Wong Pow Nee

Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri
Wong Pow Nee
1st Chief Minister of Penang
In office
31 August 1957  12 May 1969
Preceded by Inaugural holder
Succeeded by Lim Chong Eu
Personal details
Born Wong Pow Nee
7 October 1911
Bukit Mertajam, Penang, Straits Settlements
Died 31 August 2002(2002-08-31) (aged 90)
George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Citizenship Malaysian
Political party Malaysian Chinese Association
Occupation Politician

Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee (7 October 1911 – 31 August 2002) was a Malaysian politician and diplomat. He was Penang's first Chief Minister,[1] serving from 1957 to 1969 and Malaysia's first Ambassador to Rome.[2]

Early history

He was born in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, the son of Cecilia Foo and Wong Ee Chin, a hardworking Hakka timber merchant and building developer of the Catholic faith.[1][3][4][5]

Young Wong Pow Nee was educated first at the Chinese Jit Sin Primary School then the Anglo-Chinese School and after that at St. Xavier's Institution from which he graduated in 1933.[3]

Instead of pursuing further studies abroad, Wong Pow Nee went to work as a clerk at the Bukit Mertajam Catholic Benevolent Society. In 1935, he took up a clerical position with the Sin Ban Guan Bus Company, but the company folded not long after and Wong Pow Nee embarked on a very different career. Between 1937 and 1941 he taught English at St. Mary's Mission School at Permatang Tinggi. In 1945 he taught English at Kim Sen Primary School in Bukit Mertajam. At the same time he enrolled in a Teachers Training Course from which he graduated in 1947.[1][3][4]

Politics and public service

In 1954 he stood for elections in the first Bukit Mertajam Town Council elections, having reluctantly accepted the nomination of villagers who insisted on being represented by him. He won a seat on the Council under Dr. Lim Chong Eu's Radical Party, formed earlier in 1951.[3] In 1955, together with Dr. Lim Chong Eu, he joined the Malayan Chinese Association following the bad defeat of the Penang Radical Party which was defeated by the newly formed Alliance,[4][6] and was re-elected to the Council under the Alliance party,[3] after having successfully campaigned against independent candidate Dr. M. P. L. Yegappan.[4]

In 1957 he was appointed Chief Minister of Penang and delivered, before the large crowd gathered there, the Proclamation of Independence at Esplanade on 31 August, after Tengku Abdul Rahman had done the same in Kuala Lumpur.[1][3]

He was a member of the Cobbold Commission formed in 1962 that ascertained the views of residents in Sabah (then North Borneo) and Sarawak about joining the Federation of Malaysia preparing the framework for the eventual incorporation of Sabah and Sarawak in 1963.[3][4] Lord Cobbold headed the Commission. Other members of the Commission assisting him, together with Wong Pow Nee, were Tan Sri Ghazali Shafiee, Sir Anthony Abell and Sir David Watherston. The result of their work was the Cobbold Commission Report 1962.[7] Proudly he read out the proclamation of the formation of Malaysia at the Esplanade, at George Town in 1963[1]

In 1969 he failed in his bid to retain the Bukit Mertajam seat and was defeated by Gerakan candidate Dato Ooh Chooi Cheng (Chinese: 余水清; pinyin: Yú Shuǐqīng).[4] He suffered a heart attack in December that year but recovered well enough to continue his service to King and country.[8]

In May 1970 he officially handed over the reins of leadership of the Penang Coalition to Tengku Abdul Rahman.[9]

After relinquishing the position of Chief Minister of Penang Wong Pow Nee served as Malaysian Ambassador to Italy between 1970 and 1975.[4]


Wong died on Merdeka Day 31 August 2002 at 6.30am, aged 91. He left behind his wife, Law Siew Kim, seven sons and three daughters. He was accorded a state funeral of the highest honour. Among those who came to pay their last respects were Governor of Penang Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas, Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Hilmi Yahaya and members of Penang's State Executive Committee.[1][4][10]

A memorial was held by Hakka Connextion on Merdeka Day, 31 August 2007.[11] A photo exhibition memorialising the struggles and achievements was hosted from 15 September 2012 by Federation of Hakka Associations of Malaysia at the Penang Hakka Association building in Burmah Road, George Town.[12][13]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Ng 2007
  2. Straits Times 1970a
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Koay 2013
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Utusan 2002
  5. Choong 2006
  6. Ooi 2013
  7. Lim 2010
  8. Straits Times 1970b
  9. Berita Harian 1970
  10. Straits Times 2002
  11. The Star 2007
  12. Chow 2012
  13. Tan 2012


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