I am delighted to be invited to officiate this significant and meaningful event of the Second Straits Settlement Forum 2017 for which Penang has been given the privilege to host.
On a personal note, I would like to take this opportunity to wish “Xin Nian Quai Le” and may the year of the Rooster bring happiness and Prosperity. Today, the 11 February is an auspicious day as it marks the fifteenth day of the New Year which brings the celebration to a close.
Coming back to today’s event, I was made to understand that the first Straits Settlement forum was held in Singapore 3 years ago to overwhelming response and for that we now have the second forum for which Penang has been appointed to organize.
It gives me pride to partake in officiating as it forms part of our treasured Malaysian History. History tells us that Parameswara founded Malacca in 1403 and in 1511, the Portuguese captured Malacca, followed by the occupation by the Dutch in 1641. 145 years after the Dutch occupation of Malacca, the British occupied Penang through Capt. Francis Light in 1786. The British who came hoped to establish a military base in Penang but found it unsuitable and gave up the idea of such in 1810.
In 1819, the British gained control of the north and south of Strait of Malacca after Raffles gained control of Singapore. Singapore became an important port for British to trade in China. In 1824, the Dutch and British signed a treaty for whichthe British surrendered Bencoolen Harbour to the Dutch in exchange for the Dutch colony of Malacca. This was in line with the needs of the British in 1826.Singapore, together with Penang and Malacca were referred to as "Straits Settlements" or "San Zhou Fu" governed by the British.
The British was able to foresee the importance of the Straits of Malacca as an international straits and its influence on politics, economy or military in the region was significant.
In 1839, the Qing Dynasty refused to co-operate with the British and the Imperial Envoy Lim Zexu openly burned the confiscated opium at Humen. In 1840, British sent a warship to Southern China through the Straits of Malacca and started the "Opium War" in Southern China. China surrendered Hong Kong to Britain after her defeat. Since then, Britain has monopolised the Indian Ocean, the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea.
British reaped abundant benefits from the imperialism in South East Asia and gained control of Sabah and Sarawak after World War II in 1945. Malaya obtained its independence in 1957 and in 1963 Malaysia was formed.
Throughout the history of Malaya, Penang has produced a few outstanding Peranakan Chinese who for the past 200 years have left a mark in their own rights.The first outstanding Peranakan Chinese was a descendent from the Gu family Gu Hongming. Born in Penang in 1957 he studied oriental and western literature in UK. He translated "Lun Yu", "Zhong Yong" and "Da Xue" into English and was the first Chinese nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was the English Diplomat Secretary of the famous official of Qing Dynasty Zhang Zhidong.
Nextwas the famous Dr Wu Lian Teh. Being born in Penang in 1879,his fame flourished in China for fighting the plague in North East China during the 1911 Revolution. He was also known as the modern Chinese medical pioneer.
Yet another very dear person to Penangites, was no other than the late Dr Lim Chong Eu. He was born in 1919 in Penang and educated in Britain. He joined the salvation work in Chongqing, China for 4 years. Upon his return to Penang, he was actively involved in political activities. He served as the second president of MCA. He was appointed as the second Chief Minister of Penang after his victory in the 1969 general election. During his tenure as Penang’s Chief Minister for 20 years, he transformed Penang to a "Silicon Valley" of the east and known as the world's third largest electronics city.
These three important figures made special contributions to China, their deeds also reflect the uniqueness of the relationship between China and Malaysia.
In view of the above, this forum is very meaningful. I believe that by the close of this forum we will have a better understanding of the "Straits Settlements" and its relationship to the Straits of Malacca and that of Malaysia-China. I hope there will be continuum to this forum and it would be wonderful if Malacca and Fuzhou would look into hosting. This ought-be recorded in Penang’s history in commemoration of the contribution of our great Chinese forefathers in this country. I believe this should also be listed in world history.
Finally, it gives me great pleasure in declaring the Second Straits Settlement Forum Open.