The five days Malaysia Cocoa Festival 2003 was concluded last night with a colourful closing. State Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry, Datuk Abdul Rahim Ismail declared the festival closed on behalf of the Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Musa Aman.
Although the festival has been upgraded from Sabah Cocoa Fest to Malaysia Cocoa Fest, nothing much has been upgraded nor improved. In fact it was downgraded due to the last minute withdrawal of Malaysia Cocoa Board. Even though MCB's withdrawal did not have much impact on the event but it left many people wonder what was the real motive behind.
Another interesting point to note is that, the former Chief Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat, who was scheduled to speak during the opening did not turn up. Chong instead sent his assistant, Datuk Karim Bujang. Even the present CM, Datuk Musa Aman who was supposed to perform the closing ceremony, sent his representative, Datuk Abdul Rahim Ismail.
One wonders whether the absence of the two former and present Chief Ministers has anything to do with the withdrawal of MCB. If they are both being supportive of Tawau being the place for one big national event, they should show their presence. Could it be a mere coincident or it has been planned that way and telling the people that the state was not in favour of the Malaysia Cocoa Festival to be held during fasting month?
Datuk Musa must have forgotten that he talked about upgrading the agriculture sector the improve on state avenue. He said the state could not rely on timber anymore as it is a sunset business. If he has been sincere in what he said during the tabling of 2004 budget, Musa should personally attend the closing ceremony.
Nevetheless, the head of state, Tun Datuk Seri Panglima Hj Ahmadsyah Abdullah was sporting enough to officate the festival and spent more than an hour touring the exhibition booths. He did not seem bothered with the lame excuses given by MCB that the reason for their withdrawal was due to their request for postponing the function to after the fasting month was rejected.
The general public was sympathetic towards the organisers due to the 'sabotage' at the last minute. However, the organisers did not perform up to their expectations of producing a national level event. Almost all the programmes were recycled from last year's Sabah Cocoa Fest. There was nothing new and some even took for granted while carrying out their duties which caused some delays and hiccups.
There were thousands of people packing the Tawau Community Hall to watch the finale programmes. However when they realised that the programme lined up were nothing new from the previous year, they left even in the middle of Datuk Abdul Rahim Ismail's boring speech. There were less than half of the audience left during the last performance which was supposed to be the strongest attraction.
Talking about speeches, it seems that both Abdul Rahim Ismail and Karim Bujang, gave long winded, boring and monotonous speeches. They were practically reading like school children. Another minus point for the organiser for inviting unmotivated speakers and VIP.
Even though the organisers claimed to have spent more than half a million for the event, to most people it did not reach the national standard. Probably the organisers should, in future, widen their scope of inviting more experience and more innovative people to form their committee. Without including new blood, and keep forcing outdated ideas and presumption, Malaysia Cocoa Festival will go no where.
One very interesting point to add is that the organiser found an very competent master of ceremony, Lee Chye Ewe. He is fluent in many languages and handled both opening and closing ceremony well. He easily beats many radio and television broadcasters. It was no wonder that more praises went to the MC instead of the performances.