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  Tan Siew Sin
         
 
 
Tun Tan Siew Sin was born in Melaka on May 21, 1916. He hailed from a family whose toots reached back to the times of the first Chinese in Malacca. Thus Siew Sin understood the Malays and spoke fluent Malay. His parents were Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Yeo Yeok Neo. His father sent him to a Girls’ School, that is Suydaim Girls’ School which is now the Methodist High School. This was due to his father who thought him incorrigible. He feared Siew Sin’s being placed in a boys’ school would increane his robutstness and find him in mischief.
 
     
 
However, Siew Sin was an intelligent student and always excelled in his studies and examinations. He continued his education at Raffles College in Singapore where he was very active in sports and was in the College’s hockey team. At the age of nineteen, he felt ill and was diagnosed as having tuberculosis. He was sent to Switzerland for treatment and he fully recovered after an operation.

 
 
In 1938, he continued his education in the field of law in England and graduated with First Class Honour. However the Second World War broke out and he was forced to return to Malaya. Upon his return to Malaysia, he worked in his father’s estate as a supervisor. His father wanted him to learn how to manage an estate. When the Second World War broke out, the Japanese Army invaded Malaya. The Japanese Army crushed whatever little opposition the Malayans and British could master. Tun Tan Cheng Lock and other prominent pro-British Chinese felt that the only way they could best serve the long-term interests of Malaya was by leaving the country for India.

 
 
While Siew Sin was in India, he applied for a job with the Ministry of Economic Warfare. His job required him to travel all over India. It was at this time that he witnessed the suffering of the people of India under the British rule. He also witnessed the struggle of national leaders such as Gandhi and Nehru. When the war ended in 1945, Siew Sin’s family returned to Malaya. Upon his return, he helped in his family’s business. In the mean time, he began to take an interest in politics and wanted to be actively involved in politics. However, his father felt that Siew Sin was too young to be involved in politics and wanted him to concentrate on the family’s business.

 
 
He married Lim Cheng Neo on February 8, 1947 and had three daughters. In 1948, he was appointed as a Member of the Federal Legislature. At the same time, he was also active in other activities such as the President of the Malacca’s Rotary Club. During this time, the communists were very active and causing a lot of upheavel in Malaya. They would killed anyone who were closed to the British. Thus the communist focussed their attention on Siew Sin’s family. His father, Tun Tan Cheng Lock was nearly killed when the communists threw a bomb into the the Perak Chamber of Commerce Chinese Assembly Hall while he was delivering a speech.

 
 
Siew Sin was active in the Independence Malaya Party (IMP) founded by Datuk Onn Jaafar. IMP took part in the General Election in 1952 but only managed to win one seat out of the twelve seats contested. The General Election was won by the Alliance Party, which was an alliance between UMNO and MCA. Thus it proved that IMP did not get the support of the people. Not long after, Siew Sin get to know the leaders of UMNO such as Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Dr. Ismail. Therefore, two years later, he joined the Alliance Party. He became the Honorary Treasurer of the Alliance Party from 1958 till 1965. In 1956, the British agreed to grant independence to Malaysia. At that time, Siew Sin proposed to the leaders of UMNO that non- Malays were given citizenship. The proposal was accepted after several discussion with the leaders of UMNO.

 
 
Siew Sin proved to be a capable leader and he was appointed the Minister of Commerce and Industry by Tunku Abdul Rahman several months before independence. He was later on appointed as the Finance Minister in 1959 which he held for 15 years. As Minister of Finance, he has led the Malaysian Delegation to the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. He was made Chairman of Electoral Review Commission for Seychelles and was the first foreigner in British history to be made chairman of a constitutional commission. He was also chairman of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association from 1970 till 1971. When Tun Tan Cheng Lock passed away in 1960, Siew Sin took over as the President of Malayan Chinese Association (MCA).

 
 
Siew Sin retired as Minister of Finance in 1974 due to ill health. He was later appointed as the Financial Adviser to the Government of Malaysia. He held that post until he passed away on 18 March, 1988.

 
 

 

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