Wednesday, June 18, 2008

People - Sarikei Chong Siew Fai (Tan Sri Datuk Amar). 1934-2006

The other smaller group of Cantonese in Sarikei is the Hakka 客家. Hakka were originally from Central China around the Yellow River and later migrated to Southern China and from there to the rest of the world.

Siew Fai (right) and his brother, Peter, with grandpa, 张乐天

One of the Hakka pioneers in Sarikei was 张乐天. He owned a shop at the row of attap roofed wooden shops at Wharf Road (1910-1920s).

The Chong siblings with their grandpa 张乐天 and grandma.

张乐天 was better known as one of the founders and the first principal of Kwang Chien 廣建 primary school. Kwang Chien was started in 1927 by several well known Sarikei denizens including Siaw Ah Khoon (萧南坤) and Chen Mong (陳 梦, father of Chen Ko Ming). (Source: 1)

They borrowed a wooden house from the Cantonese Association (Kwong Wai Siew) to use as the classroom for the first batch of 40 students. Its name was derived from Kwang Dong (Cantonese 東) and Foo Chien (福Hokkien). Later in 1927, the school was moved to a building behind the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. (A rare photo of Kwang Chien School's 1928 graduation will be released soon.)

1953 St Anthony's School
Standing: L1 劉愛珍, L2 Chong Siew Fai, L3 Peter Chung 鍾添來, L4黃毓基
Sitting: L1 & L2, Mrs and Mr Hii Ing King, L3詹廷方神父 L4王受荃 L5黃廣桃

Chong Siew Fai 许永经 started his teaching career in St. Anthony’s School, Sarikei, in 1952. He was a teacher for 11 years.

1955: Siew Fai ( Front row, 1st from right) playing for Sarikei
First Kwang Lee Bank Cup Inter district Basketball Competition
Lighter singlet = Sarikei. Darker singlet = Sibu.

1967: The Chong family photo. Siew Fai (back row, 4th from right).
Find Mr Ling, veteran Kwang Chien teacher (back row, 3rd from right). Now in his 80s.

Sarikei Customs Wharf, 1962
Siew Fai's farewell

Siew Fai went to London to pursue his studies in law at Lincoln's Inn in 1962. A huge crowd of friends, colleagues and relatives turned up at the Sarikei Customs Wharf to send him off.

Sarikei Customs Wharf, 1962
Siew Fai's farewell

Anthonian teacher, Mr & Mrs Jacob Sebastian, Wong Kwang Soon (Anthonian teacher from 1953 to 1975), Grandpa 张乐天 and Clement Ting were among those in the send-off party.

2nd Oct 1968: Marital bliss

Siew Fai obtained his law degree in 1965 and was called to the English Bar. In May 1965, he was called to the Sarawak Bar and served with Yong and Company in Kuching. He set up his own legal firm in 1968. On 2nd Oct, 1968, he got married to Rosalind T'en Yaw Hee.

Jan, 1980: Appointment as High Court Judge.

He was President of the Sarawak Advocates Association from 1975 to 1979. In 1980 to June 1994, Siew Fai served as High Court Judge in Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, and Sibu.

June 1994: Appointment as a Federal Court Judge

Siew Fai served in the Federal Court for a year. An eulogy of Siew Fai said, during his tenure on the Bench, Siew Fai had contributed immensely to the development of the law and his decisions were highly regarded by legal practitioners for their lucidity, reasoning and grasp of the law. (Source: 2)

1995: Appointment as Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak.

He served as Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak from 1995 until 2000. "As a Judge of both state and federal levels, the late Tan Sri Datuk Amar Thomas Chong Siew Fai was very much respected for his dedication to his work and legendary judicial temperament." (Source: 2)

1999: Awarded the Title of Tan Sri Datuk Amar.

"His patience, humility and sense of fairness in the discharge of his judicial duties have earned him the highest respect and regard from his fellow judges, lawyers, and the parties who appeared before him," the eulogy said. (Source: 2)

Sep, 2004: Tan Sri Chong family portrait.

Chong Siew Fai passed away at the age of 72 at his house in Jan 2006, after suffering from colon cancer for one and a half years. He underwent 2 major operations in 2004 and 2005. He was survived by his wife Puan Sri Rosalind T'en Yaw Hee, son - Kevin Chong Chieng Yah and three daughters - Chong Yuh Shyan; Chong Yuh Tyn and Chong Yuh Ling. He was buried at Nirvana Memorial Park in Bau after a funeral mass at St Joseph's Cathedral, Kuching. (Source: 2)

1995-2000: Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak
Tan Sri Datuk Amar Chong Siew Fai

Salute to Chong Siew Fai, one of the famous sons of Sarikei that truly made us proud. He left a note below which was discovered after his passing.

SOURCE:- 国际时报 ( International Times ) 26-01-2006



Rough translation:
Kuching (25th January 2006)
This touching letter was found in his journal by his family after his death while taking care of his belongings. This self written letter was meant to be read out by him on 4th January on his birthday celebration but his poor health prevented him from doing so. His youngest brother, Siew Yang, read this letter out at his funeral. Below is the content:

"On 11 June 2006, I found that I have cancer. When the doctor announced that my illness has reached a critical stage, this becomes the most difficult and most challenging part of my life. When I was first informed of the news, my first feeling was why did I contract this scary disease? I consider myself a very careful person. How did I get cancer?

But I quickly let go my feelings. I must face the situation. I can not resent myself and others. I must positively face my illness. I continuously encourage myself. I must maintain a stable composure and have confidence in myself.

A lot of people will be negative when told that they have reached the terminal stage of their illness. They will ask "why me?". I didn't. My grieving period was short. I thought about how to arrange for the future of my wife and kids and how to settle things like insurance and housing.

I didn't have time to grieve. I must fight against the disease positively and dauntlessly. But this is not what I can do by myself.

During my illness, the care and concern of all of you has been thousand times more than normal. Normally, you all have been good enough to me. During this illness, I feel even more love. This is so precious.

I am very fortunate. I have a very caring wife, kids, siblings and relatives. They have selflessly helped me get over this period.

My wife has meticulously taken care of me and given me moral support. My children have came back from overseas to visit me. The care and concern of my siblings and friends has given me strength to fight the disease.

I have to thank Dr. Wong who examined me. I wouldn't have known that I had the disease. I also want to thank my good friend, Dr. Chow, who helped to arranged for my treatment at Kuching General Hospital.

Let me convey my heartfelt thanks to everyone again. Your care and support is an incomparable strength to me. Once again and for the last time, I like to say take care to everyone."

Link: Article written by his daughter

1) Reader Ikan Sembilang
2) Bernama, 24 Jan 2006

All pictures submitted by: Ikan Sembilang
Source of all pictures: 小洋


Tuan Lokong said...

Cheers Ikan you must gone through all Tan Sri CSF Album hehehe.. great news for a prominent persons.

I guess we could highlights all those who bring "Star" to Sarikei. Like those sportman Mr. Wong TK for his long achievement in Hammer throw for Malaysia and etc... They deserve it, I guess Daniel will agree. :)

lidasar said...

张乐天 first came to Sarie and started pepper farming before moving to Sarikei to operate a Chinese medical hall but the shop was shifted several time to different location before settling at No.11 Wharf Rd now occupied by 廣興. When Mr.Khoo Peng Loong developed the first two block at Repok Rd right and completed in 1946 the family bought the unit at No.4 Repok Rd and so the business was shifted for the last time from Wharf Rd to Repok Rd. 张乐天 knows Chinese classic literature and that helps in his academic contribution to Kwang Chien 廣建 primary school. In the 1955s you could find him enjoying round of Mahjong at the Cantonese Association. This grandfather would put on a China hat and cycle from his 2nd mile home down to his son's shop at No.4 Repok Rd every morning bringing along Betel leaves to be sold together with slaked lime called Kapo, Tobacco & Betelnut where the customer would chew them to get stimulation. The shop also sold alcohol at 20 cent on a tiny cup to alcoholic who can't miss the beverage, they could drop by a few times a day to get the trill. The shop also sold ice ball where they place a wooden ice-shaver in front of the shop to shave block of ice and using bare hand to cup the ice shaving into a ball before pouring coloured sugar syrup & carnation milk to make this Ice Ball.

The turn of fortune for the family came on the 1962 trip to Singapore while sending the eldest son to England to study law. While in Singapore was introduce the "Three-legs" Brand of medication products by a Hakka friend and returning with the agency of the "Three-legs" brand helps build up a fortune selling headache powder that make of Acetylsalicylic Acid and also other Three-legs brand product such as Rhino horn cooling water. Check out No.4 Repok Rd and see if the sun shade given by Three-legs company is still hanging there. If it is still hanging it is now 45 years old.

Daniel Yiek said...

Tuan Lokong and others,
If anyone knows where Wong Teah Kui (spelling) is, pls link me with him. Happy to feature him and his exploits at SEA Games.

I have updated the post of No. 11 Wharf Road with your 1st sentence.

No 4 Repok Rd is now Kwong Hing 光興 Goldsmith vs No 11 Wharf Rd (Kwong Hing 廣興).

Sarawakiana said...

Well done!! A good article, well researched and with good illustrations.

Young people like you are doing a splendid job.

Keep it up.

Daniel Yiek said...

Credit goes to reader, Ikan Sembilang, who did the research of the pics and newsclips. I just compile, correct the pictures' brightness and write a bit.

I don't know the definition of "young" but I'm really not that young. My picture may look "young". Most importantly, the mind and heart must be young. ;-)

Readership has exceeded 30K hits (I lost 2 days of hits because of Statcounter's datacenter malfunction). I started with less than 10 readers a day as a hobby since blogging was "hot" then and never expected to last this long.

As mentioned before, readers' contribution helps a LOT. This is your home town and heritage.

gaharuman said...


Can someone translate the note left by CSF in Chinese into English??

Kanga said...

A very well presented article. It reminded me of my 'ankle-biter' days wondering in and out of this Chong's family shop at No. 4 Repok Road. It was there I first saw and was facinated by an automatic loading turntable playing vinyl records (some of you readers do know what I am talking about). Time flies but memories of Sarikei remain.

lidasar said...

While the Chong were at No 11 Wharf Rd they were sharing the shop, the other half was Heng Chiong. Heng Chiong is No 6 Repok Rd where as the Chong bought No 4 Repok Rd. So neighbour stay as neighbour.

Heng Chiong stated as a partnership between a young Hokkien from Kapit and a Cantonese at No 11 Wharf Rd. The business were expended to a full shop at No 6 Repok Rd with many additional partners especially the Cantonese, even the Chong was one of the smaller partner. The business was doing well through the years but the partnership can't and so it eventually ended up with the Hokkien family originally from Kapit and understood they are one of the active developer of new shop houses in Sarikei now. So if you have extra cash and want to invest in shop houses in your home town now you got the link.

The shop houses at Wharf Rd and the 1st two blocks at Repok Left were built on 99 years lease hold, they were the oldest in the town. The 1st two block Repok Right where the Chong's shop was located were build on 60 years lease hold and thus this two blocks lease are to be expired soonest. Sarikei's property watch.......haha!

Sim Y said...


Some facts of Wong Tee Kue:

one year junior than us.

He was weel known through arm wrestling in school. He was the strongest at that time despite of his younger age. He has powerful hands. He is a left-hander.

Unbelieveably, I beat him in shotput every time, and sometimes he had asked me for advices.

At one time he wanted to be table tennis player and the way he holds the racket is very unusual.

In 1993, he won the SEA games gold medal of hammer throw in Singapore, and setting a SEA game record of 58.80 meters. I was fortunate to witness the event. He was still able to recognised me.

He has won the SEA games hammer throw 5 times.

Daniel Yiek said...

The translation of the letter into English has been done.

Rollt said...

Very interesting read. I didn't really didn't know that we actually have a Chief Judge from Sarikei.. makes me very proud! I'm sure there's a lot of untapped talents still waiting to spring up!

Tuan Lokong said...


Sim Y had something there for Mr.Wong Tee Kui (I guess the spelling)Will be glad to meet him be back in Sarikei again on 01-07-08 ghess times fly...

gaharuman said...


Many thanks for the translation. A great job!!

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