Plight of a Forgotten La Salle Brother

By Koon Yew Yin

Brother Vincent Corkery, who had served a span of over 60 years in educating thousands of our citizens, only wishes to be a Malaysian Citizen and spend the rest of his life in this country.

However, his application for citizenship was rejected some years ago without explanation in spite of him having obtained the necessary pass in written and oral Malay.

The 82-year-old Brother Vincent, the former principal of St Michael’s Institution, Ipoh, was admitted to Fatimah Hospital just before Christmas last year and was discharged after a three-week stay.

He had a rare bacterial infection between the toes of his left foot. Before this problem could be cleared up, his right foot developed the same problem.

He then decided to seek treatment in the Ipoh General Hospital. He was admitted on March 1 and was discharged a few days ago after a 27-day stay. Now he has to go back daily for treatment as an outpatient.

I have been visiting him quite frequently and almost on all occasions I was the only visitor. It seems that the La Salle Brothers have been forgotten.

Several of our important leaders of the nation, including our Prime Minister Abdul Najib Razak, Home Minister Dato Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Sultan of Selangor, Raja Muda of Perak Raja Nazrin Shah and many others have had their education in my alma mater St. John Institution, Kuala Lumpur.

I am sure that if they are aware of the plight of Brother Vincent, they will act promptly to remedy it.

Dedicating To Education

Brother Vincent came from Ireland in 1948. His main contribution has been to St Michael’s Institution in Ipoh where he served since 1958. In addition, he took an active interest in Malaysian education.

In the 1960s, he was the state supervisor for oral English, and served in the early 1970s as secretary-general of the national conference of the Heads of Secondary Schools. For some years he was an active member of the Malaysian Historical Society.

As with other Brothers who taught in Malaysia, the financial remuneration to him has been barely adequate. His last drawn monthly salary as Principal was RM1,000, and when he retired in 1988, he did not qualify for a pension or for other retirement benefits. Since retirement, the La Sallian communal fund has provided him RM1,000 a month for his food and car maintenance.

In retirement, he heads a centre for programmes for student leadership and for staff groups at La Salle Centre in Ipoh, and serves as secretary for the Brothers Councils for Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

During the Japanese Occupation

The La Salle Brothers made their first appearance in Asia in 1852 when they founded St Xavier’s Institution in Penang. Since then a network of Lasallian schools has developed throughout the country. When the British left Malaya, the Lasallian Brothers stayed on to manage their schools.

During the Japanese occupation of the country all the foreign brothers were imprisoned. My old teacher, Brother Lawrence Spitzig, a Canadian, was imprisoned in Changi, Singapore. Brother Lawrence retired as principal of my alma mater, St. John’s Institution and died last year on August 18 in Assunta Hospital, Petaling Jaya, at the age of 92 after long service to the nation.

These Catholic schools have continued to flourish even when the Brothers have greatly diminished in number. The foundations were well laid, and Lasallian education continues to be an important part of our education system even in these changing times.

In terms of their service and loyalty to the country and the various communities, the Brothers hold a torch that is second to none. Their dedication and commitment to the country was perhaps most evident during the Japanese Occupation period. Despite the warnings of many friends that they would be perceived as enemy aliens by the Japanese and of the dire consequences following, the Brothers opted to stay with the people. They paid a horrific price for this loyalty.

The consequences included incarceration in Changi prison where 15 Brothers were held; Taiping and Pudu jails where 12 were held; and at Bahau, in Negri Sembilan, where some 30 were held under primitive conditions in a mosquito-infested jungle settlement, surviving only on the food they managed to grow.

Once the Japanese surrendered, in spite of what they had endured, the Brothers returned to their posts and reopened their schools without delay. The fact that they had not run away but had chosen to stay with the people and share their pain, greatly enhanced their standing in the post-war years but this seems to count for little today.

I urge the authorities to do the right thing for Brother Vincent and for all other LaSallian and missionary educators who have sacrificed so much for our country. Provision of a gratuity and a pension, automatic approval of citizenship, appropriate medical and other civil service benefits – surely the country can afford this minimal humanitarian assistance.

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15 thoughts on “Plight of a Forgotten La Salle Brother

  1. Hi ceci,

    Call La Salle Centre at St Micheal’s Institution Ipoh for information on Brother Vincent. The centre’s phone number is: 605-2559 220.


  2. I will be in ipoh in 2 months time and wish to visit brother vincent. Let me know where to see him. Kinks regards.

  3. l am also the ex pupil of St.Michael school in Ipoh.l had seen Bro.Vincent performed his duty in school and in church. He is such a nice man.l hope and wish him well.

  4. I’ve been getting updated news about Bro. Vincent from my sister since she is in Ipoh (but I’m not) and she will normally meet up with Bro. Vincent nearly every weekend in St. Michael’s Church.
    Hopefully Bro. Vincent can receive his citizenship as soon as poosible. May God Bless you!!

  5. Dato’ Bro Vincent is well. The bacterial infection has been cured with treatment at Ipoh GH.

    For those who don’t know, he was involved in a car accident a few months ago but he was not injured. A new Toyota Vios has been bought to replace the damaged Proton Wira. Mr Koon and 3 other old boys contributed towards the purchase of the car.

    The SMI chapel is going to be repaired and renovated at a cost of RM8,000. Instead of getting one or two big donors, it was decided to get small donations so that more people can contribute.

    Donors can donate as little as RM10 towards this project. Cheques should be addressed to “SMI Development Fund”.

  6. For all those concerned people on this thread, Brother Vincent (or more appropriately, Dato’ Brother Vincent) is in fine shape despite his advanced age.

    This report by Koon has been taken many by surprise and may have caused some uneasiness among those who are acquainted with him.

    Dato’ Vincent expresses his heartfelt thanks to all the kind folks out there and wishes them well.

    The problem regarding his citizenship is about to be resolved. It was just a minor irritant, he recounted.

  7. Lets hope this gets the publicity and give our mentor the dignity and recognition long delayed. Here is someone who has dedicated himself to malaysian education and i am sure there are a lot of Michaelians in the right areas here and abroad who can make this wish come true

  8. I’m sad to hear the news that Bro. Vincent in such manner. All ex-michaelian who are still resides and working in Ipoh, please spent your free time on weekend to pay a short visit to Bro. Vincent in La Salle Centre Ipoh. Could help him with form of monetary so that he can continue treatment in Hospital. He used to cycle around in Ipoh almost everyday. I’m sure he would be disappointed to have such bacterial infection on his feet. Alma Mater…..

  9. i will pray for him.studying in st michael’s institution ipoh made a great impact in my life.thanks to brother vincent and mr louis rozario.i will pray the citizenship is granted and he will get well soon…great contribution has been done by him to our is the time for us to give back our appreciation.let us pray that our prime minister reconsider Brother Vincent’s citizenship application.

  10. The circumstances of Bro Vincent’s transfer to Ipoh General Hospital, and his wish and application for Malaysian citizenship are not as what was written.

    The Datukship conferred was an appreciation effort of old boys and not recognition by the government. Certain influential old boys put up Bro Vincent’s name before this article came out.

  11. Congrats Dato’ Vincent Corkery on you being bestowed the Darjah Dato’Mahkota Perak by the Sultan. It’s in recognition of your valuable and selfless service to the residents of Ipoh whom had the privilege of being tutored by you. Hopefully, this will add weight to your application to be a citizen of the country.

  12. I just wrote an email to PM Najib to get his help on granting him citizenship that we OWE him.

    I mean, what reason is there to deny him, an 82 yr old man, citizenship?

    This is right and only way to grant him recognition for his illustrious service to the nation.

    I hope PM will respond in to time.

    Derek (and others), will you help me write to PM as well?

    Thank you.

  13. OMG I am unaware that Bro Vincent was admitted to hospital.

    He was Principal during my schooling days and did his duty to the utmost. Even taught Japanese to us.

    As for his citizenship, he spent more years in Malaya/Malaysia than he did in his land of birth. I hope the government will grant him his last wish before its too late.

    The PM and others in the government who were schooled in the La Sallian tradition should make an utmost effort to visit him and he is one among the last of the La Sallian Brothers who had served the nation

    I pray that he gets well soon. May God bless his kind soul.

  14. I hope all will be well with Brother Vincent and that he is able to spend the rest of his life as a Malaysian, which is the very least our country can accord this worthy and selfless man.

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