By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
When one of your 18 children is an international superstar, you have every reason to rest on your laurels but not Dato’ Yeoh Kian Teik, father of Bond girl Datuk Michelle Yeoh and one of Ipoh’s most loyal residents. Where his six other siblings have flourished elsewhere, Kian Teik remained behind in Ipoh, carrying on his father’s transportation business and becoming a transportation mogul in his own right.
Kian Teik is a second-generation Yeoh to call St Michael’s Institution his alma mater, his whole family from his father to all his five brothers being alumni. From high school, Kian Teik went on to study law at Lincoln’s Inn in the UK, returning to Ipoh to start his legal practice and continue in the transport industry in which his father was a founding member in 1937 and responsible for setting up of the town bus. He remained as a Director on the three transport companies, the General Omnibus, Kinta Omnibus and Reliance Omnibus for many years. Kian Teik set up Sri Maju, an executive coach service, in 1975 with the Ipoh-Singapore routing. Today Sri Maju plies the highways from Haadyai, Thailand, in the north to Singapore in the south with many stops at major cities and towns in between.
Less Hectic Lifestyle
In a career that spans almost sixty years, Kian Teik who is now 84, can still be seen at his desk at the Sri Maju’s office in Jalan Bendahara taking care of business as his staff walk in and out demanding his attention on various matters. His law firm is now in the hands of one of his daughters and Kian Teik who was Chairman of the Perak Bar Association on and off for many years, says he doesn’t miss practicing law and now prefers a less hectic lifestyle, working mornings and spending his afternoons on leisure activities which may include playing mahjong and hobbies around fish, whether sea fishing or breeding and watching aquarium fish.
“The only thing I miss about my law practice is the legal fights I used to have with the Seenivasagam brothers, be it in court or in the political arena”, he admitted. “It was thoroughly enjoyable – total no-holds-barred-battles – and we would remain good friends in and out of the courts”, he added.
The day I visited Kian Teik in his office, he was sitting at his desk peering into his computer. “No fear of technology for this 84 year-old” I thought to myself, and went on to discover that this is his way of staying in touch with his pan-global family of 18 children and 39 grandchildren, the fruit of a colourful personal life. “I started using a computer when I bought a computer for one of my grandsons who was six years old at the time. He became my computer coach and today I communicate with my extended family, aside from family gatherings, through email and Skype.”
When asked about significant moments in his long and illustrious career as one of the legal stalwarts of Ipoh, Kian Teik proudly pointed to a framed photograph on the wall beside him and said, “meeting with Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1970”, further identifying Tun Sambanthan and Tun Razak and Tun Ismail in the same picture.
He was active in the MCA for many years adding that “in those days, we had to take money out of our own pockets to support the party”. He was also a Member of the Senate from 1959 till 1969. Kian Teik is particularly proud of his role in ensuring that nomination papers for both State and general elections were always properly filled out and no seats were ever lost in Perak, unlike what happened in some other states, owing to faulty nomination papers. This was a responsibility he fulfilled till 1995 and to date the untarnished record still exists as testimony to his meticulous stewardship.
When questioned on the oft touted topic of his influence on the career of his celebrity daughter Michelle Yeoh, he modestly demurred and said, “Her talent speaks for itself. All I have ever emphasised to her is to be humble and friendly. That no matter how successful she becomes on the world stage, to remember that we’re all born equal and there is no need to be high and mighty. I teach all my children this same homily”. And judging by the few exchanges I’ve had with Michelle Yeoh, I can certainly vouch for the efficacy of Kian Teik’s teaching to his daughter for she is without doubt one of the most down-to-earth superstars one could ever have the pleasure of meeting. An abiding legacy from one of Ipoh’s living legends.