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Tuesday July 21, 2009
By LEE YUK PENG
KUALA LUMPUR: Pang Siew Fian, the first woman to helm the Federation of Hainan Association Malaysia until a month ago, still believes that the federation needs to rebrand itself to stay relevant, especially with the younger generation.
Although she did not have time to realise this plan ‑ she was president for only one term ‑ Pang is determined to soldier on by setting up co-operatives to give youth new business opportunities.
The 68-year-old Pang who is an English-educated lawyer lost to her old rival Datuk S.H. Foo at the federation’s elections last month.
Pang told The Star that even political parties are going for rebranding now.
“Most Chinese clan associations are nearly a century old and may not be able to survive if they remain in their old form,” she said.
“If we do not change, we may cease to exist,” Pang cautioned while pointing out that setting up co-operatives to help young members go into business could be a way out for these associations.
“Co-operatives are the fourth engine of growth and the Government is promoting it. It also fits into the concept of our association, which is, together we prosper and survive.”
Pang who is now the Treasurer of the Malacca Hainan Association, believes in walking the talk.
She started Koperasi AgroHainan Melaka to venture into agriculture and its first project, mushroom farming, is already in production.
Her next plan is to venture into swiftlet farming and orchard and leeches farming in Malim near Malacca.
She has also helped set up Koperasi Kg Hainan Melaka, Koperasi Jayamuda for the youth wing of Malacca Hainan Association as well as those from Manjong in Perak and Kluang and Segamat in Johor.
In addition, she also helped the Kudat Hainan Association in setting up Koperasi Agro Pelancongan Indah in Sabah.
The financial scandals in the 1980s involving co-operatives has not dampened her enthusiasm as she sees co-operatives as an effective way to rejuvenate clan associations apart from the usual annual dinners, root-searching trips, karaoke sessions, cooking classes, dancing and mahjong sessions.
“On one hand, non-profit organisations always face problems like shortage of funds while on the other hand, the younger generation can no longer relate to annual fund-raising dinners,” she observed.
“By pooling our manpower and financial resources together to venture into business, especially in agriculture and eco-farming, we can achieve self sufficiency in a most ideal and effective way.
“Through the co-operatives, the younger generation of Hainanese will be able to find their niche and play their role in economic development and as such, it will attract the young to join the association,” she added.
Pang joined the Malacca Hainan Association as its legal adviser in 1972 and became the first woman to lead the association in 1991.
Two years ago, she scored another first to become the first woman to lead the 74-year-old federation.
The second daughter of a Hainanese coffeeshop owner, Pang was a teacher before she opted to study law.
She admitted that her clan members supported her and gave her all the business when she opened her first legal firm.
Her involvement with the Hainanese association is her way of paying them back.
Before she went for the top post of the federation in 2007, she served as the deputy president for 14 years to three presidents — Quek Suan Hiang, Datuk Teo Ah Kiang and Chiang Jwee Min.
On June 27, she lost to Foo, a former Malaysian Trade Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, with a mere 20 votes in a three-corner fight.
She polled 124 votes while Foo polled 144 votes and Datuk Woo Ser Chai, the chief executive officer of Clara International, garnered 15 votes.
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