opened another outlet called The Museum Wine Bar at Persiaran Greentown 6. Museum offers live music and serves tapas (small snacks which may or may not be hot) while the Haven which was recently upgraded, offers karaoke with light food, both western and local. At the Haven which has limited parking, Ngan employs a security guard for customers to park their vehicles at the back lane which helps to alleviate their concerns on security.
Then there is Healy Mac’s, the “real Irish bar” which has great food, though, at premium prices and live music six nights a week. Monday nights here is Quiz Night (centre pic) where tables of customers participate in a quiz with the goal of a tower of beer as the final reward.
Ipoh Old Town
Over at Old Town while the area is becoming active in the day, the nightlife is still confined to the heritage enclave around Concubine Lane.
The dominant outlet here is Yoon Wah, a ‘Tai Chao’ food outlet that introduced snow beer to Ipoh over a decade ago. Its shop, located at the east corner of Concubine Lane has expanded across the road while its al-fresco tables line a block along Jalan Bandar Timah.
In July this year, Plan B, a franchise outlet from Kuala Lumpur, opened right next door to Kedai Kopi Kong Heng. Designed to blend in with the heritage image that is Old Town, the outlet is understated in its decor, discreetly cosseted by clever landscaping with bright open spaces and is air conditioned. It operates daily from 9am till 10pm and serves western food.
Interestingly, Dr Mike ‘Gurmil’ who owns Mikes Place in Greentown, has himself ventured to open his second outlet in Old Town calling it Mikes Place 2 (MP2, top pic) with his immediate neighbour being Yoon Wah.
Capitalising on the heritage theme, he has upgraded a unit on Concubine Lane into a cosy and chic outlet with decor that retains as much of that Old Town image as possible. Obviously aware of the challenges with opening a pub, MP2 opened recently in August for four days in a week and serves light fare.
Ipoh New Town
The location in Ipoh which has seen the most makeover activity over the last two years is New Town. The change probably started with St Patrick’s Irish Pub along Jalan Raja Ekram and gradually spread to its neighbouring back street at Lau Ek Ching street which saw the start of Bricks & Barrels and subsequently another two pubs and a dance club.
The party growth has since spread to the opening of two clubs, SOS on Jalan Yang Kalsom and House Music Club on Jalan Sultan Idris, both of which are well patronized especially on weekends.
Fussy Ipoh a Testing Ground for New Concepts
“If you can sell a new product to Ipoh you can sell it anywhere” – Calvin Leow of Bricks and Barrels
Ipoh is certainly no laggard in the area of F&B concept contribution to the larger world. We can now see Ipoh White Coffee outlets everywhere in Malaysia and touting the fame of our delicious Ipoh bean sprout and chicken noodles.
Due to Ipohites’ demanding standards, another concept developed in Ipoh might soon find its niche throughout the country, and probably beyond, is Bricks & Barrels.
Bricks & Barrels’ business concept and design which owner Calvin Leow described as being ‘Vintage Industrial’, has attracted a following and is due to open its first franchise in KL at the end of this year.
Calvin Leow is from Ipoh. He well knows that Ipohites are fussy and “if you can sell a new product to Ipoh you can sell it anywhere”. Considering that Bricks & Barrels will be celebrating its second anniversary in November, Leow’s gut judgement to create something different will show dividends soon and is another feather in the cap for creative Ipohites.
DKLS Industries Berhad, a public-listed company, held its corporate dinner at the Royal Perak Golf Club recently. The dinner, held once every four years is the company’s way of expressing its appreciation to government agencies, business partners, the business community, associates and friends for their support in helping the company to realise its goals and objectives.
This year’s dinner came with a difference when a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) event was incorporated for good measure. It was the presentation ceremony of the ongoing DKLS Linguistic Ambassador Programme. There are six categories in all. Gold, silver and bronze medals are for the three top individuals while the remaining three are for high-achieving schools.
The gold medal was won by Teoh Li Ann of SMK Methodist Perempuan. She won a RM5000 cash award and a certificate. The silver went to Yeoh Xin Jing of Wesley Methodist School. Teoh walked away with a RM2000 cash award and a certificate. The bronze was won by Baldeep Kaur from SMK Tarcisian Convent. Baldeep won RM1000 and a certificate.
Guest of honour, Dr Muhammad Amin Zakaria, Executive Councillor for Education, Science, Environment and Green Technology, gave away the awards.
Armed Forces Day, coincidentally falls on the same day as Malaysia Day – on September 16. This year’s celebration was held on Saturday, September 21 at the Banquet Hall of the State Secretariat Building. The occasion was graced by the Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri DiRaja Zambry Abd Kadir, State Secretary Dato’ Abdul Puhat Mat Nayan and Fleet Operation Commander Vice Admiral Dato’ Abdul Hadi Abdul Rashid.
In his welcoming speech, heralding the auspicious day, Zambry paid tribute to the gallant men who were killed during the Lahad Datu terrorist incursion early this year. “These men had not died in vain. Their ultimate sacrifice for King and Country will be remembered,” he said.
Zamry also touched on the current joint operations by the Police and the Army to combat crime on the streets. “Such operations are being conducted in almost all states in the country. Hotspots in Bercham and Tanjung Rambutan, where street crimes are prevalent, joint patrolling has resulted in a reduction in criminal activities. “This will continue as it is beneficial to the people,” he added.
The evening cocktail function was attended by officers from the three services namely Army, Navy and Air Force. A number of senior police officers were also seen in the crowd.
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.
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.
The Hope Haemodialysis Centre, located at 43 Jalan Lasam, recently received a new kidney dialysis machine, valued at RM35,000, from Latter-Day Saint Charities, an arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Centre was founded 12 years ago, as a social outreach ministry of the Canning Garden Methodist Church to provide Haemodialysis for the poor and needy who cannot afford dialysis at the hospital.
Dr Su Too Kiat, founder and President of the Centre, is a practicing general practitioner in Ipoh. Haemodialysis prolongs life and improves its quality and enables patients to be gainfully employed. The Centre accepts patients irrespective of race or religion. The Centre is staffed by qualified nurses. In addition, volunteer doctors, including a nephrologist and a cardiologist, visit the patients in the Centre regularly.
The Centre operates 12 hours a day, six days a week, even on public holidays. It is closed on Sundays. The Centre has 12 machines, each of which operates over 8 hours per day. The average life of a machine is 10 years.
The Centre is run as a non-profit service to help poorer patients who suffer from kidney failure, with donations from the Canning Methodist Church, public donations, and financial assistance from the Malaysian government.
Haemodialysis is only a stopgap measure to improve the quality of life and enable patients to be gainfully employed. The final objective for a more permanent cure is a kidney transplant.
Upon receiving the machine, Dr Su Too Kiat said, “We appreciate your kind generosity. With constant use, the machines wear out after about ten years and so this machine will be a great addition to the Centre. It is a wonderful day for everyone here.”
The protracted case of the 13 protesters, who were charged for being involved in an illegal assembly in front of Istana Bukit Chandan, Kuala Kangsar on Friday, February 6, 2009, came to an abrupt end on Friday, September 13 when they were handed a 2-year prison sentence plus a fine of RM5000 each.
The accused were originally charged under Section 145 of the Penal Code which carries a jail term of not exceeding two years or a fine or both upon conviction. They were also charged under Section 27 (4) of the Police Act 1967 and punishable under Section 27 (8) of the same Act.
However, after a lengthy court trial in Kuala Kangsar beginning on August 8, 2009, till October 13, 2010, the 13 were found not guilty of committing a crime under Police Act 1967 and were freed. The prosecution could not prove a prima facie case against the accused. Judgment was passed by the Session Court judge on April 4, 2011. But the same judge ruled that the prosecution had a valid case against the accused under Section 145 of the Penal Code and called upon them to make their defence.
That marked the beginning of another lengthy deliberation in the same court of law that eventuated in the surprise judgment passed on Friday, September 13. The spectre of “Friday the 13th” an American horror movie franchise has come to haunt the unlucky 13 and their legal team led by Ipoh-based lawyer Augustine Anthony and his co-counsel, Aminuddin Zulkipli. The sad part was the session court judge’s decision not to allow a stay of execution pending an appeal.
The 13 accused were hastily moved to Tapah prison where they were incarcerated as prisoners dressed in the signature yellow overalls reserved for hardcore criminals. How these seemingly innocent people, all of whom were first-time offenders, were incarcerated, was beyond comprehension. Was any element of compassion shown? Sadly, there was none. One of the accused is a cancer sufferer while another is a housewife.
They had, undoubtedly, committed an offence of being a party to an unlawful assembly during the swearing-in of a new Menteri Besar at the Istana on the fateful day. But in the ensuing mayhem anything could have happened. This was confirmed by both defence and prosecution witnesses during the initial trial. Even police officers, who were called to the witness stand, could not really say what took place on that day. The situation on the ground was so fuzzy and, coupled with the Federal Reserve Unit troopers firing tear gas at the crowd; no one could really ascertain what did or did not take place.
Most of the incidents were based on conjectures resulting in the charge under Section 27 (4) of the Police Act 1967 being summarily dismissed. But, like a court martial proceeding, of which I had been a party, the accused would normally be trapped with an alternative charge should he escape the primary charge. There are many ways to skin a cat.
The ruling by Session Court Judge Norsalha Hamzah on Friday, September 13 was first reported by bloggers and online news portals. The news spread like wildfire and soon many were calling news agencies for updates. Ipoh Echo was no exception. I called Augustine to get the latest. Since it was a weekend he could not do much to resolve the problem.
On Tuesday, September 17 Augustine and Aminuddin successfully filed their case with a certificate of urgency with the Taiping High Court. Justice Datuk Ahmad Nasfy Yassin arbitrated on Thursday, September 19 allowing a stay of execution under Section 311 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Bail amount of RM3000 to RM4000 by the session court was maintained. The RM5000 fine imposed by the lower court is to be paid in six instalments, upstaging the session court’s ruling that the fine be paid in full.
“The liberty of the 13 accused is paramount and in view of the foregoing, a stay of execution should be granted notwithstanding the circumstances,” said Ahmad Nasfy Yassin.
Some sensibility has finally prevailed and it takes the good judge to make it happen.
When Dato’ Daniel Tay called, it was supposed to be a casual get-together, a relaxed meal with family, kids and friends, T-shirts and shorts being the order of the evening as the venue was a fan cooled outlet.
Relaxed it was indeed but little did I expect (nor my two friends whom I invited along), to be tucking into a total of 15 different dishes which were shared between eleven of us. Mind you, the dishes were not humongous but they just kept coming.
Jale Inn Restaurant is an unpretentious ‘Tai Chao’ restaurant on Gopeng Road, shortly after the turn-off to the Swimming Club on the way to Simpang Pulai and beyond. It is a corner shop lot with the name prominently displayed and coming from town it is hard to miss.
Although the decor is nothing to write home about, the dishes that come steaming out of the kitchen certainly is. Usually with restaurants like these, there will be some hits and some misses and while I usually only recommend the hits, I will sometimes comment on the misses for being too sweet or too sour, etc. But in the case of this Tai Chao restaurant, every single one of the dishes that I tried were hits!
We began with a steamed Tilapia (Kam Fong) smothered in a chilli bean sauce, the flesh smooth and soft and the sauce with just the right balance of flavours. As we were so many at the two tables (we were passing dishes back and forth) we ordered another fish which was the catfish or Pak So Kung which came redolent with ginger cooked in a claypot. The catfish was extremely fresh with none of the muddy taste that sometimes come with this fish.
For the fishermen amongst my readers out there, it is useful to note that they will also steam any fish that you bring along and charge RM16 per fish and up, depending on the size. So if you happen to catch a fancy sea or river fish, this is a good place to bring it to as their steaming techniques and recipes are good.
We then had the Claypot Lamb which was robust in a thick dark sauce oozing with the fragrance of ginger. This was followed by the Baby Romaine lettuce with salted whitebait or Ngan Yu Tsai, the greens still crisp to the bite.
Other dishes then came in quick succession. The Tse Tsap Pai Kwat, soya sauce spare ribs were tender while the vinegared Pig’s Trotters were succulent, juicy with the right balance of vinegar and sugar. Fried Sotong or Squid chunks were crispy on the outside, fresh and tender inside.
Jale Inn is famous for their frogs and we ordered two styles of preparation, one with dried chilli and the other steamed with essence of chicken and wine. Each preparation had its own inherent goodness and the frog legs were very fresh, velvety smooth on the palate and worth going back for more.
We also ordered another dish of Sek Pan or Garoupa Fish Head cut in chunks and steamed with a thick black bean sauce, the fish pieces extremely fresh and the sauce was robust and tangy.
Home cooking Chinese style was represented by the next dish, the steamed minced pork with salted fish, one of my favourite comfort foods. The one at Jale Inn was perfect, the pork well marinated with the salted fish aroma permeating the whole dish.
Fried kangkong or convolvulus fried with sambal belacan arrived piping hot and full of ‘wok hei’ a Chinese accolade for dishes that have been well fried in high enough heat, retaining the goodness of the greens and melding the rest of the ingredients in a fragrant melange. So were the Fried French beans with onions and minced pork, the beans still crisp on the bite and the minced pork lending its umami presence to the beans.
It certainly was a fishy evening for another fish dish arrived, this time the fried Black Pomfret topped with preserved mustard greens. The black pomfret which lends itself to frying or spicy sauces was fresh and the mustard greens with its sauce provided the perfect touch of salty and tart notes to set off the fish.
As each dish only allowed for one morsel for each person to taste, we continued with our feasting, this time moving on to the rice and noodles, ordering three different dishes. The first of these was the Mee Goreng, with a distinctive Indian flavour but embellished with fried soft tofu instead of the harder one found in the Indian version. This was spicy with good wok hei but it was the Fried Rice that won the evening, delectable in taste and texture, each grain of rice separate and not too oily.
Steamed Tilapia with Bean Paste (by weight) – RM35.60
Ginger Claypot Catfish – RM35
Claypot Lamb – RM12
Frog Legs Kung Po – RM28
Frog Legs Chicken Essence and Wine – M35
Vinegared Pig’s Trotters – RM12
Fried Kangkong with sambal belacan – RM6
French Beans with minced pork – RM8
Spare Ribs any style – RM12
Black Pomfret with mustard greens – RM28
Garoupa Fish Head with black bean sauce (seasonal) – RM30
Baby Romaine lettuce with whitebait – RM7
Steamed minced pork with salted fish – RM12
Fried Rice – RM8
All Noodles per one person portion – RM4.50
Jale Inn 150 Jalan Gopeng, Ipoh.
Tel: 05-312 1398 or 019-557 2080
GPS: E 101 39.7” N 4 34’ 27.9”
Open: 6.30pm-2am; Closed 2 days a month.
Strategically located along Jalan Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, just three minutes’ drive from the Simpang Pulai toll interchange and ten minutes’ drive from the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport, Hillcity Hotel has been reopened to the public since September 1, after months of renovation and refurbishment costing over RM2 million.
The reopening and launching ceremony, held on Saturday, September 21, was graced by Mayor Dato’ Roshidi Hashim, Dato’ Ting Sing Yiew, Group Managing Director of Morubina Group of Companies, which owns the hotel, fellow hoteliers, business associates and guests.
Hillcity Hotel, a pioneer star-rated hotel, is set amidst serene panoramic hilltop overlooking Ipoh city on one side and the Sam Poh Tong limestone caves on the other.
All 100 rooms of the hotel have been refurbished and are now equipped with individually-controlled air-conditioning, 32-inch LCD television with international business, sports and movie channels, complimentary wi-fi connectivity, bath tub, rain shower, hair dryer and coffee and tea-making facilities.
To celebrate its reopening, Hillcity Hotel is currently running a promotion whereby guests will enjoy a complimentary buffet lunch at Kinta Riverfront Hotel worth RM45+ per person. Rooms are priced from RM99+ per night. Kinta Riverfront, a four-star hotel, is also a property of Morubina Group of Companies. This cross-promotion is valid until year’s end.
Dato’ Ting said, “Although there are many hotels in Ipoh, what sets Hillcity Hotel apart is that we are a city hotel that is amidst nature, facing Ipoh’s famous limestone hills. There is a recreational park right in front of our hotel, owned by Ipoh City Council. We are going to develop it into Junglewalk@Hillcity Hotel, almost similar to Riverwalk@Kinta Riverfront, but with a jungle setting.
“Also, plans are in the pipeline to offer the best food and beverage experience, beginning with the opening of a Chinese and a Japanese restaurant next year.”
Dato’ Roshidi welcomed the hotel back into business, saying, “It is an additional facility to enhance the development of the tourism industry in Ipoh.”
The six-storey Hillcity Hotel first opened its doors for business 15 years ago. It was launched by HRH Sultan Azlan Shah on July 25, 1998.
In the rustic charm of Klian Gunung, in Selama, a group of enterprising friends, decided to repay society by contributing their expertise to the community. The desire of engineer-turned-farmer, Mohamad Nawawi Hasbullah (Awie) took on a greater meaning.
Expressing a wish to return to his roots, Awie was committed to green farming methods and wanted to preserve the social fabric of rural Perak. He was keen to engage the local community and keep abreast with advances in technological development.
Awie started his farm four years ago and was subsequently joined by four of his friends. They pooled their resources and talents for their joint-venture, the Sungei Rambong Project in Selama.
All the partners lamented the state of the agricultural industry in Malaysia. Jim Lim, the managing director said, “The agricultural industry is neglected and poorly managed. There appears to be an absence of national strategy and low priority accorded by politicians. We import too many products like bananas and pineapples, which Malaysia once produced. The majority of farmers today are over 70 years old.”
The Sungei Rambong Project, an Agro-Aqua industrial scheme, involves the breeding of udang-galah (freshwater prawns) in natural fresh water, using natural foodstuffs. The farm consists of 30 large ponds and smaller agriculture plots. The hatchery, for the udang-galah, is a joint-venture with a fishermen’s cooperative in Sungai Acheh. The most advanced natural breeding technology ensures healthy post-larvae (small pre-baby prawns), with a low mortality rate.
The project is sited in the Klian Gunung area, which is favourable for farming and for prawn breeding. Nestled in the hills with its hot, humid weather, it also has a plentiful supply of natural, running water from the hills.
Lim said, “Our backgrounds are diverse but we hope to develop strategies for young people, and to provide them with skills, training and development. We know there are many disenfranchised youths in Malaysia, including the rural communities, and Awie is keen to help his community. He is an impressive grassroots leader.”
Lim’s enthusiasm shows. “My background is in the social care field, principally in mental health and Child Protection. My company tries to divert young people from crime and help them make better sense and meaning in their life. I work with employment schemes for people with special needs.”
One of the other partners is in Human Resources (HR) and corporate management. As a former HR Director of Petronas, his expertise will be used to devise training and development programmes for employment opportunities within the farming community.
Awie trained as an electrical engineer and spent over seven years in Japan. He realised his desire to return to his roots by involving the local community in farming and associated activities.
The technical driving force is provided by another partner, a scientist in aquaculture and agriculture who is a renowned expert in sustainable green product development.
The final director is experienced in probation, rehabilitation and retraining. He joined after a visit to the farm, which was then in its infancy, during which he was so impressed with the operation that he offered to become an investor.
Traditional male, farm employees are the key workers, and they are supported by nine single mothers, who feed the udang-galah, everyday. The project aims to energise the rural sector by creating jobs in agriculture for youth and disadvantaged people. With emphasis on practical training, the project should generate sustainable employment and produce competitive, sustainable, green farms. Another objective is to reverse the migration of the local youth to urban areas.
Community development would be enriched with the training of farmers, youths and less conventional workers, like single mothers, who would be able to improve their lives and have a sense of belonging.
The single mothers have given encouraging feedback. They are happy to be employed and contribute towards the household income. More importantly, they have a job which offers flexible working hours which mesh with their child-rearing duties.
When asked if the partners were pioneers in green aqua-culture, Lim said, “We are pioneers in the sense that we link agriculture with social and workforce development for both agriculture and community gains. We want to increase and provide sustainable farming skills, using agriculture and aquaculture initiatives for the community. We are building social capital.”
Lim conceded that initially, people were not used to the traditional sustainable and non-chemical, or organic farming. He said, “We found that just talking about what is good about our methods is not good enough, to overcome these objections. We need to show and to demonstrate that the yields and outputs from the ponds are high. This way, many other landowners and small farmers are willing to lease Awie their plots.”
The Sungei Rambong organic udang-galah project appears to make farming appealing and attractive once again. With the introduction of modern, green techniques, it has become more appealing to younger people. The increased interest in green farming technology will benefit the business, the farmers and the community.
Lim’s message for Perakians was, “Perak is blessed with good land for food production and with it, enormous potential for economic growth and potential for future prosperity. Those social gains and raised living standards will see consequential reductions in crime and disharmony.”