To understand how independence was gained for a politically complex country such as Malaysia, and how its structure took form requires familiarity with the key players involved. More importantly, only by locating these actors within the changing socio-political context in which they specifically lived does their influence both before and after the birth of the country become clear.
Having written potent biographies about Malaysian and Singapore leaders such as Ismail Abdul Rahman, the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia who died in 1973, Goh Keng Swee, the economic architect and one of the founding fathers of the Republic of Singapore, and Lim Kit Siang, the unwavering opposition leader of Malaysia, Ooi Kee Beng now tells the story of Lee Hau-Shik, based on the latter’s extensive private papers housed at ISEAS Library, Singapore.
Born in Hong Kong to a highly prominent family at a time when the Qing Dynasty was falling, Hau-Shik received degrees in Law and Economics in Cambridge and became a successful tin miner in British Malaya and an influential member of Kuala Lumpur’s colonial society. After the Second World War, his influence in elite circles in China, Britain and Malaya allowed him to play a key role in the gaining of independence for Malaysia. He was one of the founders of the Malayan Chinese Association, and served as the country’s first Minister of Finance.