Durian makes for black, thorny politics

News from Malaysia has been diabolical recently and so it shouldn’t have surprised me to see this latest news from the Penang assembly.

Essentially, these backbenchers (perhaps the same everywhere) are lobbying any idea around to raise extra funding for their district or constituency without considering if it really would bring extra income over a longer term. The initial spend from the government would line the pockets of local contractors to construct ostentatious structures and allow the parcelling off of land for purposes dubious at best. Thereafter, projects are often abandoned or poorly maintained, becoming a national embarrassment. 

The backbencher identified a rice museum (an independent review of it here) and a pineapple museum (see a review of it here) as a justification for launching a durian museum. They would be best advised to conduct their research on the number of annual visitors and what their feedback is. Better yet, put the vote online and see what people think public funds should be spent on. The rice museum’s main attraction is a painting panorama by North Korean artists (what?!) and the pineapple cultivation equipment looks like something any gardening amateur could have at home.

If a durian museum was indeed needed and profitable (pineapple museum charge is RM 2, the rice museum is RM 3), Balik Pulau’s private durian industry would’ve gathered together to launch one. That clearly is not what durian lovers are looking for. 

Balik Pulau organizes durian carnivals and exports durian all over the world. They provide farm tours and have websites that feature all the hybrids. 

We don’t need a building full of fake fruit. We just want the real thing, grown well, less expensively if possible, and a decent place to eat it. Anything else and especially if government run is just a stupid idea. 


5 thoughts on “Durian makes for black, thorny politics

  1. I saw this in the news and started trying to think of interesting displays for a durian museum. Even my durian obsessed brain came up a little dry — maybe a historical section? A restaurant/cafe dedicated to durian foods?

    Interesting point about the “pork barreling” for this project, I hadn’t even considered the political motives behind this curious proposal.

    • Pork barrelling is definitely a term one cannot freely use in Malaysia because of the religious sensitivities… I’m not sure what a substitute term would be. I would have been more impressed if the suggestion was to fund a durian research institute, with a mission to understand, preserve and cultivate further species and hybrids for future generations of durian farmers and consumers. They could sequence the genomic variations, figure out new technology on how to combat diseases, even methods of conserving the fruit a little longer without freezing or chemicals….

      There is always more knowledge to be obtained for the benefit of furthering the industry. Research is at least worthy of consideration for governmental assistance to obtain permits and funding.

      Or even simpler, a durian heritage plantation, a gazetted area where old durian trees or natural species are allowed to grow and for durian lovers to view these rainforest giants in their natural setting.

      These lousy ideas put forward by politicians are short term and reflect a mentality of living in the past. Politicians that think about the future are in short supply. Constituents living in the area do not benefit from education nor new economic jobs created, what can you aspire to do in terms of work at a museum…? A security guard, a cleaner, a handyman. At a research institute, a scientist, an engineer, a horticulturist.

      Well, Malaysia is just blessed with fertile land and natural resources… No surprise it’s taken for granted.

      • No offense meant on “pork barreling” I didn’t even make the connection to the ban on eating pork in Muslim culture. Should have thought of that!

        You know there is already a Horticultural Research Station on Penang Island in Relau, but it does look run down and the trees are not labeled with the their names, just registration numbers stored away in a book somewhere.

        I spend a lot of time reviewing studies on durian and am always surprised at the gaps — I can’t even find a study to verify what percentage of durians fall at night! Everyone says the majority of durians fall between midnight and dawn but I can’t find any research to back up the claim.

        Perhaps as more people get interested others will get curious and start filling these gaps in our scientific knowledge of durian. Maybe the positive of the museum proposal is that at least people are getting more interested!

      • No offence taken.
        Have you been to the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM)? That’s their premier research facility and it’s still got a long way to go. More like a reasonably well kept park. State of the land I’m afraid. The interest in durian is purely as a commercial crop and they should keep it that way. I think the private durian industry is doing a great job judging by the increase in exports, the government is supporting the trade aspects which is the right thing to do. If the farms allow interested PhD students, there’s probably a lot that can be learned… But that requires investment.. Anyway we’ll see whether it picks up any votes!


      • Yes, I went to FRIM last summer looking for Durio lowianus, but I was too late. I will try again πŸ™‚ I am considering setting up my own study to answer the questions I am curious about πŸ™‚

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