Two King’s-Chinese Knights: Sir Ong-Siang Song and Sir Cheng-Lock Tan

Heritage of Malaysia and Singapore Seminar Series

About the Seminar

Song Ong Siang and Tan Cheng Lock, as Straits Chinese leaders, formed part of the colonial establishment of British Malaya, but they were also bridge-builders between the British and their Peranakan community and the wider society. There are interesting comparisons and contrasts between these two leaders. Apart from his civic contributions, Song wrote a landmark history of the Straits Chinese for the centennial of the founding of colonial Singapore. Tan was the founder of the Malayan Chinese Association which allied with other parties to achieve Merdeka for Malaya in 1957. Their contributions will be analysed from a historical perspective by a scholar with family links with both men.

The seminar is supported by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and co-hosted by Penang Institute.

About the Speaker

Dr Ernest Chew is an Associate Senior Fellow of ISEAS.  He graduated with BA Hons from the University of Singapore, where he researched for an MA on Sir Frank Swettenham. His Ph.D dissertation for Cambridge was on the British-Indian administrator Sir Alfred Lyall, the making of an official mind. He was on the faculty of the University of Singapore/NUS for 40 years, serving as Head of the History Department (1983-92), and Dean of Arts and Social Sciences (1991-97).  He was also Chairman of the Oral History Advisory Committee and the Singapore History Museum (now NMS).  He currently serves as Vice-Chairman of St. Luke’s Hospital, and Vice-President of the Bible Society of Singapore.

About the Discussant

Dato’ Dr Ooi Kee Beng is the Executive Director of Penang Institute. He is also Visiting Senior Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute where he was Deputy Director in 2011-2017. He has been writing on Malaysian politics and on nation-building in Asia over the last two decades. He is a prolific author, especially of biographies on political figures such as Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, Dr Goh Keng Swee, Yusof Ishak, Lim Kit Siang and Tun Lee Hau-Shik (forthcoming, ISEAS Publications).


For registration, please click here. Registration closes on 30 August 2019.



Sep 03 2019


3:00 pm - 4:30 pm


ISEAS Seminar Room 2