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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Pahang – from just an observer.

I revisited this write-up in Feb 2004. So I thought I might as well revisit it again. There are now many changes taking place in Pahang, most for the better but others………. Well I do not know what to say. After all I am only an observer.

Earlier, about 3 to 4 years ago, I wrote an article about Pahang (one of the sultanates in Malaysia).

Things have changed since then (since about 2 years ago?), a General Election took place (in which many non-BN politicians have lost their seats) and since then they have also opened the Karak/Kuantan Highway (on 1st August 2004) and they also held the Malaysian National Day Celebration held in Kuantan at the recent 31 August 2004. Pahang is now better known (not that it was not known before but not really acknowledged) to the Central Government who has now appreciated the contribution made by Pahang in the overall development of Malaysia. Maybe its because of the change in the Malaysian leadership (Dr M has decided to retire) or maybe because the Pahang State Government is more honest with themselves and is being more proactive in its dealings with the Federal Government or maybe because the state infrastructure has improved. Or maybe a combination of all the above factors.

Pahang is the biggest state in Malaya, and unfortunately is slow in developing, or shall we say too slowly in reaping the profits of its development. Most underdeveloped areas had been given to FELDA (the Malaysia Federal Development Authority) to develop towards creating new settlements mostly for agricultural, with rubber and palm oil being the most crops planted. And these are slow producing crops – 6 years to mature on an average, with market prices depending greatly on world demand - and the earnings are thinly spread when realised over that long period. So wealth does not seem so obvious on the ground. Pahang originally tried to develop its southern regions through DARA, the South Pahang Development Authority, with the blessings of the Federal Government and originally financed by the Asian Development Bank. DARA and FELDA have in many ways been successfully in developing the areas allotted to them. DARA is now defunct, closed down.

And Pahang (and its people) used to depend a lot on timber in its tropical rain forests for its wealth but now only a few people become wealthy from working the timber; the Royal and the Politicians. The funny thing though is that even these Politicians and the Royal do not earn that ‘much’ money, it’s the other people who ‘borrow’ and work these timber concessions who earn the ‘most’ money. Who are these people? Your guess is a good as mine. And oil is not found in Pahang – so they say. But Pahang’s industrial estates in Mentakab/Temerloh and Gebeng give employments to many Pahang people but the Pahang Government does not seem to benefit directly from the industries in these industrial estates. It's the Companies like PETRONAS and the other Petchem Companies and also wood base industries that benefit the most, financial return wise. There are many people from outside Pahang working in this industrial area, especially in Gebeng.

The State used to have an arrogant MB (he is still the MB now) but he is very quiet now. (MB = Menteri Besar or Chief Minister, an elected political head. An UMNO BN man all the way since Independent). Many MB's have been the political and Administrative Heads in Pahang, with names like Sir Mahmud (in late 1940s), succeeded by the likes of Tengku Abdullah, Tun Razak, Tan Sri Yahya, Wan Aziz, Mohd Yusof, and the innocent youthful Dato' Najib (the son of the late Tun Razak), who is now the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Khalil Yaacob (the Governor of Melaka now), some colourful and some mild and some 'meninggalkan jasa' (leaving a deed behind) and some 'memakan jasa' (eating away the deeds of others). Whichever way one looks at it, Pahang had changed since the fifties and since Merdeka (Independent in 31 August 1957) but with a smaller pace of progress than expected even with its originally rich natural resources and cheap labour. Yes Pahang has got many State and Federal Corporations such as DARA (which as I said earlier is now defunct), Jengka (a Corporation that takes away almost 1/3 of the State) and of course not forgetting LKNP (now with its subsidiaries such as PASDEC and PASCORP?), LKPP, Felda, Felcra, Kumipa, KOSMA and what other else acronym one can think of.

Pahang is a Sultanate, as mentioned. "Beta berkenan" (I like that), "Itu hak beta" (that is my right) - those are the common language heard from the late 19th Century to late 20th Century, and probably to now in early 21st Century. What does that mean in real terms, I do not know, that is the politest way I can put it. Daulat Tuanku! (The Sultan is 75 years old in Oct 2005). And the creations of many Dato’s, (to many at every Sultan's Birthday celebration!), too many in Pahang – you do not really know who is a Dato’ in town now. That is all I can say. But if you read the book “Voyage of Munshi Abdullah” (to the East Coast then), you will know how powerful the Sultans and the Royals were then.

Pahang State is well known for its riverine towns – in those days the Pahang River was a very important means of communication - such as Kuala Lipis (in local language they call it Lepih - where the current famous Malay girl singer Siti Nurhaliza comes from), Temerloh (sometimes spelt with Temerluh - where the late Sudirman Hj Arshad, a famous Malay male singer of late 80s comes from), and the interior towns such as Bentong (just about 40 km east of KL off the Karak Highway), Raub (used to be a prosperous town when gold was lode mined but today gold is no more economic to mine). Of the more civilised towns were Kuala Lipis (which used to be the capital of the State - a small upriver town really but with scenic hills and rivers), Temerloh where all the brave people of Pahang comes from (I should say came from, as most people in Temerloh now are just mere buffaloes, able to be dragged by the nose) and Pekan where the royalty lives (or shall I say should live, or have lived; they now choose to live in Kuantan, which is the current Capital Town of the State and whose progress is beyond expectations. But many of the royal descendents still live in Pekan). Other towns are mostly occupied by "orang asli", (the son of the soil, the aborigines or maybe put it strictly as the original or even the “real” Bumiputra and the other modern so called Bumiputra), with many Chinese shopkeepers having shop houses in them, and doing brisk business with the ‘natives’. But Kuantan (Kuantang in local slang) a town full of ‘foreigners’ from Kelantan and Trengganu (States north of the Pahang State) and managed by these ‘foreigners’, these people, being more diligent than the original "natives", have developed the town into a thriving community and had taken over from Kuala Lipis the role as the Capital of Pahang, since the early 60s. Believe it or not these ‘foreigners’ not only occupied most of the urban areas of Pahang, they also have been able to be selected to occupy many areas in the Felda land schemes in the State; and now the ‘foreigners’ are joined by those ‘foreigners’ from Kedah (a State in the North-West of Peninsular Malaysia) as well, to take over the State (in most Felda schemes and in the former DARA area). I thought that Kedah people are so contented in Kedah, I was told many times by the former PM (Dr M, and I am glad that he is retired - he had overstayed his welcome) that Kedah people do not migrate to other States. The original Pahang people also migrate, they migrate to the Big City of Kuala Lumpur, to the bright lights and never to return to Pahang ever. Kooala Lumpoo they say. And they breed and die there, creating a vacuum in the State to be filled by these ‘foreigners’.

Pahang glorious past is now past and gone, beyond recovery, beyond rehabilitation, beyond maintenance, beyond a turnaround, beyond anything that is humanly possible; in those days Pahang had "braves" in Bahaman, Tok Gajah, Mat Kilau, Cik Gu Jantan and Pawang Nong. Now Pahang people are either UMNO or PAS "braves" (in those days Parti Rakyat braves as well) but now no more of the brave "braves', they are just "contented people", people who live from day to day hoping for Government handouts and subsidies such as bonus issues from KOSMA, profit from Felcra and Felda schemes. What is to become of Pahang people? They are now a new tribe altogether, the tribe called Subsidy People and slaves to those handouts.

And many say, “Apa yang masih bertahan di Pahang selain dari Gunung Tahan dan Kuala Tahan?” ( What is there that survive and withstand in Pahang other than Gunung Tahan and Kuala Tahan - 'tahan' means being able to withstand).

Pahang suffers from a dearth of culture. Other than the Turtle Dance for which it was "famous" and the late Pak Zek and Pak Sako, Pahang had not produced "cultured" people. Maybe famous singers like the late Sudirman (I mentioned above) and now the acclaimed Siti Nurhaliza (also mentioned above). But their base is Kuala Lumpur and not Pahang. Do they come to Pahang? Yes, occasionally if the fees are of the right amount. How are the fees charged? I am told per song performed not per show as used to be in the days of P. Ramlee. They may sing so many songs per show and so they charge accordingly. Just my speculation. Of the Turtle Dance? Not heard much about it anymore.

Is there a famous theatre, a famous museum, a famous art gallery in Pahang? Maybe in Kuantan but those are not so famous anyway. There is one museum in Kuantan Town. Where are the theatres? What theatre? Pahang people only heard of cinemas and not theatres, they may even show you the Cineplex at the Berjaya Mall if you were to ask them to show you a theatre. But at least there are Cineplexes in Pahang, that is a bit of culture. There is also a museum is in Pekan and an art gallery in Hyatt Hotel, not really an Art gallery but a workshop where a painter shows his paintings for sale. Why not have official theatre (where people can perform on stage), museums and art galleries in all major towns in Pahang?. Anyone ever thought about them other than thinking about which timber concession one should get, and when is the next dividend from Felcra and KOSMA?

Anyone ask why I talk about Pahang? I was born there, I grew up to my teen there, I boated (and did everything, drinking its water, fishing in it, swimming in it and using it as my mean of sewer) in the Pahang River, my first scholarship was from the Pahang State, and I got married there, I served the State for sometime and now I earn most of my living there after retirement. So in a way I owe Pahang quite a bit of my life. Pahang's dilemma is that its people are too entrenched in their traditional ways of life; its Pekan Sehari (the most famous is in Temerloh),

its beaches, its rivers and its jungle. Not that these in themselves are bad but when all factors combined it seems to pull development (both material wise as well as spiritual wise) away from Pahang. Must Pahang develops material wise only, and in the process open up shops for 4 digits, encourage gambling, drinking, womanizing etc etc and call itself Pahang Darul Las Vegas instead of Pahang Darul Makmur. One can see many people sell the

4 digit results for the day (just pieces of paper really, many handwritten) after dusk. But Pahang is no stranger to all these, especially to gambling –after all Genting Highland is in Pahang; in the old days after the 'menuba ikan' – used to be lead by the Sultan himself (they poison a certain part of the Pahang River with 'tuba' root extract, poison to stun the fish; its like a fiesta when the riverine people collected those stunned fish) then the next session was "berjoget dan berjudi" (dance and gambling). And today Kuantan Town (I know about this as I sometimes stay in Kuantan for a week or so in a month) has many 4-digit shops, and Magnum (the Co. licenced to gamble on numbers as well) shops, (I do not know how 4 digit betting is all about, the only thing I know is that they gamble on numbers, which happens to consist of 4 digits) and everyone seems to enjoy betting on these 4 digits, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. And I sometime wonder what the Pahang Muslim Religious Department is doing about this gambling by the Muslims, (Muslims are not supposed to gamble, there is always a notice in every 4 digit shop about this, and if you go to the Casino in Getting Highland you will find that Malaysian Muslims are forbidden from entering the Casino - they cannot even play the one arm bandits - so rich Muslim Malaysians go to Perth to gamble in Casinos). The Pahang Muslim Religious Department seems to be so strict on illicit sex among Muslims couple, on unmarried people staying together, on not allowing certain religious talks in mosques and on other petty Muslim religious matters being taught. (The religious talks, tazkirah - reminders - is what I miss most when I am in Kuantan; its not encouraged or maybe there is not enough religious people - Muslim wise - in Kuantan. In Kuala Lumpur I can almost go anywhere to any surau or mosque, I can listen to the

tazkirah between the Maghrib and the Isya evening prayers and on weekends or a public holiday days after the Fajr prayer - for about 1 hour or so each time). And the increasing number of prostitutes and transvestite in Kuantan town is beyond comprehension. I am told that many are from Kelantan and Trengganu where Muslim religion enforcement is stricter. In Kuantan they even become the local tourist attractions nowadays. They even carry on their trade very openly, mostly late at night to early morning, congregating in some darker corners of the Town plying their trade.

Where does Pahang State play its part at the Federal level? It used to play a very active role at the Federal level, especially when the late Tun Abd Razak was the Prime Minister of Malaysia. And the Sultan of Pahang became the Agung for 4 years (as tradition would have it) about 15 or so years ago. Today Pahang is at the backwaters of the Federal Government. Federal Government officials only visit Pahang just before the General Election or else Pahang is only a place for them to take their family for a weekend holiday at the beach. Do they bring real development to Pahang? Not much to be seen, the Federal Government considers Pahang as a "safe place" for UMNO (one of the ruling political parties at the Federal level) even a monkey contesting a political seat in Pahang would win a seat if under the "dacing" (balance) banner, the banner for the current ruling parties, which today forms the Government of the day at the Federal level. It is however expected that Pahang will now develop at a faster pace after the recent opening of the Karak/Kuantan Highway, opened since 1 Aug. 2004. And I must again record here that the recent 31 August 2004 Malaysian National Day, the official Celebration (and Parade) was held in Kuantan town. That is something, after 47 years (of Independence) of being in the back waters.

What sort of development that can be seen in Pahang? Jengka Triangle and DARA used to be the main development areas. But with the defunct of DARA, it only leaves the Jengka Corporation which runs the development in Jengka Triangle to carry on the burden. The Government at Federal level (or was it the Pahang Government? I think) tried to form the Lembaga Kemajuan Pahang Barat, but it killed itself even before birth. They tried to bring tourism to Pahang, I would say with a bit of success. Pahang has got the Genting Highland Casino, the used to be cool Cameron Highland and Frasers Hills, Tioman Island and many beautiful beaches but can that success be sustained? Especially so after the 9/11 incident. But I would expect, after the opening of the Karak/Kuantan Highway, more tourists now will come this way, especially the local tourists. There are enough hotels/board/lodging facilities in Kuantan and at the hill stations (Genting, Cameroon Highlands and Fraser’s Hills). The local tourists will not be spending much in Kuantan (or at the hill stations) as compared to foreign tourists but they will bring volume which in real terms will come to quite a big sum spent. And tourist do go to the Temebeling National Park (another tourist attraction) where good hotel facilities (one up to 4 star rating) are available and the place is now reachable by metalled road. But the other towns in Pahang are not developing as fast as they should to cater for the tourist industry or any industry for that matter.

It must be mentioned here that town like Temerloh has developed into a small urban centre, the pace of development seems to be observable. It also has a double carriageway to connect it to its twin town Mentakab. And Jerantut has surprisingly developed from a shanty town to a town the residents could be proud of. And road access to these towns is excellent.

In other places there exist the same old towns and the same old buildings in most of the towns, some even still with wooden shop houses which should have been torn down years ago. For example Lanchang, Karak,

Kerdau, Kuala Krau, Triang (strange names to some readers and strange still if you happen to visit them), and even Pekan. And Mentakab, which I consider the most unkempt town in Pahang. Who cares anyway, most people from Pahang prefers to live in KL. Yes there is the Karak Highway and now the Karak/Kuantan Highway. But the Highway bypass most of these ‘other’ towns so I expect the same rate of growth will prevail.

Then though Sabaruddin Chik was (now he is retired) the MP for Temerloh for a long time and very close to the "TOP", and yet he could not a get a highway to Temerloh built in his terms of office. But I am told that he managed to get a bridge built to cross the Pahang River at Chenor, about 10 km downriver from Temerloh. That bridge costing over RM 100 Million is a mere village to village access, with (hopefully) very long term economic benefit, if at all. And what of Najib (now Deputy PM of Malaysia), Khalil (now appointed the Governor of Melaka), Jamaluddin Jarjis (now the Minister of Technology in the Malaysian Cabinet), Fauzi (now retired?) and Zaharah (now retired?), could not they get a highway to Kuantan much earlier while sitting at their Federal pots (posts)? But now the Highway is there. Regardless, Pahang has developed in other areas; it has got Petro-Chemical Complex at Gebeng, near Kuantan. Mentakab seems to have its own industrial complex as well, so does Bentung, though both seem to progress very slowly as compared to places like in Selangor and Perak. What more Penang, Melaka and Johore, they have gone far ahead over a long time now.

In education Pahang has been left too far behind for a long time. But it now can boast of a medical teaching hospital in Kuantan for the International Islamic University (UIA Medical Faculties). It also has got a University in Kuantan in the form of KUKTEM (correct?) in the former MEC complex near Gambang, about 20 km east of Kuantan town on the way to KL (don’t ask me what KUKTEM stands for but its a University) And IKIP in Kuantan and a UiTM Branch in Jengka (and a small Branch in Kuantan) and the Tengku Abdul Rahman College in some shop houses in Karak. So now Pahang people will be "educated".

In sports Pahang has got a strong football team, taking part in the Malaysian League and the Malaysian Cup competitions. Winning here and there, and every so often becoming the champion. But the standard has not improved, even though they brought in foreign (from overseas countries) players into the team. At the local ‘padangs’ I see them playing football almost every evening, late into the evening – even I see some almost neglecting their Maghrib prayers. A strong Hockey team as well, most players imported from the other States, and I suppose that is all. They also have got a Sports Complex, quite extensive facilities, and a big Stadium. Nothing much really to speak about, only the hardware basically without adequate software input.


By the way have you observed some of the mosques in the rural areas in Pahang? They are the ugliest structures (for a mosque)ever built. They all look alike, everyone of them, except for those in Kuantan and the other older mosques, and those ugly mass produced mosques are made of wood and painted black (then) with funny "Malaca like" roofs. Some are now painted white, after a deliberation I suppose. And no minaret at that, how does one tell that they are mosques? Don't Pahang Muslim Religious Department (are they not in charge of mosque building? I could be wrong) have some sense of esthetic? Compared to those in Trengganu, Pahang is far cry backward wise in their mosque building technology. I blame that to poor imagination of the people concerned with the approval of the design of these mosques. or even no imagination at all. But I observed that the Pahang Government has given some budget to improve some of these mosques, I observed that some mosques even have tiled floors and aluminum framed doors and windows. An improvement; except that if you were to drive from Trengganu to Pahang right at the border in Pahang

in the village called Cendor, the mosque is most dilapidated – compared to the mosque you have just passed in Trengganu

at Geliga where the mosque stands proud.

Health facilities in Kuantan is adequate for its residents, but if one has lived in KL, one has the fear of falling ill or getting sick n Kuantan. Though the International Islamic University Faculty of Medicine is in Kuantan. But I have an experience(in a private hospital), and one of my wife’s late aunty has another (at the General Hospital) in Kuantan. Its not that bad really but the fear is always there. And one of the biggest hospital in Pahang is the new hospital in Temerloh, about 100 km west of Kuantan. A couple of weeks ago, one of my wife’s uncle and his son met an accident when their car went off the road and they were sent to that hospital. They never got satisfactory treatment nor even satisfactory attendance from the staff. It seemed that almost everyone, even in the Emergency Services, works on shift. And they do not treat anyone during the shift changes, and I suppose no proper procedure has been instituted for emergency cases during the shift period. From what I hear the Nurses who came after the shift period even wanted to send the patients home without even checking if the patient had already been treated. Its all hearsay though.

Looking far ahead, in years to come, Pahang has got the potential of being progressive, provided,
1. The Pahang State Government maintains good rapport with the Federal Govt.
2. The Pahang MB maintains his moderate stature.
3. The people of Pahang wake up from deep slumber and create changes in their
political outlook and shift their paradigm to be more action orientated instead
of the subsidy mentality.
4. The Federal Govt. respects the need for accelerated development in Pahang and
not left it like an old first wife.
5. The Pahang ruling classes should understand the needs of the overall Pahang
people and not just a section of these people.

I wonder how many Pahang people have access to the Internet. In Kuantan now they have the broad band services, Streamyx. Or how many Pahang people want to have access to the Internet? Or can they afford to have access to the Internet?

Hey, someone asked me about the Pahang State Anthem. That really beats me, its so long since I sang it. I must admit that I do not know it, but there is one and I used to sing it when I was in the Malay school in the kampong. This site may help.

I pray hard that Pahang State will progress and catch up with those States in the West of West Malaysia in the coming years.

Eid Mubarrak.


To Shout Back

3 Comments:

Blogger Davo said...

Thank you for visiting my .. relatively insignificant ..blog. Yours is far superior. Cheers.

9:57 AM  
Blogger ixora delia said...

just a little something about your "the ugliest mosques" ; these Nusantara type buildings with hipped, Singgora-tiled roofs, similar to the mosque in Kampung Laut Kelantan, are remnants from the past, unique to South East Asia. These buildings, built of timber, with raised floor, full length windows and often gapped flooring, are vernacularly functional and very efficient in the humid tropics. Their modern counterparts, with imported domes n minarets from the Middle East, India (Moghul), Europe, from the Byzantine period etc, are of course bigger, more expensive, heavily decorated and more suited to the needs n utilisation of today, but are such mammoths in energy consumption. Beauty is relative n subjective. Let not these humble gems from the past be brushed aside. They are actually the indisputable seeds of our heritage, part of us, and will be part of our near n distant future.

10:42 AM  
Blogger mylias said...

thank you very much for your kind remarks on my comments about the 'ugly mesjid'. i will take note of the sentimental value of that design when i revise my write up.

On Fri, Feb 22, 2008 at 10:42 AM, ixora delia wrote:

ixora delia has left a new comment on your post "Pahang – from just an observer.":

just a little something about your "the ugliest mosques" ; these Nusantara type buildings with hipped, Singgora-tiled roofs, similar to the mosque in Kampung Laut Kelantan, are remnants from the past, unique to South East Asia. These buildings, built of timber, with raised floor, full length windows and often gapped flooring, are vernacularly functional and very efficient in the humid tropics. Their modern counterparts, with imported domes n minarets from the Middle East, India (Moghul), Europe, from the Byzantine period etc, are of course bigger, more expensive, heavily decorated and more suited to the needs n utilisation of today, but are such mammoths in energy consumption. Beauty is relative n subjective. Let not these humble gems from the past be brushed aside. They are actually the indisputable seeds of our heritage, part of us, and will be part of our near n distant future.

3:30 PM  

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