Dato’ Oon Choo Eng @ Oon Choo Khye

Directing, driving and supporting the important private and national-type schools, sports associations and not-for-profit healthcare facilities in Malaysia are men and women who selflessly devote their personal time and resources.

Most do so by being advisors to and being on the board of directors and many assume the post after decades of hard work at their own businesses or professions. At the time others retire to a time of leisure, they work passionately to serve society.

Dato’ Oon Choo Eng

Dato’ Oon Choo Khye being conferred the Tokoh Merdeka (2011)

Many serve on multiple boards and thus contribute a major part of their personal time and resources; in doing so, they help to relief the suffering of the aged and ill and groom the leaders of tomorrow. We are proud and honored to introduce in this essay one such person – a Penangite named Dato’ Oon Choo Eng @ Oon Choo Khye.

In 1954, a young Choo Khye started his working life as a teacher. His salary was RM 148 (USD 33) per month. Of this humble sum, Choo Khye gave RM 60 each month to his mother and yet he not only had enough spending money, he even managed to save some. As the teaching post was located outside of Penang, he left teaching in 1958 to work as a reporter (subsequently promoted to Chief reporter) for the Sin Pin Yit Poh newspaper company in Penang. In 1975, Choo Khye joined another paper, the Kwang Wah Yit Poh, as a manager. Twenty-five years later (2000), Dato’ Oon Choo Khye retired with the title of Managing Director. In all, Dato’ Oon spent more than forty years in the newspaper business. (Kwong Wah Yit Poh is one of the leading Chinese newspapers of Malaysia).

Dato’ Oon Choo Khye was conferred the Darjah Setia Pangkuan Negeri (DSPN) by the governor of Penang in 1994; the award carries the title of Dato’. Dato’ Oon Choo Khye was also conferred the Tokoh Merdeka in 2011.

My colleague Anna Ong and I had a pleasant afternoon’s chat with Dato’ Oon recently and we would like to share some of the interesting stories he told us.

Dato’ Oon Choo Eng

Early 1970’s, Penang airport, Choo Khye leaving for a reporting assignment in Hong Kong

“In the 1960’s when I was a reporter at Sin Pin Yit Poh, I used to go for coffee at a shop where Tan Sri Loh Boon Siew (then the sole Malaysia distributor of Honda motorcycles) also frequents. Tan Sri Loh would invite familiar faces at the coffee shop to join him and when he brought in the first batch of forty Honda Cubs, I bought one from him (for RM 700). At that time many were wary of the reliability of Japanese made motorcycles but my Cub never let me down. After I left Sin Pin Yit Poh, Tan Sri Loh (having bought the Kwang Wah Yit Poh newspaper company) invited me to manage his newspaper.” :- Dato’ Oon

When a reporter, Dato’ Oon, like other reporters, would rush to report on events; the need to rush was the need to be one of the firsts on the scene and therefore score a scoop for the paper. The public would phone the newspaper’s office on breaking news, and outside office hours, the office would phone Dato’ Oon at his home. He would on most occasions then ride his Honda Cub (all of 50 cc capacity) to where the news was breaking. Many times the call would come at night – Dato’ Oon recalls that on one very late night ride to Kuala Perlis (a three hour ride after a long day at work and upon receiving a call at home), he almost became the news himself when from tiredness he almost rode his Cub into a river!

On another occasion, during a riot, the reporters were doing their job covering a fight when the police started shooting. A stray shot hit the headlamp of a reporter’s (Dato’ Oon’s colleague’s) motorcycle (also a Cub) and totally damaged the lamp.

And we were told of an incident when Dato’ Oon and some his colleagues were caught in the middle of a knife fight between two rival clans of fisher-folk. Both sides mistook them for their respective rivals! The reporters wisely held their cameras up high in the air to identify themselves; realizing their mistake, each clan gave the reporters a gift – one side gave fish and the other a gunny sack full of “see-hum” (clams). Dato’ Oon joked “Try eating a sack-full of clams!”

But it was not all work and adventure-at-work for the young Choo Khye. He was very active in sports and a keen and capable basketball player. Choo Khye played basketball for the Penang state team and Penang was four times Malaysia champion when Dato’ Oon was in the team.(Other than playing the game, Dato’ Oon was a basketball coach for the Residensi School in Penang.)

Until today, Dato’ Oon is still active in sports; he is an advisor to Penang’s Volleyball & Basketball Associations.

Dato’ Oon encourages the youth of today to utilize spare time in extracurricular activities like sports, the various societies available in school and to participate in team events. “Do not mix with people with bad influences, definitely stay away from drugs” :- Dato’ Oon.

Dato’ Oon notes that Penang’s strength is its very strong networking culture. In both personal and professional times of need, Penangites get-together to support and to encourage.

Parting words from Dato’ Oon :- “If a deed is good, perform more of it. If a deed is bad or harmful, avoid it”.

Dato’ Oon Choo Eng

Dato’ Oon Choo Khye (2017)

Dato’ Oon sees good in giving back to society; born in 1936, Dato’ Oon is today Secretary, Advisor, Chairman, Director and Board member of a series of schools, healthcare providers and sports associations.

Dato’ Oon Choo Eng @ Oon Choo Khye – Thank you.

Posts Held Since retirement from Kwong Wah Yit Poh as Managing Director (2000)

 Education

School Post
Chung Ling High School, Penang Island and Butterworth (National & Private) Advisor
Union High School & Union Primary School Penang (Primary & Secondary) Trustee
SJK (C) Phei Shin, Penang Honorary Secretary
Penang Chinese Girls School
(Primary, High School and Private School)
on the Board of Directors
Healthcare Post
Lam Wah Ee Hospital, Penang on the Board of Directors
The Penang Home for the Infirm and Aged, Penang Advisor
Industry Post
D’nonce Director (Retired)
Howe Keat Sdn Bhd Chairman
Sports Post
Penang Volleyball Association Advisor
Penang Basketball Association Advisor

by Chan Hock Aun
January, 2017