Chuah Bee Kim witnesses history in the making at the first Johor state assembly sitting in Kota Iskandar
|Sultan Iskandar (centre), Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ibrahim Ismail (fourth from left) and Johor government officials inspecting the march-past in front of the Johor Legislative Assembly in Kota Iskandar. — Pictures by Zulkarnain Ahmad Tajuddin|
|Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ibrahim Ismail giving the royal address on behalf of Sultan Iskandar.|
|The vast and grand interior where all future Johor state assemblies will be held.|
|The Johor Military Force personnel at a march-past.|
|Raja Muda Johor Tunku Ismail Ibrahim leading the guard of honour.|
JUNE 18 marked the first sitting of the Johor Legislative Assembly in Kota Iskandar, the new state government administrative centre.
It was a monumental moment for civil servants and pressmen, as the day will go down in history as the first meeting at a new venue after 69 years of state assembly sittings at the Sultan Ibrahim building in Bukit Timbalan.
For those with a poor sense of direction, it is easy to get lost in the new environment as the Menteri Besar's office block is not exactly within walking distance of the State Assembly hall.
The vast and grand interior is awe-inspiring and matches the equally impressive facade of the multi-storey building, though the seemingly endless flight of stairs can prove daunting.
The combination of the contemporary with touches of Moorish, Andalusian and Johor Malay influence in the design of its facade drew a mixed response from the Barisan National coalition and the opposition members.
State Religious Committee chairman Datuk Zainal Abidin Osman (BN Endau) called Kota Iskandar a milestone development and attributed the success of the landmark project to Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman.
"I feel sad that we have had to move from the Sultan Ibrahim building because we have been using that building for so long, but change is always a good thing.
"The new building has space to accommodate more offices and the public may one day be able to attend the State Assembly sittings, just like the Dewan Rakyat," Zainal Abidin said.
Although state opposition leader and DAP chairman Dr Boo Cheng Hau shared Zainal Abidin's view that the building was indeed grand and regal, he felt it lacked originality and its own identity.
"When I was a student, I used to pass by the Sultan Ibrahim building and dreamed of being in there someday. The building, which was named after Sultan Iskandar's grandfather, Sultan Ibrahim, has special, sentimental meaning for me," said Dr Boo.
Citing the Windsor, which is the House of Commons of the parliament of Britain, as an example, Dr Boo said the building dated back 600 years and was still being used today.
Members of the media were not allowed in the hall while the State Assembly was in progress. They were instead placed in a separate and compact-sized room that had been prepared for them.
Officials and state assemblymen had to wear the official uniform adorned with medals awarded while Muslim men had to be in black baju Melayu potongan Teluk Belanga.
Non-Muslim men were required to wear dark-coloured lounge suits. Both Muslims and non-Muslims had to don the songkok.
The baju kurung Johor with a scarf was mandatory for women. They were allowed to pick any colour except pure white, blue or yellow. Some non-Muslims were spotted awkwardly pulling up their long baju kurung as they carefully made their way down the stairs.
Members of the media also had to adhere to the strict dress code.
Although an official who preferred to remain anonymous claimed that "the clothes do not maketh the man", rules were after all, rules.
Bentayan state assemblyman Gwee Tong Hiang came clad in the official attire and songkok.
Gwee made the news last June when he was thrown out of the assembly hall for defying the 50-year-old protocol requiring all 56 assemblymen to be in the official attire.
Gwee said a letter was recently issued by the state committee stating that a resolution had been passed to take action against those who defy the house rule.
Sultan Iskandar arrived with his sons, Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ibrahim Ismail and Tunku Bendahara Johor Tunku Abdul Majid. Also present was the Tunku Mahkota's son, Raja Muda Johor Tunku Ismail Ibrahim.
The royal family toured part of the 130-ha development, before the Tunku Mahkota gave a five-minute royal address on behalf of the Sultan.
Kota Iskandar, which was named after Sultan Iskandar, is to be the heart of the Iskandar Malaysia development corridor. It will house about 6,000 civil servants in 76 state and federal government departments.
SOURCE: JOHOR STREETS, NST, 22 JUNE 2009