THE LATE MR HO THIAN CHEH (21st August 1937 – 31st October 2011)

MR HO THIAN CHEH a very senior member of the Johore Bar (No 5 on the Johor Bar Seniority list) passed away peacefully on the 31st day of October 2011. The funeral was held on the 4th of November 2011.

Thian Cheh was an old boy of the prestigious English College Johor Bahru (now known as Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar) and graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) from the 1st batch of law graduates from the University of Malaya in Singapore in 1960. Thian Cheh was amongst the 22 undergraduates of the 1st batch of the Law faculty of the University of Malaya in Singapore all of whom graduated. The list included (Prof) Tommy Koh Thong Bee, the Chief Justice of Singapore Chan Sek Keong and Prof Huang Su Mien. On graduation Thian Cheh was one of the first six (6) local law graduates of the University of Malaya in Singapore to be appointed to the Singapore Legal service. He was initially a Magistrate and then was promoted as Singapore State Counsel before embarking on his career at the Bar. In his time Thian Cheh scored many firsts and was a pioneer in his own way in the field of local law grads.

Whilst in the Singapore legal service Thian Cheh was also a part time lecturer and tutor at the University’s law faculty up to early 1970s.

He was called to the Bar States of Malaya on 9.10.1965 and he later set up his own practice in Johor Bahru and practiced more as an Advocate then a solicitor at the Johor Bar. He spoke admirable English. It was obvious from his diction and language that he must have indulged in poetry and literature. Thian Cheh was a very eloquent advocate and a meticulous lawyer. He took all points in favour of his client and articulated them to the best of his ability. It can be said that he was a profound lawyer. The lawyer shunned publicity and kept a very low profile. Amongst his prodigies is Y.A Justice Dato’ Syed Helmy bin Syed Ahmad who now adorns the Malaysian Court of Appeal.

Thian Cheh may have appeared aloof reticent and overbearing to the uninitiated but he rarely made junior members of the Bar feel irrelevant or out of place. Many juniors have seen Thian Cheh in “action” in Court with his thrilling performance and eloquent advocacy. The introduction of Bahasa Malaysia into the Courts took an inevitable toll on Thian Cheh’s Court performances.

Thian Cheh had not been too well the last few years. He passed away peacefully in his sleep on the 31st October 2011. The funeral took place in Johor Bahru on Friday 4th November 2011.

To Thian Cheh’s widow Madam Chee Chwee Keng and the children we offer our hearfelt condolences. Thian Cheh’s daughter Ho Su Lian a law graduate of the prestigious University of Cambridge lives and works in London. His son Ho Hwei a law graduate of the dad’s alma mater is not a practicing advocate and solicitor. It appears that both Thian Cheh’s children though law graduates seem to have kept a safe distance from the arena of battle and toil known at the Bar.

The Johor Bar expresses its heartfelt condolences to the family of the Late Mr Ho Thian Cheh. May his soul rest in peace.

S. Balarajah

Johore Bar

11.11.2011

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