Ipoh regains pride of place

IPOH City has been in the news for being acclaimed the cleanest city in Malaysia for 2016 by the Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government. The Ipoh City Council was given the highest score of 97.45 points and the award came with a RM200,000 prize money.

There were altogether 41 local authorities that received the five-star ratings.

According to the elated Ipoh city mayor, Datuk Zamri Man, there were 354 criteria the local authorities had to fulfil to qualify for the award. The criteria included cleanliness, revenue collection and management, landscaping and public utilities, and solving problems of residents.

Other than good governance and efficiency of daily operations, positive feedback from the residents to questions posed by the judges played an important part in getting the recognition.

Apart from Ipoh, seven other local authorities and district councils in Perak also won five-star ratings. They were Manjung (94.75), Batu Gajah (92.60), Taiping (92.36), Kampar (92.01), Kerian (91.43), Teluk Intan (90.63) and Kuala Kangsar (90.62).

When the rating system was introduced by the ministry in 2008 to motivate municipal councils to improve their services, Ipoh managed to get only a three-star rating. This shows that with determination and hard work it is possible to raise the standard of liveability of a town or city.

Kudos to the Ipoh City Council and Ipoh residents for the great achievement. Credit should also go to Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Zambry Abd Kadir and Zamri. Both of them are deemed to be passionate about their duties and determined to keep Ipoh and Perak clean and liveable.

The role of NGOs, such as Ipoh City Watch, has also helped Ipoh to achieve success.

The mentri besar is well-known for going to the ground to check on general cleanliness and see what needs to be improved. His key issues are patched pot-holes, clean and hygienic public toilets, timely garbage collection, clean drains and well-maintained street lamps and grass areas.

The Ipoh mayor has stressed on the importance of public co-operation to keep the city clean. According to him, "To maintain the five-star status Ipohites need to work hand in hand with the council."

The proclamation of Ipoh as the cleanest city is not a total surprise. Old timers would reminisce about the pleasant state of cleanliness of Ipoh in the 1950s and 1960s. Many would also have heard about the outstanding Seenivasagam brothers.

At that time, the municipality was under the People's Progressive Party (PPP) and Darma Raja Seenivasagam, popularly known as D. R., was its president. The famous D. R. Seenivasagam Park in the heart of Ipoh is named after him.

His elder brother, Datuk Seri Padhmaraja Seenivasagam, affectionately known SP, was best remembered as the first and only elected president of the Ipoh Municipal Council, which was at that time the envy of other local governments.

During those days, those who drove from Penang to Kuala Lumpur or vice-versa would stop at Ipoh for its famous cuisine such as bean sprout chicken, caramel egg custard, soya bean curd and take home salt-baked chicken.

Today, Ipoh has a unique mix of modern funky cafes and boutique hotels among old stately colonial buildings like the Ipoh Railway Station and Town Hall. The Gerbang Malam, a midnight supper hotspot, is cleaner than it used to be.

Awards such as this one can inspire other municipalities and district councils to improve their cities and towns. It would be better if the full methodology used in the competition and the organisations behind it were made transparent.

Has the full list of criteria been published and open to the public for viewing? The ministry should list all the criteria so that the public can understand the issues involved. The list would help university lecturers and students doing research on liveability, cleanliness and good governance in towns and cities.

Finally, the full results of the ranking of the other towns and cities should also be published. Which local authorities have performed badly and why? The ministry and the state governments can then take remedial steps to help the weaker councils.

Datuk Dr Goh Ban Lee is interested in urban governance, housing and urban planning. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com