𝐃𝐢𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐉𝐚𝐥𝐚𝐧 𝐇𝐞𝐚𝐡 𝐉𝐨𝐨 𝐒𝐞𝐚𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧 𝐓𝐚𝐧𝐣𝐮𝐧𝐠 𝐁𝐮𝐧𝐠𝐚𝐡 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐧𝐚𝐦𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐟𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐫𝐮𝐛𝐛𝐞𝐫 𝐦𝐚𝐠𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐩𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐡𝐫𝐨𝐩𝐢𝐬𝐭 𝐇𝐞𝐚𝐡 𝐉𝐨𝐨 𝐒𝐞𝐚𝐧𝐠?
𝐼𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔𝑙𝑦, 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝ℎ𝑖𝑙𝑎𝑛𝑡ℎ𝑟𝑜𝑝𝑖𝑠𝑡 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝑎𝑙𝑠𝑜 𝑘𝑛𝑜𝑤𝑛 𝑎𝑠 𝑎 "𝑑𝑜𝑢𝑏𝑙𝑒-ℎ𝑒𝑎𝑑𝑒𝑑 𝑠𝑛𝑎𝑘𝑒" 𝑓𝑜𝑟 ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑟𝑜𝑙𝑒 𝑑𝑢𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐽𝑎𝑝𝑎𝑛𝑒𝑠𝑒 𝑜𝑐𝑐𝑢𝑝𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛.
Heah Joo Seang was a controversial figure. To some, he was the patron of sports and schools in Penang, having contributed quite a substantial amount of money to build schools and sporting centres. Most notably, Heah donated $50,000 to Penang Chinese Swimming Club Building Fund, in addition to an interest-free loan for $120,000 for the purchase of a three-acre site at Tanjong Bungah and also $25,000 to the St. Xavier's building fund in 1953. But many came to regard Heah as a “double-headed snake”, a traitor to his race.
Prior to the second world war, Heah continued as the local agent of a Japanese shipping line, amidst the growing calls to boycott Japanese products by the local Chinese community. Then, during the Japanese Occupation, Heah was made the Chairman of the Chinese Peace Preservation Committee, and was responsible for the unpopular $7 million “voluntary” contribution, the Grow-More-Food Scheme in Province Wellesley and the “Kinrohoshitai” in general. Heah was reviled as a “double-headed snake“ for his “Japanese-friendly” stance. The Japanese remained in occupation until their surrender to the Allies in 1945. After the war, Heah claimed all the rubber that the Japanese had left behind, and he became a millionaire overnight.
His reputation was marred by this, though his past did not stand in the way of his eventually becoming the President of Penang Malayan Chinese Association (MCA), an office he held until his death. He also played an important role in The Reid Commission, an independent commission responsible for drafting the Constitution of the Federation of Malaya prior to Malayan independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on 31 August 1957. Heah’s reputation was redeemed and he became a well-respected leader.
𝐃𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐡 Heah, who was in England to undergo a throat surgery, died in a London hospital on May 14, 1962. Heah’s death was a big loss to the nation, as he played a vital role in leading the MCA and Alliance Party at that time.
𝐀𝐜𝐜𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐂𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐞 𝐜𝐮𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐦𝐬, 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐛𝐨𝐝𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐚 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐨𝐧 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐝𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐮𝐭𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐛𝐞 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐧 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐬𝐞 (𝐢𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐚𝐝 𝐥𝐮𝐜𝐤), 𝐬𝐨 𝐢𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐝𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐥𝐲 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐇𝐞𝐚𝐡 𝐦𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐛𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐞𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐯𝐞, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐨𝐧𝐥𝐲 𝐛𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐜𝐥𝐚𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐝 𝐝𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐚𝐟𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐡𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐝 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞, which was Goodwood Mansion at Jalan Macalister (presently the Che Hoon Khor Moral Uplifting Society).
So, upon the arrival of his body at Bayan Lepas Airport, he was welcomed by 5,000 "well-wishers", MCA Tan Siew Sin, and Tengku Abdul Rahman, among others. There was no mourning at the airport and people were told not to cry, sob, or wee. No one was wearing black. The coffin was then brought to Goodwood and only then he was proclaimed dead. Heah’s body lay in state at Goodwood until the funeral, which saw some 50,000 mourners lined an eight-mile route to pay their last respect to the leader.
Sources: Chua, Ai-Lin (2008) 'Imperial Subjects, Straits Citizens: Anglophone Asians and the Struggle for Political Rights in Inter-War Singapore' in Paths Not Taken: Political Pluralism in Post-War Singapore, eds Michael D. Barr and Carl A. Trocki, Singapore: NUS Press. Historical Personalities of Penang (1986). Penang: Phoenix Press. [HPP] Lee Kam Hing and Chow Mun Seong (2007) Biographical Dictionary of the Chinese in Malaysia. Selangor: Pelanduk Publication. [Lee & Chow] Yoshihara, Kunio (1988) The rise of ersatz capitalism in South-East Asia, London: Oxford University Press Ong Mei Lin, Pamela (2014) Fortitude: The life and times of Heah Joo Seang, Singapore: Straits Times Press