My daughter Sharon saw this article in The Star newspaper (fancy, she gets
the time to read this newspaper online!) and forwarded it to me. She saw
the word "Kirkby" and thought of me.
It is about David Tan (1960 - 1961 batch). He seems to be doing very well
in London. It's good to know that some of us "endangered species" are still
useful and active! I believe David paid a visit to M'sia late last year and
he met up with the KL Kirkbyites.
Subject: FWD: Meet the Michael Chong of London
Comment from sender:
You may know this guy - it says in the article that he trained in Kirby in
This article is from The Star Online (http://thestar.com.my/)
Sunday March 26, 2006
Meet the Michael Chong of London
<span class="story_byline">EUROFILE BY CHOI TUCK WO
IN a modest-looking office just off Oxford Street, away from the bustle of
Chinatown, sits Britain’s only liaison officer devoted to the needs of a
David Tan, Westminster City Council’s Chinese Liaison Officer ala the
Michael Chong of London, tackles “almost everything from missing passports
and job hunting to family problems”.
“I’m sometimes seen as a first port of call,” said the 60-plus Tan, who
hails from Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.
A Kirby-trained teacher, he was initially more of an education officer. But
his role has since expanded to cover other services during his 16 years with
Among others, Tan also helps to resolve issues relating to planning
approvals, street cleaning and lighting, refuse collection, parking and even
immigration and police matters.
“I now handle just about anything concerning the Chinese community,
particularly in Chinatown,” he said.
Indeed, Tan’s multi-tasking role bears an uncanny resemblance to that of
Chong, the head of MCA Public Service and Complaints Department in Kuala
He is also an adviser and trainer with the National Crime Squad and London
Metropolitan Police, where he plays a vital role in providing invaluable
information on the Chinese community’s culture and historical background.
Life is hectic for the father of two – no two days are the same, he
admitted – but it’s not a devilish pace of impossibility.
Tan’s maturity and plain-speaking integrity, coupled with his educational
background, has given him a sense of duty and distaste for idleness.
“I love the job. It’s very exciting and challenging,” he said, adding that
he sees "different people, different situations and different issues every
Being a Malaysian himself, Tan is particularly passionate when it comes to
helping his fellow countrymen when they are faced with a myriad of issues
such as missing passports, overstaying or seeking jobs while in Britain.
Not surprisingly, he plays a remarkable role in working closely with the
Malaysian High Commission to help Malaysians in distress.
“By and large, we do not face many problems with Malaysians,” he said,
adding that most of them were well sought after by Chinese restaurants
because of their hardworking nature and language proficiency.
“While Chinese nationals invariably end up as cooks, Malaysian Chinese are
at the forefront serving customers, as they speak English and Mandarin as
well as dialects such as Cantonese, Hakka and Hokkien.”
Over the years, Tan has helped to forge closer links between Britain and
Malaysia. These exchanges include the bringing of English tutors to run
workshops in Malaysia under The Star’s Learning Skills programme.
He also assists the high commission in booking Hallfield School in
Bayswater for the annual Hari Raya open house.
For this year’s National Day celebrations, he is working with the Malaysian
authorities to secure a section of Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens for the
Tan has come a long way since the day he arrived in England in 1959 as a
fresh trainee teacher at Kirby College in Liverpool.
Upon his return to Malaysia, he was posted to Besut, Terengganu, in 1962,
where he taught for four years. He taught for another year in Serdang,
“Those were one of my best times as I was among the first batch to teach
English in a beautiful, rural setting, near the seaside. We had lots of good
friends not just in Besut but also in Jertih and Kota Baru,” he said, citing
his former colleagues such as Ibrahim Ahmad and his sister Saibah.
Being adventurous and an avid traveller, Tan returned to England in 1966
where he spent some time discovering Europe.
A year later, he went back to teaching, this time at the Tower Hamlets
school in east London where he taught for a good 12 to 13 years.
In the 1980s, Tan became increasingly involved with youth and community
development programmes, spearheading several projects in Camden Town.
He was appointed the council’s liaison officer in 1990, a post that covers
Westminster – the seat of government and location of important buildings
including Parliament House, Buckingham Palace and No.10, Downing Street.
Westminster, which has a population of about 200,000 and where about one
million people commute to work daily, is one of 32 boroughs (districts) in
the Greater London Area.
On his greatest achievement in his 39 years with the British government,
Tan said he could now play a more influential role in the Home Office
concerning issues affecting the ethnic minority.
For instance, he can act on behalf of the Chinese community irrespective of
whether they are from Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Singapore.
“They welcome my participation and contribution. And I’m there not just to
praise but also to speak up when I feel they’ve been less than fair to the
ethnic minority,” he said.
“That’s my fulfilling role and I find that most satisfying and more
challenging than anything else.”
For his contributions, Tan has received numerous awards and certificates,
the latest being The Chinatown Magazine’s Pearl Award for Outstanding
Still very much a Malaysian at heart, Tan said he looked forward to the day
he could retire in his home country despite his many years abroad.
“Malaysia beckons and I’m very much attracted to return home,” said Tan,
whose wife is Ann Kai Hwa, a former nurse. They have two children, lawyer
Ivan and bank executive Natasha.
Tan urged Malaysians to continue to come to Britain for holidays or to work
through the proper channels to avoid falling into the hands of unscrupulous
“And if they need help while they are here, my door is always open,” he
<li> Choi Tuck Wo is Editor, European Union Bureau, based in London (e-mail: