THE first thing that Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee did upon learning of his appointment as Penang’s first Chief Minister was to drive straight to St Anne’s Church in Bukit Mertajam.
According to his son Tet Phin, his father then broke the news to Thomas Chin, a parish priest at the church and chairman of Kim Sen School’s board of management.
Pow Nee told the priest: “I am excited yet confused. I have been dealing with innocent children and now I have to run a government. It is certainly a heavy responsibility.”
But Chin reassured Pow Nee not to be unduly worried, saying “God will help you. Be honest and help the people and the country.”
Tet Phin related the tale during his speech at a Talking Books session held at George Town World Heritage Incorporated premises in Lebuh Acheh on Saturday.
He is the co-author of ‘Unsung Patriot: Wong Pow Nee’ with Penang Institute research analyst Koay Su Lyn.
It took Tet Phin and Koay about seven years to compile pictures with other pieces of information and an additional year to complete the 336-page soft cover book.
It was launched at the Chinese Recreation Club recently, in a ceremony attended by friends, family members and former associates of the late Pow Nee as well as former politicians.
Pow Nee was born in 1911 and served in the state’s highest office from 1957 to 1969, and then as Malaysian ambassador to Italy from 1970 to 1975.
He passed away in 2002.
Tet Phin said his late father was most moved by the honour accorded to him to proclaim independence of the country in Penang on Aug 31, 1957.
He added that his father, who became a student of St Xavier’s Institution in 1926, would recall that just getting to the school from Bukit Mertajam each day was a tough task.
“He had to wake up at 4.30am every morning to catch the 5.30am train to Prai where the train terminal was located in those days,” said Tet Phin.
“He would reach school at about 6.45am.
“After school was over, he would take the same route and reach home at about 6pm.
“In spite of the long days, he still managed to find time to play football for the school and play the clarinet and the saxophone with the Li Tek Seah Band.
“Such was his tenacity and determinationin dealing with adversity in life,” recalled Tet Phin.