…from TPA’s desk…08
www.polimas.edu.my/ [email protected]
1 October 2013
( P
My hometown is Jitra which is in KubangPasu district, in the state of Kedah. Sometimes I wonder where the
word JITRA is derived from. According to a friend, it came from two words; Jit and Ra. Of course, someone might
have guessed that RA is the name of God in ancient Egypt. I don’t think my local town has anything to do with that
God of the Sun. It is said that JIT, a male while RA, a female, were of Thai descend. However, my friend never
mentioned whether they were husband and wife. Were they like Romeo and Juliet, or Samson and Delilah, or the
local lovers, Laila and Majnun? Then, my town is really romantic, like Shakespeare literature. There are some
other small towns in the area like Changloon, Kodiang and Napo that definitely sound Thai. Incidentally, when I
was in STAR Ipoh in the 70’s, any student fromKodiang would be nicknamed after the town. What a great respect!
is special in many ways. In modern times, it produced the longest reign Prime Minister of
Malaysia, TunDr Mahathir Mohamad (1981 – 2003). The constituency has the widest range of education
institutions: Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), Politeknik Sultan Abdul HalimMu’adzam Shah (POLIMAS), Institut
Perguruan Darulaman (IPDA), Institut Aminuddin Baki (IAB), Institut Latihan Perindustrian (ILP), Institut
Kemahiran Belia Negara (IKBN), Institut Kemahiran MARA (IKM), Kolej Komuniti Bandar Darulaman (KKBD),
Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM), Akademi Binaan Malaysia (ABM), Kolej Matrikulasi, Sekolah Menengah Sains
and Sekolah Menengah Integrasi. There is also one established school, Sekolah Menengah Sultan Abdul Halim,
Jenan of which the present Agong/Sultan is the alumni patron. Welcome to Kubang Pasu, the valley of education,
unchallenged by any other district in Malaysia.
Jitra is 22 km away from Bukit Kayu Hitam, a gateway to Thailand. It is connected to the North-South highway
and considered as a dual-carriage way, hence there is no toll. But, if you come from Thailand or the duty-free
shop on Malaysia side, our highway concessionary, PLUS will welcome you with a ticket for RM3.50. Food items
like rice, vegetables, fruits, snacks, clothes etc. are brought in abundance from our neighbour around the year.
The four provinces close to Malaysia are Narathiwat, Pattani, Satun and Phattalong. The border town like Dannok
or a little bit more to the north like Sadao, Hat Yai, Songkhla and Yala are always frequented by Malaysians for
both business and pleasure. In fact, the journey to Kelantan is nearer if you travel via Thailand than taking the
East-West highway. Once, in the 70’s, I took Tunjang Express bus service from AlorSetar via Thailand to Golok,
and proceeded to Kota Bharu, Kelantan.
Thailand is also known as a “White Elephant” country. It is probably the
only country in Asia not occupied by any foreign powers. It shares border
with Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. From Bukit Kayu Hitam to
Chiang Rai is about 1700 km by road. Even though the country is famous for
tourism and agriculture, it produces the biggest number of 4X4 truck in the
world. It has no national car, but a huge parts-supplier to Honda, Toyota and
many other car brands. In 2008, we made a trip to Bangkok in a doubledecker bus which was not yet available in Malaysia. The journey took 18
hours including numerous stops for meals and rest rooms. Bangkok is a big
city, some say it is four times bigger than Kuala Lumpur (KL). The city is infamous for traffic jam of which no
time is the right time to avoid it. Surprisingly, the Thais are so used to it that they keep calm when caught in
one. I am told some lady-drivers would bring along thread and needle to knit table cloths. Now, Bangkok has
been declared the number one tourist-arrival-by-flight destination in the world. How? They work for it!
Songkhla, which is about 150 km from Bukit Kayu Hitam is somewhat bigger than Jitra. If you travel by car, it will
take about 2 hours from the border. Generally, the buildings in Songkhla look aged. At the moment in Jitra, there are
only 4 rows of pre-war shop-houses remaining; three of them are along Ibrahim Road and the other one is along JitraTunjang Road. Jitra has expanded in terms of residential houses and commercial buildings. Unofficially, the locals
identify the different locations in Jitra as Jitra1, Jitra2 and Jitra3. Almost all banks open their branches there; Maybank,
Bumiputra Commerce Bank (BCB), Bank Islam, Public Bank, Bank Rakyat, Agro Bank, Affin Bank and AmBank. There are
as many as 20 private clinics to take care of the residents in the area because the people’s favourite pastime is eating.
Anytime is a right time to eat. That is why we have so many 24-hour restaurants. Last Monday, 16 September, I was at
the annual Sultanah Bahiyah Foundation (YSB) Exhibition. There was one booth offering free blood and urine tests. I
passed both with flying colours but failed miserably in Body Mass Index (BMI). Imagine the doctor recommended me to
reduce my waist-line by 17 inches. That is only 8 inches short of Miss World perfect figure. In the afternoon Latif and I
were invited by Datuk Zaini Japar, the local politician to attend Malaysia Day celebration at his residence. Again, food
was aplenty. So, it is not totally my fault, is it?
In early August 2013, Songkhla Vocational College (SVC) contacted us. They would like to have a seminar cum
meeting at our place in September. They would bear all the costs. That coincided with our schedule to prepare for
SIRIM MS-ISO 9001:2008 re-certification from 2-4 September. Apart from that, our 27th convocation was to be from
11-12 September. As usual, we have 6000 plus students to cater to, endless meetings, programmes, activities at
federal, state, community and institutional level. But, how could we say NO to our friend, Sakol Satchanarat who has
been our Thailand consultant for many years? How could we say NO to SVC director, Dr Rujira who facilitated our trip
of 30 students and 10 lecturers from 4 polytechnics to Asean Vocational Camp in Bangkok from 16-24 August 2013?
How could we say NO to a college which financed our trip to Bangkok on behalf of their government? So, there was
only one option; YES.
invited SVC director to POLIMAS
convocation. It was held at Dewan
Wawasan Jitra which is located by the
highway. The four guests were Dr Rujira
Klaewtanong, Mr Sumpan Tipapong, Ms
Wipawan Saengkhao and Mr Sakol
Satchanarat. POLIMAS convocation is
always special. The Sultan of Kedah, His
Royal Highness Sultan Abdul Halim
Mu’adzam Shah would never miss
gracing the occasion. He would always
inspect the Guard of Honour mounted by
our Territorial Army Reserve Unit
(PSTD). The brass band would come
from different army bases. Since His
Royal Highness became the Head King
(Agong) of Malaysia, his place is taken
over by his daughter; Tunku Intan
Safinaz. We sought Her Royal Highness
pleasure to receive a gift from SVC
College director, Dr Rujira. She was
escorted by the ever willing Sakol
Satchanarat. The gift was a model of 60year-old still-living elephant at His
Majesty King Bhumipol Adulyadej palace
in Bangkok. Tunku Intan Safinaz seemed
to be very pleased with the presentation.
Then, all our guests settled down for a
sumptuous lunch with Her Royal
Originally SVC wanted to come on 18-20 September. However,
Pauh Inn Training Centre at PTSS was fully booked on the last day.
We had to shift by one day earlier. It was no problem with SVC. We
booked the whole hotel which can take the maximum of 98 pax at
the cost of RM8,640, without discount. Our committee members
were kept at minimum. On 17 September, 10.00am, 3 POLIMAS
buses left for Bukit Kayu Hitam. The temporary tourist guides were
Dr Abdul Rahman, Mr Helan Noor and myself. Majdah was assigned
to look after the place for Opening Ceremony. We brought along our
photographers, Basyar. By 12.00 noon, we passed through the
Immigration and Custom Malaysia with ease. We headed to Shahril
Low Grand Restaurant for lunch. The restaurant is at Jitra3 which
is next to the Aneka Supermarket main entrance. The two shop-lots
belong to our alumni member, Azmi who doubles-up as the
manager. The operation is headed by Abu who is my classmate as
well as our alumni member. The third lot is his office, which has
also become our alumni meeting place. The top floors are used as
motels. The restaurant is actually a franchise owned by a Malaysian
Muslim Chinese, Shahrin Low. He would provide all the chefs and
menus. There are about 10 such restaurants in Malaysia now. The
lunch was great.
2.30pm, 17 September, we were at Lecture Theatre 6 for the
opening ceremony. To start with, we had a group of Semester 3
Diploma in Marketing students to sing our official Polytechnic song. I
was honoured to deliver a welcoming speech as our director was out of
station. Our special guest was Mr Marzuki Kemi from Technical and
Vocational Education Division, Ministry of Education (BPTV). He
represented the director, Mr Ahmad Tajuddin Jab, who could not make
it because his wife was undergoing a surgery. The other special guest
from Thailand was Mr Prasert Keawpet, the President of the Institute
of Vocational Education Council. He is in charge of the vocational
education in the Southern Region 3. Mr Prasert Keawphet also
delivered a speech. Ahmad Tajuddin Jab used to work in POLIMAS as
Head of Civil Engineering Department. He opted out of the polytechnic
system some years ago. The recently launched Vocational College
offering diploma programmes is his baby. Marzuki who was tasked to
give a keynote address knew his stuff very well. He detailed the
mapping of Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET)
between some countries including Germany, Indonesia, Thailand and
Malaysia. He readily agreed that Thailand is doing great. What about
Malaysia? We are second when compared with each of the countries in
turn! Even with the transformation plan in place, there is no way we
can close the gap within the next 5 years. It looks like my classmate,
Ahmad Tajuddin Jab needs to run faster and take no break at all. Good
luck. After some handing of souvenirs, we adjourned for tea at our
newly opened canteen.
5.00pm everyone was on the field. It was telematch time. The programme was taken care of by
Azimah Ismail, our young Head of Programme from Mechanical Engineering Department. Her team
comprised of 28 Semester 3 and 5 Diploma in Plastic students. They put up some tents, set up the sound
system, music and equipment for the games. All the students wore similar green T-Shirts. It was a wellorganised team. There were 5 games involving 10 teams with 10 members each. The 5 games were Ring
Dance, Water Sponge Bob, Beautiful Face, Mummy Return and Musical Chair. In the first game, participants
had to run in a track to the other end and come back to the starting position with loop-a-loop around their
waist. In order for the loop-a-loop not to drop, you have to continuously “twist” your body. Then, the
second member will repeat the process until the last one. It was really hilarious. The second game was like
the first one but the task was to transfer water from point A to B using a sponge. Again, laughter was on
everyone’s face. To cut the long story short, the last game was musical chair. I have seen it played many
times but none was as dramatic as on the day. The final tussle was between two ladies. When the music
suddenly stopped, lady A was certainly looked to be the winner. As she was about 5 cm to land her butt on
the chair, the other lady B, managed to twist or ‘steal’ the chair. She received an all-around applause with
her quicker-than-the-eye action. Really, it was the time that the teachers became children once again. We
wrapped up with the most enjoyable photo session.
the game, we left for Anjung Kuala,
Kuala Kedah for dinner. We reached there
around 8.00pm. The restaurant is huge. We
chose Kuala Kedah because it is by the seaside.
The dinner was great. The only complain is
about the abundant of small mosquitoes. Even
though it is not of dengue type but something
must be done about it, please. We then
proceeded to check-in at Pauh Inn, at about
10.00pm. The two volunteers, Azlida bt Ahmad
and Anis Nadya bt Che Ahmad were there to
help out with a group of students. Thank you
very much.
After tea-break we moved to another room at
On Wednesday we started off with breakfast at Serai
Café. The word means lemon grass, used in typical Malay
dish. Its aroma is very distinctive. There is hardly any
household in my village not growing lemon grass for
own consumption. It is one of the most important
ingredients in the famous Thai dish like Tom Yam. We
then proceeded to Lecture Theatre 3. As we were
walking, I pointed out to them the different
departments, staff apartments, students’ hostels,
mosque, cafeterias, library, sport facilities, offices, etc. as
we passed by. They then realised that Politeknik Tuanku
Syed Sirajuddin (PTSS) is full of steps. I told them the
other acronym for PTSS is PoliteknikTangga Sana Sini
(literally; Polytechnic with steps here and there). Finally,
everyone made it to the room, sweating. That should
take care of the morning exercise. I started off with a
short introduction to our polytechnic system Phase 1
and 2 transformation initiatives commencing 2010 and
how it is related to the Government Transformation Plan
(GTP). I showed them a pie-chart as to what happened
to our 2012 graduates in terms of employment. The
question was raised during Q&A the day before. We
were fortunate to have two keen young lecturers from
the hospitality department to talk about the newly
introduced diploma programme; Halal Food Service and
Event Management. The Thais were certainly interested
because the majority of their southern provinces
populations are Muslims. We had our tea break at what
is known as Mountain View canteen.
Multimedia Unit. They needed a different set up to
discuss their 2014 budget. I learned that the
annual financial year in Thailand actually ends by
30th September. We left them alone to work out the
details until lunch time at 12.30pm. Again, we
walked up and down more steps to end up at the
main office. We took a group photo and had lunch
at the Exhibition Room next to the hall. Everything
went great. However; SVC advisor, Mrs. Usa A.
Punt received an unfortunate phone call. Her son
was involved in an accident in Bangkok. Dr Abdul
Rahman sent her to catch a taxi at the main gate.
She said she would fly from Hat Yai airport. We
pray for her son’s immediate recovery. The SVC
teachers continued their work immediately after
lunch. I stayed back to savour the delicious African
Sea Coconut concoction drink with Dr Abdul
Rahman, Helan Noor and Sakol.
At 3.30pm, they wrapped up their budget meeting. The teachers were
divided into two groups; A and B. We marched them up and down more
steps to end up at the junction between Commerce, Information
Technology (IT), Hospitality and Digital Art & Film departments. Group A
was welcomed by JRKV staff headed by Anis Safinaz bt
RamliandShamzuri b. Yaakob, while Group B was taken care of by
Zaharizuan b. Azharand Faizal b. Abd Razak. They spent an hour touring
the two departments, listening to briefings, watching students’ animation
and final film projects. Finally, everyone settled for tea by the poolside of
the hotel. The next agenda was Aerobic Dance at 5.15pm organised by
Rozalita bt Saupi from General Studies Department PTSS. Every one of
them was such a sport and enjoyed the dance cum exercise routine. The
music was great. The instructor was fantastic. My instinct told me I have
seen the instructor before but I could not recall where. Joining the
instructor on “stage” were Rozalita and the hotel janitor. They looked like
seasoned aerobic dancers. A few times the instructor gyrated her body in
the dance routine to the amusement and approval of the participants. It
was great, really great. After an hour, all were exhausted but thrilled.
Thank you Rozalita. We can always count on you.
At 7.00pm we left for Alor Setar. Initially, we planned to have dinner at Alor Setar Tower. Due to scheduled lift
maintenance, we were advised to postpone to lunch on Thursday. Thus, we had dinner at the Old Village, off Teluk
Kumbar road. The restaurant is situated by a river. A boat ride is also available during daytime. Our director,
Asmara Sulong; deputy director (non-academic), Abdul Latif Halim; Anis Nadya bt Che Ahmad and Nur Hartini bt
Harun from PTSS joined the dinner. In her speech, our director welcomed the cooperation between the two
institutions and gave the green light for further collaboration. When dinner was over, Dr Rujira asked for
permission to carry out the next programme in Thai language. It turned out that they were honouring three retiring
teachers; Mrs. Suwaleeporn Wannasut, Mr Chumnong Koysattaya and Mrs. Dang Maksakha. Each of them delivered
his/her speech and received retirement memento. Happy retirement. Thank you for choosing Alor Setar to
celebrate the important occasion. My friend used to say that there are three things you cannot avoid in life. The first
two are taxes and death. In between, is retirement. In not too distant future I will join your group too. We drove
back to the hotel, tired but happy. I reached home at 11.00pm.
We started day three, early. By 8.30 am everyone was ready to check out. Our first visit was to the Rice
Museum at Gunung Keriang, Alor Setar. The journey took an hour. The museum opens at 9.00 am. The
ticket is RM5.00 each. There are only two such museums in the world. The other one is in North Korea. The
building is three- storey high. The basement and the first floor showcase equipment and products related to
rice. However, the top floor is super-special. Even though I have been there before, it never fails to
mesmerise me. The first time I saw the projected image, I thought this could be the image in heaven. One
teacher in the group of Thais we took some time ago said he did not mind not going anywhere else in the
trip after seeing the beauty of this painting. The Philippine contract teacher attached to SVC said he had no
word to describe the great work. I noticed astonishment and disbelieve in every face that all these are
available in AlorSetar. Their cameras never stop flashing.
Actually, the third floor consists of a rotating circular
Our next destination was the house in which
platform with comfortable chairs. The centre part remains
stationary. The painting is 360 degree around, fullycoloured and of 3 dimensional. It depicts the different
seasons of paddy planting, from seedling to harvesting. It
catches the activities of rural folks in their day-to-day life;
attending wedding receptions, spending their pastimes and
shopping at the day market, their live-stocks and working
in the field. It shows the village houses, schools, trees and
hills around. Part of the scenery shows a heavy
thunderstorm on its way. The rainbow looks real. The
whole thing catches on to my own life experiencing all
these. Even though my late father was a teacher, he was
also a farmer. Everyone else in the family is a farmer.
Tun Mahathir was born. It is located at Jalan
Kilang Ais, Seberang Perak. I found out the Thais
actually know so much about our previous
Prime Minister. Their tourist guide @ teacher,
Ms Wipawan Saengkhao @ Nim briefed the
passengers in Thai language in the bus about
him. I only managed to catch two words:
Mahathir and Malaysia Boleh. I remember
seeing and snapping a picture of a billboard of
Tun Mahathir and presumably a Thai leader
somewhere between Songkhla and Yala last
month. The writing was all in Thai, of course. On
the way back to the border we stopped for a
while to show the Thais the current Tun
Mahathir’s house at Titi Gajah.
It was past 11.00 am. It was time to proceed to Alor Setar Tower.
The lunch appointment is at 12.00 noon. This was going to be our
final meal in Malaysia. It was the most memorable one indeed since
there is no revolving restaurant in Songkhla or anywhere else in
south Thailand. Everyone was looking forward to see Alor Setar
from the sky-high view. I have not been there since the last few
years. It was 11.45 am when we reached the parking area. Our
timing in the last few days was perfect. We were never late. I
thought the 15 minutes spare time would be the time it takes to haul
everyone up. As I approached the basement, I saw some tables laid
out. My instinct told me that lunch would not be served high above
the ground. They have failed to restore the lift. My heart sank. I hope
they would pull up their socks for the Visit Malaysia Year 2014. We
presented a special group photo of Dr Rujira and Sakol with Her
Royal Highness, Tunku Intan Safinaz when they had an audience
with her during our 27th convocation on 12 September 2013. Helan
Noor tried his best to repair the damage by throwing some
questions and rewarded the teachers with small tokens for the right
answers. Thank you Helan. You did a great job.
As planned, we ended up at the Pacific Shopping Complex. It is one of the best shopping arcades in
town. After an hour, we headed back to the border. Again we stopped at the Free Duty Shop. The
teachers bought a lot of chocolates, biscuits and premixed coffee packets. I wonder why. We proceeded
at 5.00 pm to the parking area on the Thai side. Their double-decker buses were waiting at the very
same spot where we welcomed them three days ago. Everyone was safe and accounted for. I offered Dr
Rujira no apologies for I promised her we would put up no show. We wanted them to see our real
conduct; be it good or bad. Please take home whatever is good and leave the rest for us to sort out. We
bade goodbye and promised to meet again. We waited until their buses moved and headed home. Our
job is done.
Thank you everyone.