THERE was a fresh feel to Huazong soon after Tan Sri Goh Tian Chuan took over the leadership of the influential national Chinese organisation last month.
Huazong, or the Federation of Chinese Associations in Malaysia, has started issuing media statements in English as well as Chinese since then.
When the organisation was helmed by Tan Sri Pheng Yin Huah, almost all statements were issued in Chinese. Goh, being trilingual (he speaks Chinese, English and Malay well), wants Huazong’s views to reach out to more people in this multiracial country.
An “unknown” to the Chinese communities in Peninsular Malaysia, Goh was heading the Federation of Chinese Associations Sabah when he emerged victor in the Huazong election last month – thanks in part to a hardworking campaign and some “accidental” help from Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng (see story above).
But he was not born in Sabah. Hailing from Melaka, the 58-year-old experienced a tough childhood as his fisherman father died when he was just 13 years old.
Goh studied in Chinese independent school Pay Fong before he joined the Royal Malaysia Police College in Kuala Lumpur. He graduated from the college as an inspector in 1982, and was posted to Kota Kinabalu to work in the Special Branch.
As a police officer in the 1980s, he witnessed historic and turbulent times. Sabah underwent a change in political regime when the Opposition overthrew Barisan Nasional in the 1985 Sabah election.
With 13 years of rigorous police work under his belt, Goh values teamwork and believes in following the chain of command.
“I know the importance of the chain of command, and I can understand that respecting the chair is more important than respecting the person. Hence, if somebody – who may be your junior – sits in the commanding chair, you have to salute him, ” he says.
In 1994, Goh resigned from the police force and ventured into business. He has been involved in a media agency, the gaming and lottery business and timber concessions. In 2007, he merged three listed companies to form Globaltec Formation Bhd.
Globaltec is involved in oil palm plantations, the energy sector and in providing integrated manufacturing services.
Describing himself as “made in Melaka, modified in KL and utilised in Sabah”, the de facto Sabahan says his 37 years in Sabah has shaped his ideas on unity and to value it.
“We can work together, eat together, stay together – respect each other. In Sabah, even among the Chinese, we speak Bahasa Malaysia to each other and we don’t feel strange doing this, ” he elaborates.
A good talker with a humble personality, Goh shares interesting encounters that resulted in pleasant “accidents” in his life and made him a Chinese community leader – he says he became a local Chinese leader in Sabah “by accident”, just as he “accidentally” became Huazong’s president.
Beginning with an involvement in charity work organised by Chinese groups, he became leader of the Federation of Sabah and Labuan Hokkien Associations in 2009 and president of Sabah Huazong in 2012.
Known as a Sabahan community leader, he is a respected personality in China as well, and was invited by Beijing to witness the 70th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Oct 1.
Although heading a prominent Chinese group now, Goh is adamant that a greater understanding and camaraderie should be promoted among different races. He plans to take Huazong state leaders to visit associations representing other races.
“What I am trying to emphasise is that even though I represent the Chinese community, I want all to feel we are Malaysian, ” he says.
Though he displays confidence, there is a sense of humility and sincerity about him – especially when he reveals he had originally wanted to vie for Huazong’s deputy presidency.
The road ahead for the new national Chinese community leader in a multiracial society is not going to be easy, he admits: “The Huazong president shoulders a very heavy task. But I will try my best, and I will perform my duties and responsibility very seriously.”