The ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute has launched a new biography authored by Dr Ooi Kee Beng, titled As Empires Fell: The Life and Times of Lee Hau-Shik, the First Finance Minister of Malaya on 27 August 2020.
MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME WEBINAR
Thursday, 27 August 2020 – The ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute launched a new biography titled As Empires Fell: The Life and Times of Lee Hau-Shik, the First Finance Minister of Malaya, at a webinar attended by academics, diplomats, and family members of the late Tun Sir Lee Hau-Shik.
H.S. Lee was born in Hong Kong when the Qing dynasty was gasping its last breath, and came to Malaya in 1924 to assist his father’s tin mining business. H.S. Lee played a critical role during the Second World War in organising Malayan anti-Japanese resistance forces. He co-founded the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) during the post-war era, and played a pivotal role in negotiating an election pact with UMNO which subsequently resulted in the Alliance Party coalition (the predecessor of Barisan Nasional). H.S. Lee was a key member of the delegation to the United Kingdom to negotiate Malaya’s independence. He was the only non-Malay to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1956. H.S. Lee served as Malaya’s first finance Minister, and the Central Bank of Malaya (Bank Negara) was established under his tenure. After H.S. Lee retired from politics in 1959, he founded numerous corporate entities including Development and Commercial Bank. During the course of his career, he also held many leadership positions in government as well as business associations.
Dr Ooi Kee Beng, Executive Director of Penang Institute and Visiting Senior Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, authored As Empires Fell. Dr Ooi has written numerous biographies on key Singaporean and Malaysian political leaders including Dr Goh Keng Swee, Yusof Ishak, Tun Dr Ismail, and Lim Kit Siang.
Dr Ooi argued for the importance of situating H.S. Lee’s life within the broader historical context, from the early 20th century to Japanese Occupation and Malaya’s eventual independence. Dr Ooi argued that readers, when reading the biography of H.S. Lee, would come to a better appreciation about the momentous societal changes and struggles which occurred during that period.
Datuk Thomas Lee, HS Lee’s son, was a discussant at the webinar. He shared his perspective on his father’s life and career. In discussing his father’s traits, he highlighted two in particular. H.S. Lee was a firm believer of a multi-racial Malaya, in a similar vein as Tunku Abdul Rahman. In addition, H.S. Lee had utmost honestly when dealing with public finances.
The webinar was attended by 78 participants from Singapore and abroad.
The index to Lee Hau-Shik’s papers can be accessed via ISEAS Library webpage at this link.