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PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR

Dato' Seri Khoo Keat Siew and The Khoo Kongsi At George Town, Penang

The Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi is the most famous of the Khoo clanhouses and bears the tomb of a pioneering ancestor, Khoo Mo Ling (1775).This Khoo Kongsi built at Cannon Square opens to two rows of double-storey shop houses on both sides of the courtyard leading to the Khoo Kongsi. The clanhouse mysteriously burnt down in 1901 and was rebuilt in 1902. It was restored in October 2001 and opened in August 2002, with a museum added in the basement. The present Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the clanhouse is Dato' Seri Khoo Keat Siew, former President of the Majlis Dato'-Dato' Pulau Pinang, distinguished member of Penang's civil society, who is descended from Khoo Cheow Teong, his grand-father, a well known businessman and entrepreneur. His father was Khoo Sian Ewe, a successful businessman and philanthropher.

From the late eighteenth century to 1850, the Khoos migrated from Sin Kang Village to Penang and as described by Khoo Keat Siew, they "came with nothing but the clothes on their backs". In 1883, they founded the Ee Kok Teng clan association. The new comers in the 1850's, referred to as singkeh (new immigrant) assimilated with those who were Straits born; the Penang Straits Chinese remained an ethnically homogenous community, in language, matrimony, residence, business and commerce. They were however able to interact with local Malays although philanthropy was associated with the welfare of the migrant Chinese community, regardless of their clan affiliations. Adoption of the Malay kebaya and sarong and Malay culinary life-style was also typical of Straits born Chinese. However, by the early twentieth century, this form of assimilation of Malay material culture became less pronounced as they were able to assert their Chinese identity more thoroughly through Chinese business interests. They became less dependent on local Malay patronage. British patronage in business and commerce became more important and the Dato' Seri Khoo Keat Siew and The Khoo Kongsi At George Town.

Penang Khoos, led the movement into modernity through English education, preferring to send their sons to English public schools and universities in the United Kingdom. This movement into English education followed the same pattern as the Jawi Peranakan, a hybrid Malay-Indian -Arab urban community in George Town who mostly married into prominent Malay families and used their wives 'connections to expand their business and status. The Straits Chinese Cina Peranakan and Straits Muslims Jawi Peranakan also competed for positions in the civil service and had extensive networks of business based in the Middle-East, India and Indonesia. Later the clanhouse became more involved in Chinese education and established the SJK(C) Sin Kang.

In the early twentieth century, the Khoos resided in the Weld Quay area, Canon Street (Leong San Tong) and in the houses surrounding the Ee Kok Teng. By then, their social influence in local political affairs had intensified. They bought property in Southern Thailand, Sumatra and other towns in Malaya and became the most prominent leaders of the Chinese community, excelling in welfare and education, although this was channeled into the poorer sectors of the Chinese community. In the 1920's, they bought the Thean Teik Estate, the largest investment ever made by a local community on Penang Island. In 1955, the Eee Kok Teng became a registered organisation and in 1976, a Board of Trustees was set up to manage the affairs of the clanhouse. Thus the clanhouse became a modern family corporation.

Descendants of the Third Generation have formed the Boon San Tong Khoo Kongsi and the Si Toon Keng Tong Khoo Kongsi Altogether, the Khoos have records of 27 generations traced to their village in China, although the patrilineal system of descent does not enable them to trace any descent through women or to have prominent Khoo women noted in the clanhouses.

The highest achievement in politics was seen in Tan Sri Khoo Kay Por, who was born in 1932. He started his career as a bank clerk, earning RM88.50 monthly in 1951. His father's business had collapsed and he had to find is own means of support. Tan Sri Khoo Kay Por had been a State Executive Councillor for more than 30 years and in 1983, represented Malaysia in the United Nations State Assembly. He was once Acting Chief Minister, in the service of Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu.

Dato Seri Khoo Keat Siew born in 1930 has contributed widely to Penang's civil society, through his Presidency of Penang's Cheshire Home, the Befrienders (Founder) and the Penang State Chinese Association. Another well known Khoo, Datuk Khoo Kay Huat has been appointed International Distinguished Governor of Lion's Club and runs a successful business in multiple transport mode cargo, and one of the first transporters to promise door to door delivery more than 20 years ago. Together the Khoos have made memorable contributions to Penang Chinese welfare and civil society.

Alamat Rasmi Pejabat:
J.L Ong & Associates, Suite 1, 123-J Jalan Utama, 10450 Penang
Tel: 04-2292018 | Fax: 04-2284337 | Email: office@jlongkh.com.my
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