Passing of an influential Baba Chinese philanthropist
Published on: Saturday, May 08, 2021
By: British North Borneo Herald
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Chee: Founded the scholarships that bore his name. Later founded OCBC.
1ST OCT, 1938 

IT is with great regret that we read in the Straits Budget of the 25th August a notice of the death of Mr Chee Swee Cheng in Singapore at the age of 71. Of late years his attention was principally devoted to the affairs in Malaya, Singapore and Malacca, where he was one of the best known of his influential class of Baba Chinese, but he never lost his interest in Borneo. He came here first in Government Birch’s time, and for many years he or his Firm managed the Monopoly Farms, Opium Spirit, Pawnbroking and Gambling; he spent money freely on developments in this country; especially on the West Coast. 

His brickfields at Karamunsing supplied material for many buildings, Government and private, in Jesselton: he founded Woodford Estate (named after the Governor, Sir Ernest Woodford Birch) as a tapioca Estate, and later on he erected a saw mill there: later still, rubber was planted and a Company was formed to take over the Estate. 

He also opened an Estate near Bukau on the Western line and Klias Estate near Lumat, both of which were afterwards transferred to Companies. He further showed his confidence in the country by investing in a good deal of shop property — partly required for the Monopoly business. 

His name however will be better and always gratefully remembered in Borneo for his generous foundation of the Chee Swee Cheng Scholarships, two of which of $120 per annum are awarded each year, one on the East and one on the West Coast, to provide a final year’s education in North Borneo for any boy or girl under the age of 18 who has spent the previous two years at least as a pupil in an English teaching North Borneo school. 

The spirit is that of the ‘pious founders’ of the old schools and universities, and the gift shows how clearly a business man of Chinese race with long experience of life in a British Colony realised the importance of education. 

3RD AUGUST, 1938  

IN the Annual Report on the Game Department of the F.M.S. Government, for the year 1937, the Deputy Game Warden, Pahang, reports the following interesting occurrence which is here quoted in his own words: 

“An interesting incident occurred during April last in the Tembeling. 

“One night a herd of elephants crossed the Tembeling river a few miles below Kuala Tahan. In this herd was a cow elephant with a very young calf. 

“The herd crossed the river and proceeded to climb up the further bank, which at that point was some 250 feet high, of loose crumbly sandy soil. 

The herd made it but the calf in the soft soil could not, and on account of his youth could get no further than half way, up where he stuck, every attempt to climb higher and join his mother being frustrated by more falling soil. 

The cow waited at the top of the bank till dawn, making efforts to reach him with her trunk but so soon as she got near the edge more earth was pushed down on to her off-spring. 

At the first sign of light she retreated to the jungle some chains away, every now and then giving flute-like calls to her calf during the whole time she waited there. 

“Daylight saw the calf still there, wedged half way up this bank with loose soil up to his belly. Some kampong people passing in their boat on their way upstream saw him and carried word to the Park Rangers at Kuala Tahan. 

Within a short while three rangers had arrived on the scene and set about digging a path from the calf to the top of the bank; he could not make it through having exhausted all his strength during the night. 

As three men were insufficient to push the calf up the bank one left for a kampong a mile or so downstream and soon returned with six more men. Their united efforts, by pushing, pulling and heaving, succeeded, in getting the little fellow to the top of the bank onto the level ground. 

During the time the men had been working on the calf they had given him banana leaves and other food which he had consumed in evident delight. This had taken up most of the day; the mother had remained within a short distance the whole time, now and then calling shrilly and anxiously to her youngster, but she did not show herself. 

“Having arrived at the top of the bank and hearing the calls of his mother, the rangers expected that the calf would make straight for the jungle, so prepared to leave in their boat for Kuala Tahan. 

As they moved away their calf followed them with trunk outstretched. They turned back and returned to him, pushed him round till his head pointed towards the jungle and after a few further pushes and heaves in that direction left him. 

As soon as they moved off he turned and followed them again. This time having turned him they took sticks and beat him while pushing him towards the jungle and then left him, making for the boat as quickly as possible, climbing in and pushing off. 

They paddled to the opposite bank of the river where they tied up and watched the calf. 

“As soon as he saw that he was alone he returned to the top of the bank and looked about, seeking no one he wandered here and there for a while as though looking for something. Then, as though hearing for the first time the calls of his mother, turned towards the sounds with outstretched ears. After a few seconds of hesitation, he ambled towards the jungle with tail as wing, finally to disappear in the thick cool green of the undergrowth. 

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