By Mariam Mokhtar
Who says that our young men and women lack creativity? Earlier this month, three women and five men climbed the 20m high "IPOH" signboard, in Jalan Kuala Kangsar, and provided much publicity to Tourism Perak Malaysia's "Visit Perak Year (VPY) 2017".
The group of eight posted footage of their climb online and the video has become a social media sensation. One girl who climbed the sign was seen resting in a hammock which the group had tied to the signposts. They may have been fuelled by adrenalin, but their activity has been condemned by the authorities. The group may have thought that the view from the "IPOH" sign was beautiful, but the authorities have viewed their actions dimly.
Their recklessness is now being investigated under Section 336 of the Penal Code. The police said that they had committed "an act which could endanger their personal safety and that of others," but the group almost certainly disagree. In their opinion, they probably think that they put Ipoh on the tourist map. They have definitely helped to promote VPY.
If they are found guilty, they face a possible jail-term of three months and could also be fined RM500.
Soon after the climb, the eight, whose ages ranged from 20 to 24, were called to the Kampung Tawas police station, for their statements to be recorded.
An air of suspicion surrounds this climb. The group claimed that they had submitted an application to climb the sign board, but the Ipoh Mayor, Zamri Man, denied that the Ipoh City Council (MBI) had received the application.
The mayor said, “I’ve checked, no approval was granted by any department heads, including MBI. (sic) Even if there was such an application, we would not allow it.”
Citing safety issues, he confirmed that only contractors were allowed near the signboard and said, “Even for contractors, who perform maintenance work, we make sure they adhere to security protocols by wearing safety belts, in addition to using a crane.”
The mayor said that attaching hammocks to posts of the signboard could be construed as an act of vandalism. He said, “The signage’s poles could give way and hit road users because it is not a structure erected to take up additional load such as the weight of individuals.”
The group's stunt has not gone unnoticed by the mufti of Perlis, Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, who has invited the daring group, to his office for a chat.
He said, "I could see that they have courage and a certain capability. Perhaps, I can discuss with them more useful activities that they could engage in Perlis. People like them could put their capabilities and courage to good use that could benefit all of us."
So, was the group's claim that they had received permission from MBI true? Had a junior official approved the climb, but because of the public furore surrounding the incident, been forced to backtrack?
Are the authorities fearful that more daredevil teenagers may make copy-cat climbs on other tall structures around the city?
Was the group’s claim, falsely, that they had been given full authority to climb the signboard, simply to get out of their predicament?
Whatever the case, publicity from the video has been good for both Ipoh and VPY 2017.