Nicholas Chan

My name is Nicholas Chan Yee Soon, I am the grandson of Tan Sri Datuk Amar Ong Kee Hui, founder of the Sarawak United People’s Party and former cabinet minister under the governments of Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Hussein Onn and also Tun Dr. Mahathir.

As the scion of one of the pioneering ethnic Chinese minister from the beautiful state of Sarawak, it has always been a proud fact for me to be the grandson of a former minister, especially when I saw my beloved grandfather’s picture in textbooks.

It was not until the past year that i’ve taken up an interest in the life and time of my grandfather, I knew him as the man who used to take me into his arms to cradle me as a child.

I was thankful to be able to spend some time with him during his declining years when he came to KL for his treatments, to talk and get to know him but there was so much I did not know about him.

I am writing this today because I have reached an impetus in my life as a Malaysian, I cannot stand by and watch as my beloved country is being taken over by the extremist voices from all parties. These extremist groups do not represent the voice of a moderate Malaysia.

The very moderate Malaysia my grandfather fought for worked for all his career as a government servant.

Remembering my conversations before my grandfather’s death and also from his memoirs (Footsteps in Malaysia), really does offer an insight into not only an ethnic Malaysian Chinese but also a man from the state of Sarawak.

I remember him telling me how Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak were the 2 best Prime Ministers he has ever had the privilege to meet and I hope by the end of this little sharing, we would have an inkling of the diverse, moderate leadership our nation experienced on its road to where it is (or where it should be?).

In his memoirs, my grandfather recalls his first ever cabinet meeting right after taking his minister’s oath and Tun Abdul Razak immediately put him to work on working on the flood situations in KL and how it affected the rakyat immediately. His “demand” for a “Malaysian of Chinese origin” showed how much Tun Razak valued the inclusion of all the races in his cabinet and his use of the word “Malaysian” and not “Chinese” is very telling about his intent to unite the people of Malaysia.

Another interesting story was a light-hearted exchange between my grandfather, Tun Razak, Tun Dr. Ismail and Tun Sambanthan at the Tun’s official residence. My grandfather was aware of Tun Razak’s bad health and tried to introduce Tai Chi Chuan to Tun Razak as it was beneficial for him in the past and proceeded to demonstrate, my grandfather was very surprised when Tun Razak suddenly got up and tried bending down for a Tai Chi move but found that he could not touch his own knee, and Tun Razak humoured that he would “stick to golf for recreation”

The tone of unity and friendship between these men of power talking about mundane issues such as health, represents also a microcosm of Malaysian life, these men of different ethnic origin gathered together is how Malaysians have always lived our lives. There should never be a distinction between races, religion and creed, this is Malaysia and we should elevate ourselves as a beacon of moderation and integration for the world to see.

These past years since the last general election has seen Malaysia under siege, not from a foreign power but from a infectious disease, propagated by parties that want to see all Malaysians divided and perhaps conquered; that disease is hate and intolerance.

I believe in all my heart, that the men like my grandfather and those who have come before us in power represent the very essence of what Malaysia can be, a land united for its people to achieve a common solidarity.

Some articles have described Malaysia as a melting pot of cultures and races, but I disagree with that analogy as sometimes when we cook things in a pot, not all the ingredients and heat can blend well for a nice dish (We’re Malaysians, I had to put in a food reference!).

I look at Malaysia as a mosaic or fresco, made out of many different coloured pieces, although the shapes and colours are irregular, they can be arranged into something beautiful and complete.

I write this to defend the honor of my grandfather and his honoured colleagues that came before, that their work will never be done and I will not stay silent anymore and will strive to achieve the ideals of my grandfather who loved and served this country.

I write this to create a legacy for my children and theirs to come.

To end this, I want to share another story of my then 7 year old son, Xavier. He came back from his first day in school (he goes to a chinese venacular school), and I enquired on his classmates, he said he was seated next to a girl named Nurin, and I asked him if she was a Malay girl, and he looked puzzled at me and said. “Daddy, she’s not Malay, she’s my friend!”

I am reminded that its a long road for us all, yet we will prevail and we will not fail.

Dedicated to my grandfather, I miss you and I am sure Malaysia will always remember and cherish your contributions.