Tuesday, April 30, 2013

'Lao pengyou' appeals to voters

Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman (third from left) meeting members of the Chinese community in Taman Ungku Tun Aminah, Johor Baru, recently. Accompanying him is Gelang Patah MCA chairman Jason Teo (left).

'Old friend' Ghani Othman tells how many issues faced by the Chinese community were solved

GELANG PATAH: OUTGOING Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman is reaching out to the Chinese community here by introducing himself as their lao pengyou (old friend).

Ghani has been using the Mandarin phrase in meetings with the community grassroots.

He explained that the lao pengyou concept carries a straightforward meaning in his context.

"I have been here long enough and this gives me an opportunity to relate to many matters pertaining to the local community," said Ghani, who has been the Johor menteri besar for the past 18 years.

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"In my interactions with the Chinese community, I picked up this term lao pengyou and of course, I had a friend translate it for me.

"I have always given priority towards resolving the local Chinese community's long-standing issues. This includes issues related to land titles, approvals for the building of Chinese temples, cultural activities and community programmes," he said, when met at Kg Sungai Melayu here yesterday.

Ghani also has learnt two other words in Mandarin -- he ping (peace or harmony) and fan rong (prosperity) -- which he has been using while addressing the Chinese community here, to resounding applause and cheers.

Gelang Patah is a constituency of 106,864 voters, comprising 52.4 per cent Chinese, 34.3 per cent Malays, 12.5 per cent Indians and 0.8 per cent of other races.

On the development of Kampung Sungai Melayu, which is a Malay fishing village, Ghani said the government had placed its focus on adding value to the lives of the kampung folk.

"There are about 2,000 fishermen in the Gelang Patah constituency -- in this village and another at Kampung Pendas, which is fronting Sungai Pulai.

"There are also other villages, but these two are the main ones. The government, through the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) is introducing ways to modernise the village.

"We want to develop eco-tourism in both villages as there is a large presence of migratory birds due to their proximity to a mangrove swamp."

Kampung Sungai Melayu village head Pandak Ahmad said there were about 700 people living in the village, the majority of whom are fishermen.

Some of the fishermen have recently started to be eco-tour guides for tourists to earn extra income.

"In the past five months, the village has received some 400 visitors from Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom and the United States," Pandak said, adding that the most recent group was from Russia.

"In the beginning, the kampung folk were a little apprehensive, but they overcame their fear and are now comfortable with their new role as tour guides," he said.

Irda head of social development Nor Hisham Hussein said the idea was introduced a year ago when the authority introduced English language courses to train the local folk to become eco-tour guides.

"In the past, the fishermen would catch mussels and sell them for RM5 per kg. Now they show the tourists the mussels at a farm a short boat ride away, and they can rake in RM25 per tourist."

He also said that Irda's plans for the village folk was to tie-up with the Johor Tourist Association and incorporate eco-tourism into the schedule of tourists heading to the Legoland theme park.

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