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Of passion and compassion

   
From left: Luke Shori, Yeoh, Datuk Seri Abdullah, Oomo, Nogami, Tanaka and Tan Sri Abu Sahid, who won the Agriculture Minister's trophy at the inaugural Malaysian Open Koi Championship.

Kuala Lumpur, 12 February 2006

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The Sentul Park Koi Centre was today officially opened with an extraordinary tale of passion and compassion that was created by a group of individuals who share a love for koi, the living jewels.

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The koi centre which is located in Sentul Park is managed by Luke Shori, one of the key characters who brought about the development of the 1.5-acre centre. As a journalist, Shori discovered that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and he shared a common interest – they were koi hobbyists. So Datuk Seri Abdullah asked Shori to look after his koi.

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Datuk Seri Abdullah later discovered that YTL Corp managing director Tan Sri (Dr.) Francis Yeoh is also a koi hobbyist, so he recommended Shori to visit Yeoh and advise him on his koi. When Shori paid a visit to Yeoh to view his fish, he was horrified with the quality of fish that Yeoh had collected.

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“I had to bite my lip. He spent a lot of money… but he was misled by local koi retailers. At first look, I knew they were not Japanese carp, they were Taiwanese!” Shori said.

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When Shori hit a financial problem he asked Yeoh to bail him out by buying some of his prized koi. Shori brought some of his koi to show Yeoh, he was stunned and amazed by the quality and beauty of the Japanese koi. Yeoh was hooked and wanted to visit Japan and experience the authentic art of rearing Japanese koi.

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Their visit proved to be most fruitful. Yeoh did not go to Japan just to view koi and koi farms. He participated in the koi harvest at the mud ponds – putting on the hip waders, getting into the pond and holding the koi before later participating in the more relaxed experience of enjoying sake with world-renowned koi breeders like Fujio Oomo, Makoto Tanaka and Hisato Nogami in the chilly highlands in Niigata, the home of the best koi in the world.

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Turning to Shori, Yeoh enthusiastically asked him, “Luke, why don’t we do this in Malaysia? Why don’t we recreate this? People are buying the fish but they don’t know the beauty and culture that goes with it.”

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When the Sentul masterplan was launched, Yeoh invited Shori to Sentul. “He pointed out an area to me, and said, ‘See that area there? That’s where we’re going to build our koi centre.’ At that time, I had no idea of the scale of the project we were talking about,” Luke said.

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Sending architects and designers to Japan to study the designs and culture, the duo worked to bring the experience to Malaysia. Claiming to be a mere hobbyist and not an expert, Shori felt that his knowledge was limited and he doubted that he would be able to run a project of such a scale at Sentul. Together with his wife, Chika, they sent an email to the breeder, Oomo, asking for counsel and support.

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Impressed with their passion and hopes of bringing the art to “koi loving people in Malaysia” and also to introduce Japanese culture to Malaysians, Oomo happily embarked on providing all the assistance he could provide. Together with Makoto Tanaka and Hisato Nogami, the top three breeders became the advisors of Sentul Park Koi Centre and transferred their expertise without reservation.


In the meantime, the Prime Minister, on learning about their efforts, was also very much interested in the development of the koi centre – he was at the site when they broke ground for the project and continued to keep abreast with the designs and concept of the centre, giving his input to ensure the project would be a success.

 

Then disaster struck Niigata! The earthquake and mudslide threatened to wipe out the whole koi breeding industry especially when our three advisors livelihood was directly affected. Yeoh very quickly offered to help with the evacuation of the koi from these breeders’ ponds. It was estimated that a million koi, making up some 40 per cent of the koi there died when ponds were destroyed in the earthquake.

 

“We would like to take this opportunity to convey our biggest thank you to Tan Sri (Francis) for his help to save as many koi as possible by evacuating them to Malaysia,” Oomo said.

 

The launch ceremony saw a reunion of these key people with passion and compassion – with Datuk Seri Abdullah who officiated the launch in the presence of Yeoh, Luke and Chika Shori, Oomo, Tanaka and Nogami, along with koi breeders from Japan and koi hobbyists who have come to know the Sentul Park Koi Centre as their favourite getaway in the heart of the Kuala Lumpur.

 

In his opening address, the Prime Minister thanked Yeoh: "It is something that he has done, not purely for his private enjoyment by keeping some expensive koi in his own house... he has decided to put it here for many others to see, and of course, for the nation's koi hobbyists. With that, I'm sure more and more people will show interest in these fish."

 

Yeoh said, “It is the infinite wisdom of God to sew a tapestry of passionate and compassionate people so that when you give freely you also will receive freely as God loves a cheerful giver. The successful opening of this centre today is a testimony to the glory of our Lord Jesus.”

 

Text of speech by Tan Sri (Dr.) Francis Yeoh:

 

A very warm welcome to all present today, and thank you for coming to the highly anticipated launch of this new gift to Sentul – The Sentul Park Koi Centre.

 

This centre, as you will see a little later, is truly an amazing facility. Spread across 1.5 acres of land, this is a piece of heaven on earth – lush green landscaping, Japanese Zen gardens, and some of the most beautiful Koi I have ever seen gliding serenely in delicate ponds. It is a marriage made in horticulture heaven, bringing together in seamless harmony form and function, yin and yang, in an amazing combination of state-of-the-art maintenance techniques and solid old-fashioned tradition.

 

It is no surprise then that this centre, the only one of its kind outside of Japan, was the first Malaysian entry to win the highly coveted Mature Champion prize at the 2005 All Japan Shinkokai Grand Championship. We are therefore very proud indeed to launch this facility today, and to welcome these extraordinary residents to their new home at Sentul Park.


   
The PM helps Shori with a net to transfer a koi to the tub that is held by Tanaka. While Nogami tries to help Tanaka, Yeoh and Oomo look on.

Unusual though this direction must be for us to take at YTL, we realised that it was the right one indeed, simply because of the single thing that the Sentul Park Koi Centre has in common with our philosophy as a company and as a property developer – Koi breeding is a way of life. This centre isn’t merely about selling Koi, it is about imparting a culture in a wholesome, conducive environment. It is about allowing more Malaysians to be involved in one of Japan’s most sacred traditions, providing thousands of enthusiasts the pleasure of this amazing activity and sharing it with their families. It is, ladies and gentlemen, about creating and supporting a whole new lifestyle for our residents. As Aristotle noted, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance”.

 

Similarly, building properties is not what this company is all about, it goes far beyond just that. With our projects, the primary aim has never merely been to build houses, it has been to create communities and providing a lifestyle for them to grow into. Proof of the pudding would be the success we have achieved with Pantai Hillpark and Andalucia, which has transformed a former squatter settlement into a Mediterranean-inspired neighbourhood that continues to generate interest and attention.

 

Today’s launch is therefore another part of a lifestyle portrait we are carving out for the Sentul masterplan - a 294-acre canvas we are gradually painting life into. The realisation of this one-of-a-kind urban renewal project began when we romanticised this very old, very traditional district, breathing into it the concept of Sentul West and Sentul East. This we achieved by building up on the unique characteristics of the area – the busy Jalan Sentul, and tranquil Sentul Park.

 

The launch of Sentul Park came soon after, and as you can see is now complete. To be honest, we had not anticipated the drastic transformation of Sentul Park that is now most probably the last green lung of its kind within the city. We will celebrate again later this year as Sentul Park greets its first residents from The Maple, our first condominium project in Sentul West.

 

The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre was launched next – an architectural masterpiece located at the fringes of the park, that has firmly settled in its spot as the undisputable home of the performing arts in Malaysia. The launch of the two residential projects, The Tamarind and The Maple are the beginning of the 35,000-strong community that Sentul East and Sentul West will one day support.

 

The Sentul Park Koi Centre is therefore a key milestone that we are celebrating, as we see our masterplan coming more and more to life – this journey to its completion is one that we are thrilled indeed to be on with all of you.

 

And as this masterplan is gradually realised, we continuously see it attracting attention, not just locally but regionally and internationally too. We have had several regionally based arts productions perform in the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, and due to the nature of its business, this Koi Centre has attracted its fair share of overseas attention as well.


This is an ideal accompaniment to our other highly successful projects – Pangkor Laut Resort and Tanjong Jara have been winning international awards at every turn for the kind of standards they have set in holidaymaking. The Ritz-Carlton, The Residences at the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott have in collaboration provided first-class accommodation for business and leisure travellers from around the world. And the icons that are Bintang Walk and Starhill Gallery now stand tall and proud as key attractions to our fantastic city.

 

All this bears testament to our efforts of further placing Malaysia on the map, and making Kuala Lumpur a definite stopover. Little introduction is needed for our beautiful clear watered islands, our modern hi-tech racetrack, and our rich multicultural heritage. What we aim to do is to enhance what Malaysia can already provide, and in totality present to the world an irresistible tourism offering that is truly unique.

 

As many of you may remember, we are just coming out of celebrating our 50th anniversary, marking half a century of our businesses in Malaysia and across three continents. Despite all we have achieved, we have been careful to keep ourselves in check, reminding ourselves of who we are, and the place we call home. It is with great pride that I walk with Malaysia today as she grows to become more and more powerful, as she develops further to being a fully industrialised nation, and as she eases into her position as role model for other countries to emulate. And it is with great humility, that I say I am able to help her on this magnificent journey.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to end with these words from an ancient Chinese saying: “May you live in interesting times”. In this day and age, this seems especially appropriate as YTL continues to holds true to its innovative, pioneering nature, providing nothing but the best for our customers and stakeholders – making the most of the many opportunities that we have, in ways we could never have possibly imagined.

 

I thank you very much indeed for your patience in lending me your ears. I pray that our Lord Jesus will bless this endeavour. May God continue to bless you and prosper you and give you peace.

 

Thank you.

 

Text of speech by Tan Sri (Dr.) Francis Yeoh
at the official opening of Sentul Park Koi Centre
Sentul Park, Kuala Lumpur

on February 12th 2006


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