Tan Tong Hye



Tan Tong Hye (Tan Sri) (b. 31 October 1914, Singapore–d. 3 November 1985, Malaysia1), better known as T. H. Tan, was a Singapore-born journalist and politician who became the secretary of the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) in 1954 and served as the first honorary secretary-general of the Alliance Party in Malaya until 1971. He was part of the three-man team (along with Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak) who took part in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO)-MCA Alliance delegation to London in 1954 to demand for an effective elected majority in the Federal Legislative Council of Malaya. Tan changed his name to Mohamed Tahir in 1972 after converting to Islam.

Early life
Tan attended St Joseph’s Institution and Raffles Institution in Singapore. At the latter, he was a contributor to the school magazine, The Rafflesian, setting him on the path to journalism.2

Career
Journalism

After his Senior Cambridge Examination, Tan joined the Malaya Tribune as a cub reporter in 1933.3 There he was acquainted with the then chairman of the newspaper, Tan Cheng Lock, who later became his friend, mentor, and comrade in the pursuit of Malaya’s independence. Tan rose quickly through the ranks, soon becoming a subeditor and then editor of the Sunday Tribune. He subsequently joined The Straits Times group and became one of the leading writers of The Singapore Free Press and night editor of The Sunday Times.4

During the Japanese Occupation (1942–45), Tan and his colleagues organised a news service for the Commonwealth prisoners of war at the Sime Road Camp and Changi Prison.5 After the war, Tan left The Straits Times company to join the Singapore edition of the Tiger Standard, the paper established by Aw Boon Haw.6 However, due to differences in opinion with Aw, Tan resigned from the paper in the early 1950s.7

Politics
In 1953, Tan join the MCA as its chief executive secretary.8 In May the following year, an UMNO-MCA Alliance delegation comprising Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and Tan arrived in London to demand for an effective elected majority in the new Federal Legislative Council.9 The MCA president, Tan Cheng Lock, did not attend the talk as he would not travel by air,10 though he had authorised Tan to represent him. For the trip, Tan was instructed by the MCA to hand over a memorandum issued by the MCA and Chinese educational bodies opposing colonial education policy to the British undersecretary of state for colonies, Oliver Lyttelton.11 However, Tan did not hand over the memorandum as he felt that the delegation should speak in one voice to the British colonials.12

The mission failed, leading the Alliance leaders to push for a boycott of the Federal Legislative Council and other bodies to put further pressure on the British government to accede to the Alliance’s terms for independence.13 The boycott lasted three weeks and ended when the high commissioner agreed to consult the leader of the majority party on the filling of five of the seven nominated seats in the Federal Legislative Council.14

Shortly after, the Alliance became a political party known as the Alliance Party.15 Tan served as the party’s secretary general until his retirement from politics in 1971.16

Business
Other than the field of politics, Tan also had substantial accomplishments as a businessman, playing a key role in the formation of Malaya’s first integrated multimillion dollar steel mill, Malayawata.17 He also served as chairman and board member of many Malaysian companies. Other roles he held included president of Malaysian Manufacturers Association,18 leader of the Selangor and All-Malaya Chinese Chambers of Commerce19 and president of the Malaysian Leprosy Relief Association.20


Personal life
Born a Buddhist, Tan had been decorated by the Thai government for his services to the religion in 1961.21 In 1972, he converted to Islam and was given his Muslim name, Mohamed Tahir, by Tun Abdul Razak.22

Awards
The government of Malaysia awarded Tan the Johan Mangku Negara and later the Panglima Mangku Negara, which gave him of the honorific of Tan Sri, for his services to the country.23



Author
Hee En Ming



References
1.
Veteran Malaysian politician dies. (1985, November 6). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2.
Tan, T. H. (1979). The prince and I. Singapore: Sam Boyd Enterprise, p. vii. .(Call No.: RSING 320.9595 TAN)
3.
Morais, J. (1974). Who’s who in Malaysia and guide to Singapore, 1973–1974. Kuala Lumpur: J. V. Morais, p. 343. (Call no.: RCLOS 920.0595 WWM)
4.
Tan, T. H. (1979). The prince and I. Singapore] Sam Boyd Enterprise, p vii. (Call no.: RSING 320.9595 TAN)
5.
Tan, T. H. (1979). The prince and I. Singapore: Sam Boyd Enterprise, p viii. (Call no.: RSING 320.9595 TAN)
6.
Lee hits back at ‘miracle man’ senator. (1963, May 20). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7.
Tan, T. H. (1979). The prince and I. Singapore: Sam Boyd Enterprise, p. viii. (Call no.: RSING 320.9595 TAN)
8.
Morais, J. (1974). Who’s who in Malaysia and guide to Singapore, 1973–1974. Kuala Lumpur: J. V. Morais, p. 343. (Call no.: RCLOS 920.0595 WWM)
9. Ongkili, J. P. (1985). Nation-building in Malaysia 1946–1974. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 115. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 ONG)
10.
MCA leader won’t fly to London. (1954, April 26). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11.
Alliance sees Lyttelton. (1954, May 15). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12.
Tan, T. H. (1979). The prince and I. Singapore: Sam Boyd Enterprise, p. 178. (Call no.: RSING 320.9595 TAN)
13.
Boycott is road to chaos. (1954, June 28). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14.
The end of boycott. (1954, July 8). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15.
Brief facts. (1988, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16.
Tan Sri Tan bows out of Alliance scene. (1971, May 13). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17.
Gigantic steel mill costs soars. (1962, July 27). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18.
Morais, J. (1974). Who’s who in Malaysia and guide to Singapore, 1973–1974. Kuala Lumpur: J. V. Morais, p. 343. (Call no.: RCLOS 920.0595 WWM)
19.
Tan is new Chamber president. (1965, July 10). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20.
MaLRA: Five-year battle against prejudice. (1965, January 31). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21.
King honours 240. (1964, June 3). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22.
Tan, T. H. (1979). The prince and I. Singapore: Sam Boyd Enterprise, p. x. (Call no.: RSING 320.9595 TAN)
23.
Tan, T. H. (1979). The prince and I. Singapore: Sam Boyd Enterprise, p. x. (Call no.: RSING 320.9595 TAN)



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources.  It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Tan, Tong Hye, 1914-
Politicians--Malaysia--Malaya--Biography
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Malaysia
Politicians
Personalities>>Biographies>>Political Leaders

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