STEP into the Khoo Kongsi and the rows of gold-co-loured plaques bearing the names of prominent Khoo clansmen immediately catch your attention.
The plaques date back to the early years of the clan’s esta-blishment about a century ago and one cannot help but be cu-rious about the achievements of these great men.
Surely it was more than coincidence that gave rise to these prominent leaders who have gone on to inspire not only fellow clansmen but also the community to excel in their respective fields.
While the Khoo Kongsi was initially set up by early Chinese immigrants to protect the inte-rest of the clan, its members have gone on to contribute to the development of the state’s education, business and political spheres.
To discover the secret behind the success of Khoo clansmen who are among the state’s most respected leaders and philanthropists, StarMetro caught up with former state executive councillor and Khoo Kongsi president Tan Sri Khoo Kay Por, advocate and solicitor and Khoo Kongsi vice-president Datuk Seri Khoo Keat Siew, Lions Club International district governor and fright forwarding entrepreneur Datuk Khoo Kay Huat and former assemblyman and hou-sing developer Khoo Teng Chye.
Kay Por, 75, who was once ac-ting Chief Minister when Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu went on leave, believes his political and perso-nal successes can be attributed to his attitude.
“I have always given my best in everything that I do. I was never an exemplary student but I worked very hard and was very sincere. I suppose that was what got me here today.
“Even as a young basketball player, I remember going the extra mile to prove myself. I used to run along the sandy Gurney Drive stretch at 3am every day to improve my stamina. And in the end, I was chosen to represent the country at se-veral international basketball tournaments,” he said.
It was also Kay Por’s diligence and honesty that gained him the respect of the community and his peers in the dog-eat-dog world of politics.
“I never had to rely on propaganda. People saw how hard I worked and they were happy with the end results.
“I started my career as a bank clerk earning about RM88.50 a month – that was back in 1951. My father’s businesses collap- sed and I had to get a job. I worked my way up from the bottom but I had initiative, drive and a very understanding family.
“For more than 30 years, I was a state executive councillor and in 1983, I was asked to represent Malaysia at the United Nations General Assembly in New York where I spoke about independence of the media.
“That was my proudest mo-ment to date and even though I have been conferred the tiles ‘Tan Sri’ and ‘Datuk Seri’, my friends still call me by name. A title is just a title – what is im-portant is that you are honest in all your undertakings,” he said.
Keat Siew may be 76-year-old this year but he is still one of the most active figures in charity today.
Presiding the Penang Ches-hire Home, chairing the Penang State Chinese Association and being a founder of Befrienders Penang are just some of his credentials.
“I am on the board of trustees of so many associations and temples and am involved in va-rious causes that even I cannot remember all of them,” he jok-ed, adding that what was im-portant was “to get things done.”
“I may not be able to rattle off all the positions I hold but whenever I am approached to help any one of these associations, I make sure I do everything I can to assist,” he said.
Citing his grandfather Cheow Teong, and father Sian Ewe, as role models, Keat Siew says he intends to continue contribu-ting to the clan and society.
“Like all Khoo clansmen, I was taught at an early age about Confucianism. Values like filial piety, respect for the elders, empathy, loyalty and responsibility are instilled in us at a young age.
“The Khoo Kongsi is part of society. The fellowship and so-lidarity we share extend to everyone around us. As a Khoo myself, I am very proud of how my fellow clansmen have gone on to carry on the good works of our forefathers.
“When our ancestors came here, they came with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Today, no one can deny that the Khoo clan has played a significant role in the state’s social and economic development.”
True to his humble nature, Keat Siew said he was appreciative of being made a ‘Datuk Seri’ but it is when people come up to him to express their gratitude that he feels most proud.
“Some years ago, an anonymous caller got in touch with me to thank me for establishing Befrienders. He wanted to commit suicide by jumping off the bridge but we were able to help him. I don’t know how he trac-ked me but I was so happy that in one way or another, I was able to save a life,” he said.
As a director of the coun- try’s pioneer multiple transport mode cargo transporter, Kay Huat, 57, still makes time to ac-tively participate in charitable events under the Lions Club.
“We were among the first few freight forwarding companies in Malaysia to provide door-to-door delivery almost 20 years ago.
“Nowadays, I leave the running of the company’s daily operations to my team. I basically oversee the planning and business strategies. Since I was elected Lions Club International district governor this year, I am concentrating on my duties to the organisation,” he said.
Kay Huat, who now runs a thriving international set up, admitted that he was a ‘playful student’.
“I have always wanted to be a leader – even back in my scouting days in Penang Free School. So naturally when it comes to business and life, I strive to leave a mark. I have been very fortunate and I believe that it is my duty to give back to the community,” he said.
Former assemblyman Teng Chye said there are also many prominent Khoo clansmen all over the region.
“Members of the Khoo clan arrived in Penang even before Captain Francis Light. The tomb of our clansman, Khoo Mo Ling dates back to 1775. So you see, we are very much a part of the state’s history and we will continue to contribute to the future growth of Penang.
“Many of our clansmen have held important positions in the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce, so when it comes to business, we are very active.
“Even in education, we have played our part with the establishment of SJK(C) Sin Kang,” he said.
This coming Dec 18, the 171-year-old Khoo Kongsi will celebrate the centenary of its landmark temple, a popular tourist attraction, built in 1906.