Saturday, March 16, 2013

A "Cannot-tell" Story

I joined the Genting group in September 1977. It was already a formidable name by then. The name Genting was, and still is, synonymous with its founder Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong. Moreover, its former general manager, Tan Koon Swan had also made a name for himself in politics as well as in the corporate world. With Supreme and the Multi-Purpose groups, he was heading to the big league as well.

But few know how the name Genting came into being. Its Chinese characters read “Ying-ting”. Ying by itself means “cloud” and ting means “top” as in rooftop. It certainly sounds appropriate – with the resort sitting right at the top of Gunung Ulu Kali and clouds hugging it. So Genting is Cloud-top to those reading the name in Chinese characters.

But I believe the name was derived from Genting Sempah. If you look at the Pahang map, you will find Genting Sempah right at the foothill of Genting Highlands. This name has been in existence well before Tan Sri Lim went to develop Genting Highlands. I may be wrong though.

But the pioneers of Genting should be saluted for choosing a very tasteful name for the resort. Whether in Romanised form or in Chinese, they sound good. They could have settled for Silver-top or Money-top for Ying in Chinese can also mean “silver” or “money”. Fortune is the obsession of many but only those with impeccable taste know the meaning of subtlety.

* * * * *


I had this dream. I dreamt I worked for a company called Above-the-Clouds Berhad in a country called Bumiland…

The company, founded by a great entrepreneur Tan Sri Lim. Above-the-Clouds owned a hill resort that went by the same name.

* * * * *  

“What, the Old Man wants to change the provincial boundary?”

This was CH’s reaction when I told him that Tan Sri wanted us to realign the boundary of some of the lots in the Above-the-Clouds resort to make them more efficient in terms of land utilization. CH was the house architect and I, the development manager of the company that was developing the Above-the-Clouds resort, the most popular holiday destination in the country.

Tan Sri originally had some 15,000 acres of land straddling two provinces in Bumiland - Gnahap and Langoser - alienated to him. He had to favour some friends and associates. The late 70s left Above-the-Clouds and its related companies with about 12,000 acres, of which about 80% was in Gnahap, and the rest in Langoser.

In some parts of the country, watersheds determine provincial boundaries.  This was apparently true in the case of the Above-the-Clouds resort where it sat smack on the Central Range of Bumiland. Looking in the northerly direction, you have Langoser if the rainwater flows westwards; otherwise, it is part of Gnahap.

The flagship hotel actually sits on two provinces. But both the provincial governments were very accommodating; they even formed a joint committee to administer the Above-the-Clouds resort.

With the type of building bye-laws we had in Bumiland where construction was not permitted unless carried out hundreds of feet away from the provincial boundaries, you probably had to resort to building in the ravines - in the case of the Above-the-Clouds resort. It was just impossible in the context of its terrain.

Tan Sri knew every square inch of the Above-the-Clouds resort. He had a vision wherein he wanted to transform the resort into a few thriving townships, one of which would of course be named after him.

* * * * *

The telephone rang. It was from the old man.  We trooped into the meeting room equipped with many copies of the contour map of the resort. The born surveyor reached out for his favourite pencil – a red-one-end-and-blue-one-end hexagonal or octagonal rarity – and began to draw a new provincial boundary…

The result looked very fair – a little here to benefit Langoser and a little there to please Gnahap, all very equitably apportioned, neither Gnahap nor Langoser seemed shortchanged.

But he did not realize that he was drawing a new provincial boundary…

You have to take Tan Sri seriously. When he was drawing those lines, you could feel the intensity of his chi. This concentrated energy could melt all the reservations. You actually believed it could be done!

* * * * *    

Tan Sri did not wait for the drawings. The in-house draftsman took too long a time to do even a simple thing like this.

A day or so later, Captain Lim[1]’s army of earthmovers and dump trucks began to storm the border. The commander: Tan Sri himself.

My dream did not last long enough. Or maybe I could not remember the ending. I am not sure if the provincial boundary had in fact been violated. But come to think of it, after the ridges had been flattened, how could you tell where the watersheds were?

Not everybody has the opportunity to contemplate changing provincial boundaries. You have to be someone in Tan Sri’s class to do that.

He was indeed an extraordinary man. He makes the impossible happen. Even if you were afforded Tan Sri’s opportunity, would you be able to do what Tan Sri had done?  

* * * * *

[1]             Captain Lim was the field man at Above-the-Clouds resort. He was said to be Tan Sri’s cousin.

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