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El Dorado of the East set for a revival? - May 3, 2019

KUANTAN: Will Sungai Lembing, once a prosperous tin mining town near here, enjoy a new lease of life following the government’s idea to revive the tin mining industry in Malaysia? Once known as the “El Dorado of the East”, the underground tunnels here were the longest and deepest in the world until the 1980s when world tin prices dropped, resulting in the collapse of the industry. Only two mining companies operate on a small-scale here, but Sungai Lembing assemblyman Datuk Md Sohaimi Mohamed Shah is optimistic that there could be a pot of gold waiting for interested parties if they planned to venture into tin mining. He said the two mining firms had been working with the cooperation of the Pahang State Development Corporation, but many people were unaware of their presence. 

“The town is no longer famous for tin mining. But if the government is serious about reviving the industry, the ministry (Water, Land and Natural Resources) should get down to work. “I believe with guidance, more parties will be interested to reopen or start new tin mines here. “Tin mining has a lot of potentials and the people here have seen it in the past, so reintroducing it in Sungai Lembing will be good news to many and boost the economy. “There is a huge volume of tin deposits here and with studies, the soil can be dredged,” he said yesterday.

Sohaimi said many were skeptical about investing in tin mining due to uncertain in prices and they feared a repeat of the massive drop in global prices, which could force them to cease business. Myah Mines tin mine contract manager Badrul Hisham Hasim said it would be good news if the government’s plan became a reality. “It will mark the return of the once-lucrative industry. But let’s wait for the government’s announcements as this is a proposal,” he said, adding that the company started operating in 2013. A tin mining operator, who declined to be named, said the price of tin was between US$19,000 and US$20,000 (RM78,500 and RM83,000) per tonne, compared with US$15,000 per tonne several years ago. “It reached US$23,000 per tonne in 2013. The industry seems promising, but many are not prepared to take the risk, fearing they might suffer losses after investing in setting up the plant, buying machinery and hiring foreign workers.

“The two companies in Sungai Lembing have skilled workers from China and Indonesia. Not many locals are prepared to do the job, which is arduous.  “If the tin price remains promising, the government’s move will bring a windfall,” he said, adding that the common mining technique was open-cast mining. He said tin mining companies would send ore to Malaysia Smelting Corporation Bhd, one of the world’s largest tin smelters, in Penang before it was processed and exported to South Korea and Japan, where it would be used in the electronics industry. A state Land and Mines Office spokesman said companies interested in obtaining permits to start new mines must submit applications to the state government as most of the land had been gazetted for tourism, plantation and other purposes.

“It’s not easy to identify and approve land for mining as it might affect the previous planning of a certain area. “The suitability of a mine’s location is important and several factors, including safety, have to be taken into consideration.” Until the late 1970s, Malaysia was the world’s premier producer of tin. Mining was carried out in Perak, Pahang, Selangor and Negri Sembilan. Sungai Lembing was once a major producer of the underground tin before mines were closed in 1986 due to high operational costs, drop in prices and low production. Source -NST

Fraser's Hill 100th anniversary: Life in 'little England' - April 28, 2019

RAUB: BORN and raised in Fraser’s Hill near here, O. Sevegen@Segar is among the few who grew up witnessing the transformation at the highland. The 52-year-old, who is the eighth out of nine siblings, was born at the resort’s health clinic. His parents worked as laborers at the highland. Sevegen completed his primary education at SJK(T) Bukit Fraser before moving to Kuala Kubu Baru in Selangor to complete his secondary education. Upon completing his studies in 1983, he secured a job with the Fraser’s Hill Development Corporation, which manages the hill resort before joining the Raub District Council. The father of three is now in charge of the Fraser’s Hill Golf Club counter.

Sevegen said in terms of major developments, nothing much had changed at Fraser’s Hill over the decades as the place, dubbed “Little England of Malaysia” for its pleasantly cool climate, remains an all-time favourite for nature lovers and bird watchers from around the globe.“It’s cold at night and one has to wear thick clothing when walking outside. Some of the colonial-style bungalows, which were built during the British colonial era, even have a fireplace to keep visitors warm and cosy. “I remember when the Shahzan Inn Hotel was built in 1974, the residents here were excited. It has since become one of the famous landmarks here. There used to be a petrol pump near the clock tower and roundabout,” he told the New Straits Times. Sevegen said he was among the few Fraser’s Hill “loyalists” at the highland resort as many of his former colleagues and friends had retired and moved out.

“There are about 500 people living in Fraser’s Hill. When I was schooling, the population was bigger. However, over the years, some moved to live with their children at nearby towns like Raub and Kuala Kubu Baru. Many of them would come back for a short stay or to attend functions,” he added. Sevegen said the hill resort continued to receive a steady stream of visitors, including foreigners, especially over the weekends and public holidays. “Some private companies have (built) their own bungalow units here, so their staff would take the opportunity to stay and explore Fraser’s Hill. There are also those who live in Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru and Singapore, who purchased apartment units here as their holiday homes, and come over the weekends. This place is never short of visitors. “These days, we even have a lot of high-powered bikers and cycling enthusiasts negotiating the bends and riding up, especially during the weekends. They will spend several hours here, including having their meals before leaving,” he said.

Sevegen described the 100 years anniversary celebration at the hill resort this weekend as something special. He said many people, especially the younger generation, might not be aware that the resort had existed since 1919. Meanwhile, resort staff Khairuddin Mohd Rahim, 34, said the state government’s move to ban development on new land in Fraser’s Hill in 2010 had helped to maintain its cool climate and lush greenery. He added that only less than 10 per cent of Fraser’s Hill had been developed while the remaining areas remained untouched.

Over-development could ruin everything, he said. “The move (by the state government) was a bold one. We can do without anymore new resorts or premises here. I believe people are content with what’s available. No one is complaining despite shortcomings, such as the traffic congestion during weekends. “However, I hope the state government will consider reintroducing the bus services to Fraser’s Hill as it is costly to book a taxi to go to the nearest town. “The Pahang Lin Siong bus used to service the route between Raub-Fraser’s Hill-Kuala Lumpur but has since stopped. It takes about an hour to reach either Raub or Kuala Kubu Baru.” Khairuddin said most of the elderly folks who once worked at Fraser’s Hill were slowly moving out to live with their children who have secured jobs and have families elsewhere. “Those living here are mostly civil servants and staff of the hotels and resorts. The are not many job opportunities here. There are only two schools here — SK Bukit Fraser and SJK(T) Bukit Fraser. The SJK(C) Bukit Fraser was relocated to Kuala Langat, Selangor this year due to low enrolment. A secondary school at the highland can lure more people here.”

Fraser’s Hill top habitat for migratory birds

K. Sanadure (left) or fondly known as Durai Birdman or K.S Durai, is one of the country’s top birding guides. PIC BY T.N. ALAGESH

KUANTAN: Holding a pair of binoculars around his neck, K. Sanadure, 60, slowly makes his way into some bushes before lifting his hands toward the direction of a huge tree. He lifts his binoculars to his eyes and focuses towards the direction of the tree while the group accompanying him begin to adjust the zoom of their digital cameras as they try to have a closer view of a colourful species bird chirping on the tree branch. Minutes later, there are smiles on the group’s faces as they put away their cameras, binoculars and notebooks before some of them approached Sanadure and thanked him for bringing them there. Sanadure, or fondly known as Durai Birdman or K.S Durai, is one of the country’s top birding guides, who is no stranger to the bird-watching community, both locally and abroad. Described as someone with an eagle eye, he has been taking people bird-watching in Fraser’s Hill for more than 35 years and has in-depth knowledge about birds, especially migratory ones.

Sanadure, who previously served the Fraser’s Hill Development Corporation and World Wide Fund (WWF), said he started to have a deep interest in birds since he was young, and serving the WWF gave him exposure to a bigger stage. “I conducted a lot of research and studies about birds, and noticed that Fraser’s Hill is a favourite habitat for migratory birds. The first Fraser’s Hill bird race was introduced in 1988 and continues until today. “Every year during the migration season, oriental honey buzzards, Siberian thrushes and yellow-rumped flycatchers are among the birds that can be spotted here between late September and April. “These birds are from Siberia and China. For bird-watchers, they will never miss the opportunity to come over and witness the presence of the birds.”

Sanadure said there were two types of bird watchers. Those from Singapore, Thailand, China and Hong Kong preferred to capture pictures of the birds, while those from Europe would come down to have a closer glimpse and study the birds. “Fraser’s Hill has continuously received tourists, including bird watchers. I have a friend in the United Kingdom, who helps to arrange tourists to visit the resort. “During the annual bird race, we receive hundreds of participants from all over the world,” said Sanadure, who is also a member of the Oriental Bird Club which helps to conserve Asian birds.

Events galore for 100th anniversary celebration

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah inspecting the preparations for the Fraser's Hill’s 100th anniversary celebration in Raub yesterday. PIC BY MUHAMMAD ASYRAF SAWAL
KUANTAN: Fraser’s Hill is home to Southeast Asia’s longest running International Bird Race event. It also has one of the oldest golf courses in the country. State Tourism, Environment, Plantation and Biotechnology Committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Sharkar Shamsuddin said the bird race, aimed at preserving nature and promote Fraser’s Hill as a bird sanctuary, had been an annual event in the state’s tourism calendar since 1988. “Bird lovers, young and old, from around the world will gather at Fraser’s Hill. The highland has been also designated as an ‘Important Bird Area’ as it has a number of highly sought-after migratory birds. “The nine-hole golf course situated right at the centre of the resort near the clock tower has been around since the 1920s. It offers challenging sections and surrounded by scenic green forest,” he told New Sunday Times. Sharkar said the resort, which was one of the last remaining hill stations in the country, had managed to retain its old charm.

The 100 years anniversary celebration would mark a new chapter for Fraser’s Hill. “We are refurbishing the old buildings. Works are being done slowly and carefully so as not to harm the environment. The resort is an icon town. There is no other place like it in Malaysia. “Activities planned in conjunction with the Fraser’s Hill 100 years anniversary is part of preparations for Visit Malaysia 2020. The celebration here is a prelude before the arrival of tourists next year,” he added. Meanwhile, Tourism Ministry Pahang Office general manager Datuk Idros Yahya described the hill resort as special, saying that tourists, especially from Europe, came to revisit Fraser’s Hill to rekindle old memories. “Some had worked here in the past, others had parents who had worked here. They visited the resort and stayed for a few days. Many still remember everything about Fraser’s Hill as it has not changed much. Some even make it a point to return here every year.

“The police station and post office have been around since the British colonial era. Most of the roads sport the British name. For example Lady Guillemard Road (near Shahzan Inn), Lady Maxwell Road and Allan’s Water (a small lake at the resort). Everything remains pristine as the state government does not allow heavy tourism activities or any developments in the area.” Idros said besides being a favourite spot for extreme mountain bikers or leisure cyclists, Fraser’s Hill also attracts day-trippers who wished to drive up and enjoy the cool climate. Tourism Pahang recorded 13.4 million local and international tourists to the state last year. Its general manager, Datuk Ishak Mokhtar, was reported as saying that popular locations in the state included Cameron Highlands, Fraser’s Hill, Cherating, Genting Highlands, Teluk Chempedak, Pulau Keladi cultural village, Pekan and the Elephant sanctuary in Kuala Gandah, Lanchang. Meanwhile, a tourism council spokesman said in conjunction with the 100th anniversary celebrations, the Pahang and Selangor tourism boards would team up to host events throughout the year at Fraser’s Hill.

“On Sunday (today), several activities, including, hiking, cycling and fun run, involving 100 participants, will be held to mark the 100th anniversary. Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah is scheduled to participate in a golf event while Raja Permaisuri Agong, Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, will visit the Bukit Fraser Community Library,” he said, adding that works were carried out around the clock to ensure everything was in place ahead of the event. Located 1,420m above sea level, the hill was named after a Scottish explorer Louis James Fraser, who set up a tin-ore trading post in the 1890s. He mysteriously disappeared in 1915. Two years later, the Bishop of Singapore rediscovered the highland while searching for Fraser and proposed the area to be developed into a hill station. A golf course is built on the existing tin mine area.

In the past, vehicles had to pass a narrow single winding carriageway, which only allowed for one-way traffic. There was a schedule for vehicles to travel to the peak and downwards to Gap (the main road to the resort). However, a new stretch that passes in front of SJK(T) Fraser Hill was opened. Motorists can now drive up through the old stretch and come down on the new road. Source - NST

Tay siblings keep batik art traditions alive - April 7, 2019

WHAT started out as a small business has turned into a promising industry for siblings Tay Yap Seng, 50, and Tay Lian May, 45. Passionate about batik, the duo started drawing and printing batik designs from their house, near Balok in Kuantan, in 2000 and took orders from villagers nearby. When orders began to pour in, they rented a corner shop in Semambu where they not only produced hand-drawn and block-printing designs but also displayed and taught visitors batik production. A boom in the batik industry several years ago saw the siblings buy a 0.8ha piece of land in Balok here. They then set up a factory to manufacture and sell batik products, including clothes, tablecloth, scarves, handkerchiefs, and souvenirs. The youngest of six siblings, Lian May said Natural Batik Village was a popular one-stop center show factory and tourist attraction that promoted the traditional textile art with popular motifs.

The process of block-printing batik. NSTP/FARIZUL HAFIZ AWANG

She said people from all walks of life often dropped in to place orders for customized batik block patterns for reunions, family gatherings and as souvenirs for friends. “Besides the walk-in customers, we also have some customers who bring their own patterns, which we will customize based on their budget. “All the batik drawings are exclusive and unique except for the block-printed ones. “Our ready-made designs range from hundreds to thousands of ringgit, while the custom-made ones can be bought for as low as RM100, depending on the material. “For example, printing on cotton will cost less than RM100, while silk can cost up to RM1,000, depending on the sewing method and design,” she said at the factory recently. Lian May said in the past, decorative floral patterns were high in demand. However, these days, many customers prefer to wear abstract batik patterns that give them an elegant and modern look.

A batik kebaya sold at Natural Batik Village in Balok, Kuantan. NSTP/FARIZUL HAFIZ AWANG

“Young people often choose the abstract designs, which are suitable for weddings and formal events. “The colorful patterns are produced based on one’s creativity and drawing techniques,” she said, adding that Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, who had visited the factory, was a fan of batik. According to Lian May, besides buying batik merchandise, visitors can also gain first-hand knowledge of how batik is processed. “They can go on a tour of our factory without any charge and visit the various sections, including dying, waxing and drying. “We provide the opportunity for schoolchildren to try out batik painting in our workshop and take their paintings home as souvenirs. “We work closely with Pahang Tourism, and travel agencies have been bringing tourists here. “Besides Kelantan and Terengganu, which are popular for their batik designs, we want to promote Pahang batik, which offers different motifs,” she said, adding that her factory had 20 workers. Lian May said since government agencies, schools, associations and people continued to place orders for batik attire, she believes that batik would stay relevant. NST

Zenith Aim sees bright prospects in tourism - April 15, 2019

PUTRAJAYA: Pahang-based Zenith Aim Sdn Bhd, which has invested RM195 million in a business hotel here, sees good prospects in view of Visit Malaysia 2020. “This 5-star hotel, which is certified as energy efficient, is strategically located for business meetings and seminars. “It is surrounded by government offices such as the Federal Territories Ministry and the Finance Ministry,” said Zenith Aim Sdn Bhd executive chairman Datuk Seri Tew Kim Thin.

The scenic lakeside landscape in Putrajaya and the suitably-sized ballroom is also ideal for bridal photoshoots and wedding banquets, Tew told NST Business after the Pahang Crown Prince Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah Al-Sultan Abdullah officiated at the opening this 253-room Zenith Putrajaya here today.

Pahang Crown Prince Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah Al-Sultan Abdullah (fourth from left) officiates at the opening of the Zenith Putrajaya. Also present are Pahang Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail (second from left), Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad (third from left) and Zenith Aim executive chairman Datuk Seri Tew Kim Thin (second from right). NSTP photo by LUQMAN HAKIM ZUBIR

Zenith is not a newcomer to the hospitality industry. For almost a decade, it has been investing close to RM400 million in the commercial cluster of Zenith Kuantan, Sultan Ahmad Shah International Convention Center and the Kuantan City Mall in Pahang. Tew said Zenith's third hotel will open in Cameron Highlands next year. “We're investing more than RM200 million in a 5-star hillside resort and service apartment.” “We're looking forward to receiving more guests at our hotels as we welcome the government's initiative to promote Visit Malaysia 2020,” Tew said in an interview here today. Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board or Tourism Malaysia is stepping up its promotions this year in preparation of Visit Malaysia 2020, a landmark campaign that is targeted to attract some 30 million international tourists and RM100 billion in tourism receipts.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had announced as at February 28, 2019, Customs Department had repaid RM4 billion to 54,603 Goods and Services Tax (GST) registrants. Lim also said as at March 4, 2019, the outstanding GST refund stood at RM22.14 billion — of which RM9.36 billion has been processed — across more than 298,457 statements by 168,839 registrants. When asked to comment, Tew, who is also Pasdec Holdings Bhd substantial shareholder and group managing director, replied, “Zenith Aim has received 100 per cent of its GST refunds from Customs.” NST

Half of tourism tax revenue to be distributed to state governments by month's end - March 28, 2019

PUTRAJAYA: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng today confirmed that 50 percent of the revenue from last year’s tourism tax would be distributed to state governments as promised. “Fifty percent of the tax revenue collected from each state will be distributed, which is estimated at RM67.74 million,” he said in a statement today.

He said previously Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah had asked whether the Finance Ministry would distribute the money to the state governments before the first quarter of this year. “The Federal Government will keep to its promise and will not react like Datuk Abdul Karim who previously made false statements that the government had distributed the tax revenue to Sabah, but not Sarawak,” Lim said.

The amount to be distributed to Sabah is RM12.67 million, Penang (RM10.98 million), Selangor (RM10.3 million), Johor (RM7.99 million), Pahang (RM7.86 million), Melaka (RM5.35 million), Kedah (RM5.08 million), Sarawak (RM2.58 million) and Negri Sembilan (RM2.47 million)

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