An Open Letter to the Mayor of Ipoh

Multatuli’s Open Letter to the Mayor of Ipoh, Ahmad Suaidi bin Abdul Rahim

Dear Datuk Ahmad Suaidi,

Ipoh needs a mayor with vision because the Menteri Besar, Ahmad Faizal Azumu, has none and his Ex-Co is not much better.

I would like to give my two sens worth which you can take or ignore. I have no axe to grind. I am just an IpohMali who wants to see his town be better. In fact I encourage every Ipohite to write to you directly to express their concerns or complaints or give suggestions to make Ipoh better. The councillors do not represent us – we did not elect them. We should represent ourselves.

Better still, if Ipohites call in at your office for a chat.

Mr Mayor, please don’t make the same mistake as  many of your predecessors have, to think you must solve the issues of cleanliness, cleaning drains etc before you attempt new projects.

If you do that you will do nothing else and your tenure will end up with nothing to show for it. It’s a never ending task.

Street cleaning, clearing drains, mending roads and grass cutting, important as they are, are what everyone expects of the (Ipoh City Council) MBI as a matter of course. It’s what they pay their rates and assessments for.

If you really want to tackle the problem of cleanliness, take the bold step of banning plastic bags, straws and plastic drinks bags and even one-use plastic bottles.

By doing this you will reduce the problems of blocked drains, polluted waterways and dirty streets in one  fell swoop. Of course your political masters will make noise because they are afraid of offending the plastics suppliers, supermarkets, shops and hawkers. But sometimes you have to be hard to be kind. Left to them, nothing will change.

Politicians don’t always do what is right but what will get them votes; thus even if they know what must be done they won’t do it. But you are not a politician are you?

Do it, all they can do is rap your knuckles; but they cannot point fingers at you and say you failed to keep Ipoh clean. The people of Ipoh will know who is responsible for the continued mess if the politicians stop you from doing what is good for Ipoh.

Let’s look at what you can really do for Ipoh.

Ipoh has been on the skids since the glory days of the tin boom. Then, we were the richest town in Malaya. There were more Rolls Royces per capita than any town. The Kinta Valley funded much of the infrastructure in the country.

Today, Ipoh is probably the second poorest town on the west coast, just like Perak is the second poorest state in the country.

Subsequent to the heyday of tin; every MB (and mayor) has contributed to the fall of our capital. They played politics instead of concentrating on the economy. Each MB built white elephants to remember himself by – convention hall and hotel in Pasir Salak, resorts in Pangkor and a theme park which lose Perakians’ money hand over fist.

The mayors went along. And if this MB had his way he would have gone ahead with plans for a new airport – a bigger white elephant.

You may think that as you are appointed you have no choice, but to do as you are told.

I beg to differ.

You have a choice to either follow the hare-brain schemes of the politicians or take a stand. You have a choice to do what you think is best or blindly take orders. You are the CEO of Ipoh, act like a CEO.

Boards (in this case ExCo) only give broad directions, they must not micro manage. If they don’t take your best advice then let it be on their heads; but if you just do as you are told even if you feel it is not right you take the blame when things go wrong.

Ipoh needs a mayor who is a leader and not an order taker. We need a mayor with his own sense of what is good for the town and is not afraid to pursue his own vision.

Ipohites are fed up of being told how ‘dull and backward’ we are compared to Penang or KL. We need our morale boosted. We need something that we can be proud of; something people from other states can look at and say ‘Wow’.

Our limestone hills are tourist assets, just like the Kinta River. So much more can be done with our river. We only have to look at cities in  China, Europe and the U.S. to see how they have turned their rivers into commercial successes and recreational assets for the city.

I would urge caution here: As you can see for yourself, attempts have been made in the past and failed. That’s because MBI allowed kitsch –  downsized imitations of famous bridges etc. These attempts have been ill-conceived without much thought going into them. They uglify the river, not beautify it. Part of the problem is that they have been done on an ad hoc basis – a mish mash of ideas. We must not make the same mistakes.

Our town needs investments. No investments equals no jobs equals our young going elsewhere to look for jobs.

So perhaps one of your aim should be to bring investments and jobs back.

Ipoh is the perfect ‘university town’ – it’s neither too big nor too small. It has all the right infrastructures. Its low cost factor is a boon.

With such advantages why have we lost Xiamen University to another town?

(Why is Petronas University sited out in the sticks instead of Ipoh? This is a typical example of political imperatives overriding common sense. See what I mean about how politicians make decisions – vote buying.)

Ipoh is also a good retirement town. Retirees have money to spend – think of the services etc that will benefit from them.

The next thing you might consider is to put a stop to unsuitable developments which mar our limestone townscape.

Our hills is our signature – something no other town has. We should do all we can to protect them.

Unsuitable developments like skyscrapers smack by the hills are visual vandalism by developers and MBI is accessory to it. Yes, your predecessors are to blame but you can stop it during your watch – no more such developments. We cannot have a development-at-any-cost mentality.

Cape Town (one of the most beautiful capitals) would not countenance anything like that on the Table-Top Mountain, why should we allow skyscrapers by our hills in Ipoh? We should preserve the unique hillscape of Ipoh.

I won’t go on, except to say that we need a mayor with a bold vision of what our town can be. The town’s morale needs a lift and nothing does it better than an imaginative project that is exciting, that Ipohites can be proud of.

We need a ‘Can-Do’ Mayor who is gung-ho on Ipoh. A mayor who is not afraid to make his mark.

The people of Ipoh are on your side. Trust them; talk with them; set up regular dialogues with them; they want you to succeed. Your success is their success.

Good Luck!

(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)
By Multatuli
Kampung Lumpur Gajah

Three Malaysians – Malay, Chinese, Indian – in hot soup



Rebuilding Malaysia

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