June 26, 2017.
Recollections & Reflections – A weekly column
IT’S time of the year when many Malaysians make that exodus back to their hometowns for the Hari Raya get-together.
No different here and the kampung is Malaysia’s tiniest state Perlis, which has Kangar as its capital.
True to its size, for a long, long time Kangar had only one main road of any significance and thus a total of only about 50 shops and that’s the total on both sides of this road! Somehow, only the shops on one side had decent business.
For a long time too there was only one cinema in town, some said the only one in the state. There was talk though of another in Kaki Bukit, a Chinese-dominated town near the border with Thailand. Later another cinema was built in Kangar, followed by another in sleepy and laidback Kuala Perlis, about 12 kilometres away. The original cinema was knocked down some years ago while the newer one in Kangar and the one in Kuala Perlis have been converted for other uses.
There was first also only one bus service for the entire state, owned by a Punjabi family, until Mara introduced one that served villages off the main roads. Both are long gone but since a few years ago one company decided to try its luck, funnily enough at a time when no one appears excited about bus rides anymore.
There was also a period when Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim was mentri besar when countless bus stands were built all over the state and this at a time when transportation by bus in the state was waning. Not surprisingly these stops only serve to remind people of a waste of public funds and a project launched without due regards to the realities of the situation.
Perlis also had its Perlis Maju 2015 programme (A Developed Perlis 2015) programme.
Whatever the indicators say and whatever the findings from a survey to gauge ublic opinion on the programme, it is not something that seemingly doesn’t affect the people’s daily lives because for them it’s about food on the table and being given the services commensurate with the taxes they pay. What such a programme actually translates into is that it’s no more than an ego trip for the politicians. Political sloganeering no less.
The programme may have ended by December 31, 2015, but the words can still be seen on the bridge on the Arau-Kangar road bridge that goes over the double tracking railway lines.
However some in the state acknowledge that there was also something positive about Shahidan’s rule and that was his passion to see a greener Perlis. He was into the planting of trees.
One notable achievement was to plant teak trees on the roadsides. Although not the best of varieties aesthetically mainly because the leaves turn yellowish brown during the dry and hot season, they do provide some shade.
But the current state administration recently stated that these trees, numbering about 10,000, would be felled out of concern for public safety. The general feeling is that these trees which are known to only grow well in Perlis are being felled to be sold. Even here the state could be in for a surprise if the preparation had not started about two years earlier. Look up for information on what needs to be done before a cultivated teak tree is cut to be sold and you’ll understand why.
Strange reasoning this because no one here seems to remember reading any press report or hearing stories from family and friends about anyone being injured or killed from a falling teak tree by the roadside. In fact teak trees are extremely strong, bend in the winds and do not break even in the worst of weather.
The other produce that can be found only in Perlis is the harum manis mango, which is proof that both this and teak exist best in the kind of weather Perlis has, and basically that means about four continuous dry and hot months a year.
There are other peculiarities too.
For some strange reasons, people in Perlis have an affinity with the letter ‘D’. And for reasons known only to those involved, the letter is found in many names of food and beverages outlets. What that does to a name only god knows.
And there’s a word people in the state seem to love and that’s ‘republic’, so you see car stickers declaring the existence of the ‘Republic of Perlis’. A recent signboard tells people about the Republic Bundle retail outlet. Huh…..