Friday, December 26, 2008


If Malaysian Film Producers Association had its way, Malaysian cinemagoers will have to pay more to watch Hollywood movies. Apparently the Association would soon submit this proposal to the National Film Development Corporation. According to the Association’s president only by hiking the admission fees for Hollywood movies from RM9 and RM12 to RM20 will it make Malaysian’s watch local movies such as Cicakman instead of Batman !. Also, according to the Association’s president, some of the locally made movies are on par with foreign movies in terms of quality. Really? Typically Malaysian isn’t it, when you cannot compete, devise desperate schemes in your favour.

The Association presupposes that the audience for Malay movies and Hollywood movies are the same. Let’s get real here. Malay language movies are produced for the Malay market with storylines and themes evolving around Malay norms, Malay issues, Malay culture and even set in Malay surroundings. No surprise that the moviegoers for these movies are exclusively Malays. In any event, with such settings and themes, does the local movie producers really and honestly expect Non Malays to flock and watch local Malay movies. It does not resonate with the Non Malays. Also, many locally produced Malay movies often have poor and tired storyline. Have you watched the locally produced Antoo Fighters. It is a ridiculous crap. Sometimes, the movie producers try to sell movies with preety faces who sadly, save for the preety looks cannot act for peanuts. Hollywood movies on the other hand, targets a universal and have in mind a cross section audience.

For me, save for Yasmin Ahmad whose movies have good storylines or even U-Wei’s intellegent and provocative movies, most local movies standards fall short. I cannot imagine Non Malays being attracted to local movies or for the matter I do not know of one particular Malay movie which had attracted Non Malay moviegoers in droves.

So perhaps the Association and the National Film Development Corporation ought to know that hiking the tickets for Hollywood movies to RM20 would not make movie goers watch local movies nor is the solution. In fact such a move would only benefit pirate DVD sellers and also bring down the cinema industry which is now enjoying a revival. Despite the strangelhold and attraction of Hollywood movies, the local movie industry have not performed that bad, Last year, local producers made RM29 million and for the first nine months of this year, local producers raked in almost RM35 million.

Local producers should find out how producers in other countries like Iran or even Indonesia can make movies which are really apealing and not to mention world class. When the Indonesian movie Debu-Debu Cinta opened in Singapore, even Non Malays went to watch it. What was so appealing about the film? Answer-the theme and superb acting. Also, it must be remembered that P.Ramlee movies till today, still has a strong following within the Non-Malay community. I myself have repeatedly watched almost all of P. Ramlee’s movies.

Just because Antoo Fighters, Cicakman 2, and Planet Hitam failed to score with movie goers, local producers to save themselves ought not to think of schemes to curtail Hollywood movies or suggest desperate and punitive measures against cinemagoers. In fact, increasing movies tickets to RM20 could result in cinemagoers giving locally produced movies a complete miss and instead save and use the money and watch Hollywood movies.

The Chinese represents 11 per cent of Kuala Trengganu’s 80,229 voters. That’s about 8,825 Chinese voters. Any political analyst will say that the Malay voters are split between Barisan Nasional-UMNO and PAS. A few spoilers have also joined the fray. In such a situation, the Chinese voters suddenly find themselves king-makers and will be courted by both BN-UMNO and PAS.

It seems the charm offensive has already started.

Thursday’s STAR Metro reports that the State MCA Chairman Toh Chin Yaw, announced that some 8,0000 people from the Chinese community in the state will be receiving ang-pows to celebrate Chinese New Year. Some RM2.5 million has been allocated for the purposes and distribution will start between January 3 and 5 next year. Qualified household earning less than RM1,500.00 per month, handicaps, single mums, senior citizens over 65 will receive between RM 200.00 to RM 400.00. Ah! How perfect the timing !.

Anyway, after being called “penumpang” and “pendatang”, RM200.00 to RM400.00 to the Chinese community is a small gesture planned to coincide with the Kuala Terengganu by-election. One famous politician once said, “kalau dia bagi, ambil aje tapi bila hari mengundi tau lah nak buat apa”.

One thing is certain. This is just the beginning and in the coming days more goodies will flow.
Hope the Chinese there would remember the penumpang slur, controversies. pendatang remarks, the detention of Theresa Kok, the arrest of Sin Chew newspaper reporter, the various protest and demonstration, objection to centralised and modern pig farming, objection to the appointment of the acting general manager of PKNS, the road signage and many other issues when considering who to vote for.

Death and degradation of Jalan Wong Ah Fook is imminent. I blame M.C.A. It is M.C.A which must stand accused for dericlition of responsibility and allow the passing of Jalan Wong Ah Fook into the sunset of Johor’s history.

Since the opening of the new Sultan Iskandar Custom, Immigration and Qurantine complex a fortnight ago, traffic has bypassed Jalan Wong Ah Fook, the once main thoroughfare of Johor Bahru. The once triving shops are now experiencing almost 40% drop in busineses. Economic and business activities in Jalan Wong Ah Fook has gone on a slide. What we see now are shops which front Jalan Wong Ah Fook selling imitation goods and pirate DVD’s. Many of the old businesses have moved out from Jalan Wong Ah Fook. Also gone are the evening rush hour and the scene of Malaysians working in Singapore returning in the evening and patronising the food stalls at the back alley of Jalan Wong Ah Fook.

Jalan Wong Ah Fook is simply not any ordinary road. The road reflects the historical relationship of the Chinese and Johor. The name has history and heritage and rightfully should be a proud reminder to all Johoreans of the man himself, Wong Fook Kee or better known as Wong Ah Fook. Sadly, ask who Wong Ah Fook is, many and particular the non Chinese would not know who Wong Ah Fook is or even how the road become named after him.

Wong Ah Fook, is the typical rags to riches immigrant from China, who should be an inspiration to all of us. Starting as a carpenter, he then moved into construction business and rose to become the chief government contractor and built many of the heritage buildings doting johor Bahru including Istana Besar. Not contended being a contractor, he even ventured into pepper and gambier planting and even had kangchu rights in Mersing. Later on he was involved in revenue farming. He is also remembered as the person also started Kwong Yik Bank, one of the earlist Chinese bank in then Malaya. For his sterling service in assisting the state to regain control of its revenues, Sultan Abu Bakar granted Wong Ah Fook a grant of land. The land was located on the east bank of Sg. Segget river and became known as Kg Wong Ah Fook village and was predomnantly occupied by the Cantonese clan. Three small roads in Kg. Wong Ah Fook village was named after his sons Siu Nam, Siu Koon and Siu Chin. From then on, Kg Wong Ah Fook village grew to became Jalan Wong Ah Fook, an important artererial road and the gateway to Johor Bahru.

Warning bells that Jalan Wong Ah Fook and more impotantly the name in time could lose its soul started in 1997. In 1997, a master plan for the redevelopment of Central Business District of Johor Bahru was unveiled by the Johor state government.The master plan envisaged restructuring of the city to a high technology financial centre.

However, what alarmed many Chinese and Chinese organisation was that the plan to replace Jalan Wong Ah Fook with gardens, pedestrian walkway and call it Sultan Abu Bakar City Walkway. The Chinese community and Chinese organisations made their disapproval known against attempts to obliterate the name. Both did not take place. The 1997 economicx crisis provided a respite. The restructuring of the city as a high technology financial centre did not take place and the name Jalan Wong Ah Fook thankfully remained safe and prominent. Of course, the stinking Sg Segget river which runs across the city centre was covered over and has become a walk way.

The state’s attempt in 1997 to make the name Jalan Wong Ah Fook insignificant ought to have made M.C.A sit up and ensure that the name and the area would never fade away or lose its lustre. M.C.A ought to have ensured that whatever development is planned elsewhere, it must not result in the death of Jalan Wong Ah Fook. M.C.A ought to have taken all necessary steps and been more pro-active in ensuring that the name Jalan Wong Ah Fook and the area would remains a prominent and premier business area. Also M.C.A could have also done much more to remember this great man. For example asking the Johor Bahru City Council to erect a statue, historical plaque or build a little square in the city as one often see in other cities. All this could have been initiated by M.C.A, as a reminder to the people of Johor of Wong Ah Fook’s contribution. It is obvious that the M.C.A State Executive Councillors or M.C.A during the regular “lawatan sambil belajar” overseas had not learned how cities and towns abroard remember and commemerate local personalities. Obviously, nothing was done.

M.C.A is well represented in the Johor State Executive Council and Johor Bahru City Council. They more than others would have known first about the C.I.Q plans. M.C.A more than others would have been first to know could have realised the fate of Jalan wong Ah Fook after the erection of the C.I.Q complex. M.C.A more than others would have been the first to know that with the erection of the C.I.Q complex, traffic and people would by-pass Jalan Wong Ah Fook. M.C.A more than others would have known the consequences arising from the C.I.Q complex to the busineses in Jalan Wong Ah Fook. So, the question then to be asked is what exactly did M.C.A do to ensure that the Jalan Wong Ah Fook continue to be a place of business activities and would not be devoid of human traffic. What were M.C.A plans, if they ever had one, to regenerate and vigorate the area with the opening of the C.I.Q. M.C.A in the state ought to have raised, presented with new plans for the area and ensured that Jalan Wong Ah Fook would not slide and become a backwater.

Judging from the present situation it is obvious that the degradation, slide and gradual obliteration and fading into history of this great street and name has started. Gradually this prominent landmark with historical significance will become a footnote in the history of Johor Bahru. That is real sad. It becomes real sad when M.C.A who calls themselves the guardians of Chinese, let Jalan Wong Ah Fook pass into history.

Norman Fernandez is the Vice Chairman of DAP Johor and is a lawyer with his own practice in the vicinity of Jalan Wong Ah Fook.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

M’sia willing to help where Malays are minority, says Najib

MELAKA, Dec 23 — Malaysia is willing to offer help towards the advancement of Malays in countries where they are a minority, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak.

He said Malaysia could be a gateway for this through the Dunia Melayu Dunia Islam (DMDI, Malay World Musim World) Forum to help Malays in countries like in the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Cambodia, South Africa and southern Thailand.

“Of course the Malays in these countries must be realistic. They cannot expect us to support them in taking up arms for a revolution to establish Malay governments in them,” he said when opening the DMDI's 9th convention at a hotel in Bandar Hilir here today.

Also present were Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam and Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

According to Najib, the DMDI could play constructive role in bringing about peace in southern Philippines and southern Thailand.

He said Malaysia had played an active role in southern Philippines towards ending the Moro conflict though the peace process there had encountered some obstacles lately.

He added that the DMDI should do all it could to portray Islam as an ideal religion which strived for the advancement of all peoples.

At the function, Mohd Ali, who is also DMDI president, presented Najib DMDI’s Mansyur Shah award which is a special recognition in honour of the Melaka empire during the reign of Sultan Mansyur Shah.

Over 500 participants from among others Malaysia, South Africa, the Philippines and Indonesia are participating the convention which ends tomorrow. — Bernama