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Thursday February 19, 2009

US twin city for Subang Jaya?

thoxinyi@thestar.com.my

SUBANG Jaya might be the first town in Malaysia to enter into a town twinning programme with a city in the United States of America.

If all things go smoothly, youngsters from Subang Jaya would have the opportunity to study in public schools in Wilmington in North Carolina under an exchange programme, while their counterparts would be able to visit Subang Jaya to contribute to community services.

Tourist attraction: The picturesque Riverwalk in Wilmington.

Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh revealed in her blog (http://hannahyeoh.blogspot.com/) that Wil­mington had expressed its interest in becoming a sister city of Subang Jaya.

“A member of the Wilmington Sister City Commission, who was born in Malaysia, was back for a holiday last year. Subang Jaya, being an education hub, caught her attention.

“She asked around for the best person to speak to regarding this matter, and many people referred her to me, and that’s how it all started,” Yeoh said.

She met up with the Wilmington’s elected mayor, Bill Saffo, in January during her visit to the US for the International Visitor Leadership Programme on Transition of Power in the US Federal System.

“We have identified two areas of focus. First, our students can attend a year at their high school to gain credits to enter universities in the US, and their youth can serve the Subang Jaya community through my office.

“Secondly, we can take a leaf out of their book on good governance, exchanging ideas with their local council,” Yeoh said.

She added that there were several other areas that both cities could explore in the future, in the fields of trade, culture and tourism.

“I read somewhere that direct flights between George Town and Adelaide was established because of their sister city relationship,” she said.

Wilmington, the hometown of internationally renowned basketball player Michael Jordan and teen heartthrob Chad Michael Murray, houses the University of North Carolina.

Wilmington currently has three sister cities, namely Dandong in China, Doncaster in Britain and Bridgetown in Barbados.

Sited on the Cape Fear River, the city has a mile-long Riverwalk as its main tourist spot, which Yeoh visited during her brief stay.

“The town is scenic and beautiful, and it is a favourite filming location for movies and TV shows,” she said.

Among these productions are A Walk to Remember, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Nights in Rodanthe and One Tree Hill.

Nonetheless, Yeoh stressed that the sister city programme was still in its preliminary stage as Wilmington had yet to make a firm decision.

“Its council will have to vote and get approval from Washington, DC. In the meantime, I will raise this matter with Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, state education, higher education and human development committee chairman Dr Halimah Ali and Subang Jaya Municipal Council president Datuk Adnan Md Ikshan,” she said.

The concept of sister cities is not new in Malaysia, where several cities already have such ties with other cities around the world.

For instance, George Town is a sister city of Adelaide in Australia, Medan in Indonesia and Xiamen in China, while Kuala Lumpur is a sister city of Ankara in Turkey, Berlin in Germany and Isfahan in Iran.

Ipoh, Johor Baru, Kota Kinabalu, Malacca, Sandakan and Tawau also have their respective sister cities.

“It is a privilege to be even considered by them as we have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. I hope the people of Subang Jaya will be receptive to the idea.

“This is a long-term investment – Subang Jaya will be put on the world map and our younger generation will be more aware of what’s happening globally. It will have no cost for us at all,” Yeoh said.

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