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EAR TO THE GROUND: Perak menteri besar’s Tuesday ’clinic’ has helped him to forge close rapport with the people
THE car ride to Ipoh took less than two hours, mostly because there was very little traffic at night. I was made to understand that Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir, the menteri besar of Perak, was opening his weekly “clinic with the rakyat”.
Apparently, this Tuesday “clinic” has been going on for quite a while. I decided to take a ride and see for myself what the excitement was all about.
The “clinic” is a big hall in the state secretariat. Those who come early can have free breakfast. They wait for their turn as names are called out one by one by a couple of clerks. No jumping the queue here, mind you. By the time I got into the hall, the session was in full swing.
A Chinese woman was crying as she poured her heart out to Zambry. It was some kind of personal problem, but Zambry talked to her like an elder brother, calming her down, and promised to look into her issue.
A slight pat on her shoulder, a look of concern and some kind words resulted in a smile from the woman, obviously relieved that her problem was being tended to.
It was truly a muhibbah gathering, or in today’s parlance, a 1Malaysia congregation. A few Indian groups also dropped by with wads of notes and files. Land matters would take more time to settle, but community issues such as road repairs, school aid for students and school projects, basic amenities, sports playgrounds and retail outlets are common grievances.
Not all those who came brought problems for the menteri besar to solve. One group of Chinese grassroots leaders from Batu Gajah came to say thank you. Loh Koi Pin came with his team and sat with the menteri besar for about 10 minutes.
“Datuk Seri visited Tronoh not too long ago. He offered us many good things. Some are already in place. We got money to repair school toilets and he also gave us money to put a big exhaust fan for our community hall. Itu Zambry ah, dia baik punya olang,” Loh said, beaming.
Loh also brought a list of other items that were pending delivery. But his colleagues were quick to point out that they also came to shake the menteri besar’s hand and to show their gratitude.
Soon after, three committee members from a kampung in Tanjung Malim were called. Led by Angah aka Sharuddin, the three brought pictures and an appeal letter regarding a dilapidated surau. The surau has not been in use for years and is on the verge of collapse.
A Perak government exco member had visited the surau about two months ago, but nothing has since been done. One look by Zambry at the pictures and some pertinent questions, a decision was made to “approve” the budget for the surau, subject to the usual procedures.
Apa lagi yang kita nak? Apa yang kita minta dah dapat. Inilah yang dimaksudkan rakyat didahulukan, said Manan, an old boy from Malay College Kuala Kangsar, looking very much like a ketua kampung with his songkok and short-sleeved shirt in Perak colours. (What else do we want? We got what we came to ask for. This is what the PM means by ‘people first’).
To say that the committee members were happy was an understatement. I saw them trooping to Wanggeh, the famous nasi kandar outfit not too far from the menteri besar’s office, to celebrate the good news.
I caught up with Zambry for a few minutes after that. In a long-sleeved shirt, and no tie, Zambry was really dressed to meet the rakyat. His armour was his smile, his sincerity and a genuine concern to help the people. His reward was a firm handshake by those whom he helped. Anything else would be a bonus.
He said: “I’ve been doing this ever since I realised that the rakyat need direct access to their leaders. I go down to every district regularly and listen to their problems.
“Some are sorted out immediately, some may take a bit of time.”
Zambry is not under the illusion that one meeting or visit will resolve all the people’s problems. But he’s on the right track. Given enough opportunity, this man can offer Perakians something really tangible and enduring.
After all, this son of a Pangkor fisherman understood poverty from an early age. And that’s a very strong credential to lead a state as big and diversified as Perak.
Manan’s parting shot before leaving for Wanggeh: Dia ni baik orangnya..!