By Mariam Mokhtar

Over the years, the Ipoh Echo has visited some tourist sites, including the Perak Tourism Information Centre, to highlight various shortcomings in these attractions and failures in the operation of the centre.

After the latest photo, of a notice on the door of the centre went viral, the Ipoh Echo wonders how many exposés the management of the centre wants, before it will undertake it's responsibilities seriously? The photo which was uploaded onto the internet, showed a pitiful English translation of the reasons for the closure of the centre, over the weekend before the New Year.

(Two of the links are:

1. http://www.ipohecho.com.my/v2/2011/10/01/perak%E2%80%99s-best-kept-secret-visit-perak-year-2012/

2. https://www.ipohecho.com.my/v4/article/2017/02/01/will-ipoh-city-council-ever-learn

Has the management not learnt any lessons from previous reports and exposés? The centre is probably the first port of call for both foreign and local tourists visiting Ipoh, and those who plan to visit other areas in Perak. Shouldn't the job specifications for prospective employees, include a requirement to be fluent in languages?

Not every tourist speaks the local language and compared with Thailand and the Philippines, our grasp of foreign languages is very poor.

In other popular tourist destinations in the region, such as Bali, the tourist centres, employ staff who are well versed in seven languages. English. Japanese. Chinese. German. Dutch. French. Spanish. We can barely manage broken English, how can we expect to compete with our neighbours? Communication is vital if we are to inform, engage and educate.

A notice, written in English had been placed on the centre's main entrance. It said that the centre had been forced to close for two days. The public was not riled by the closure, but by the appalling grammar, accidence and syntax of the notice. One person said, "It was not Manglish, but just pure garbage."

The notice read, "Sorry for the complementary, we are closing for the temporary, Saturday 30/12/17 & Sunday 31/12/17 because we had an unexpected problem within with our networking and air-conditioner issue. We are sure that we are been operated on 2nd January 2018. TQ."

How did this message get past the manager or supervisor? Who would normally be responsible for issuing notices? Is proofreading not a requirement in this centre?

Perhaps, one crucial requirement for prospective employees of the centre should be a good command of spoken, and written English. We can't always blame such poor writing, on the national education system; however, in order to address poor spoken and written English in our schools, the mayor and the Menteri Besar should interact with the Ministry of Education, to resolve this issue.

If the system needs to be revamped, they should start now. It is time that educators were in charge of the Ministry of Education, and not politicians. It is a massive problem which will take many years to rectify.

As soon as news, that the notice had gone viral, reached the mayor of the Ipoh City Council (ICC), Zamri Man, he said that the ICC would conduct an investigation and seek a detailed explanation of how the mistake had occurred.

A show cause letter would be sent to the employee who was responsible, if the investigation revealed that he had been negligent and had failed to understand the consequence of his action. Zamri said, “The person will also be given a warning letter and advice, so that such issues will not be repeated in future.”

Most people would disagree. In the first instance, the mistake did not occur because of negligence. It happened because of incompetence. Did the system stipulate, that only a person who was fluent in English, could issue notices in English? Perhaps, there was no such requirement. It is also unfair to expect a person, who is not fluent in English, to realise the impact of his incomprehensible notice.

After each of the Ipoh Echo's disparaging reports, into the workings of the Tourism Centre, the mayor should have ordered a revamp of the centre's communication channels and not allowed this be delegated to a junior supervisor. Has Zamri heard of the expression, "The buck stops here!" Perhaps, he should have realised the consequence of not taking responsibility.

When the photo went viral, it dragged the Perak Menteri Besar, Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abd Kadir, into the debate. He said that any notice or announcement should have been reviewed and scrutinised to prevent mistakes. He warned against making a direct translation, from any language, into English, or using internet translation engines.

One would have thought that adequate precautions would have been taken, after the translation debacle, by the Ministry of Defence, a few years ago!

Zambry urged all government employees to learn their lesson from this particular incident, and prevent similar mistakes from recurring.

Despite claiming that the mistake was minor, Zambry said that the ridicule of the notice by the general public, had badly reflected on the centre, as it had failed to treat official statements or instructions, in a businesslike manner.

Extraordinarily, the MB claimed that the incident "would remind everyone, both at the senior or lower levels, that in official government matters, announcements must be made in Bahasa Malaysia".

Does the MB think that every tourist understands Malay? Is he not being a bit overambitious and over optimistic? If he were to visit Moscow, would he have a sufficient grasp of written and spoken Russian?

Mariam Mokhtar