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Associations pull out of food carnival, unhappy with quota

  • Past food carnivals have been vastly successful. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily

PETALING JAYA, Nov 11 (Sin Chew Daily) -- Due to the request of the Auditor-General's Office, the Fabulous Food 1Malaysia carnival must showcase at least 70% to 80% of halal food. As a result, co-organizers the Federation of Malaysia Hawkers Associations and the Malaysia Selangor & Federal Territory Ku Su Shin Choong Hung Restaurant Association have decided to quit the event.

The ministry of tourism and culture secretary-general Datuk Ong Hong Peng also confirmed that the 2014 food carnival would not showcase non-halal food.

He explained, "The concept of the Fabulous Food 1Malaysia carnival is to showcase the predominant food of the major ethnic groups in Malaysia, and the unique culinary features of all the three major ethnic groups of this country have been taken into consideration during the past events."

For example, he said the 2013 food carnivals in Jalan Alor and Johor Jaya targeted mainly non-Malay visitors and as such the exhibitors were mainly Chinese hawkers selling non-halal fares.

He said the ministry's "Malaysia Truly Asia" slogan was meant to promote the country as a key travel destination in Asia.

"Our main sources of tourists are Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and in line with our slogan, the Fabulous Food 1Malaysia event should showcase food that is popular among Asian tourists."

Humiliation

The Federation of Malaysia Hawkers Associations advisor Datuk Ng Bong Ching, who is also the mastermind behind the 2013 food carnival, revealed that the tourism ministry had contacted them around June or July on matters relating to this year's food carnival. However, the federation was not agreeable to 70%-80% for halal food as this ruling had contravened the objective of promoting the culinary fares of all the three major ethnic groups in the country.

"To Chinese associations, the AG Office's request is a humiliation and embarrassment. We are very much willing to co-organize this event, but because of the AG Office's request, we just have to back off."

Ng told Sin Chew Daily the food carnival would now be handled by the state tourism departments and in the end, it would be a showcase of 100% halal food, minus all the non-halal fares such as bakuteh.

He also pointed out that last year's Chinese food carnival was held at Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur in conjunction with the initiative to make Jalan Alor a major destination for gluttons. Delicacies such as claypot red wine chicken, claypot pig's leg, bakuteh and pork noodle were among the food items presented to visitors.

He slammed the AG Office for ethnicizing the issue against the initiative of the tourism ministry to invite NGOs (the Federation of Malaysia Hawkers Associations and the Malaysia Selangor & Federal Territory Ku Su Shin Choong Hung Restaurant Association) to co-organize the food carnivals during more difficult times in the country's tourism industry.

He emphasized that all the food showcased in the food carnivals had met the requirements of the tourism ministry in line with its "Malaysia Truly Asia" slogan.

He said bakuteh was featured during the inaugural event in 2009 despite objection from Islamic organizations. Fortunately former tourism minister Tan Sri Ng Yen Yen was firm in her stand so that this event could be carried out successfully.

Over the past five years, the tourism ministry has allocated more than RM3 million annually for the Federation of Malaysia Hawkers Associations to organize almost 20 food carnivals across the country.

Successful past events

The Malaysia Selangor & Federal Territory Ku Su Shin Choong Hung Restaurant Association president Lum Tuck Loy said the AG Office said the Fabulous Food 1Malaysia carnival was a sheer waste of money but the accusation was not fair to the organizers, adding that the AG Office had overlooked the cultural diversity of this country.

He said the objective of organizing the event had been to enhance the standards of local hawker food. The food carnival has become a major draw for tourists to Malaysia, with hundreds of thousands of local and foreign visitors taking part in it, in particular Singaporeans.

He also said the events organized by them during the past five years had been vastly successful with almost 300,000 visitors on a weekend, including the agriculture minister and many non-Chinese Malaysians.

He hoped such events could be continued in the future.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Malaysia Hawkers Association president Lee Teong Chwee said they had submitted the proposal for this year's food carnival to the tourism ministry in April, and had attended one or two meetings but unfortunately the tourism ministry decided to suspend the event without giving a valid reason.

He said the past events had been quite successful and he didn't understand why the AG Office thought otherwise.

He said of all the 20 food carnivals held over the past five years, government officials only attended the one in Johor Jaya and came up with the illogical conclusion.

"During our food carnival in Kota Kinabalu last year, for example, we had half of Malay hawkers and half of Chinese hawkers taking part but the government officials never bothered to comment about this.

He said since it as a 1Malaysia food carnival, the culinary delights of all major ethnic groups of the country should be showcased including the traditional Chinese delicacy such as wantan noodle.

Segregation of stalls

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (PRESMA) president Noorul Hassan Saul Hameed said his association did not reject non-halal food but stalls selling non-halal food must not be too near to halal stalls.

He told Sin Chew Daily that the tourism ministry should allocate halal and non-halal stalls more systematically in a show of respect for different religions and cultures in this country while allowing non-halal restaurant owners to have the fair chance of doing business at the food carnival.

 

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