TRIBUTE TO Mr CHIA POH MIN, Esq By counsel for the Malaysian Bar At the Reference Proceedings, 3/12/08, Johor Bahru High Court

On behalf of the Malaysian Bar, I endorse and echo the eulogy that has just been so earnestly and passionately presented by my learned friend Ms Sunita.

Because I did not know Poh Min personally, I set out to enquire more about him. What I have gathered, from Poh Min’s colleagues and friends, convince me that not having made Poh Min’s acquaintance was entirely my loss.

Members of the Bar, of different vintages, all speak very highly of Poh Min. They have only good words for him. In our profession where counsel have to regularly oppose one another in advocating their respective causes, and human nature being what it is, universal praise by one’s peers is rather remarkable. A lawyer and an advocate with many adversaries but no enemy is a rare gem. It is testimony of the quality, and the cut, of that diamond of a man that Poh Min was.

I am told, repeatedly but by different persons, of Poh Min’s humility, kindness and helpfulness to all. I am informed of his considerate disposition, always reaching out to help others. For instance, he would readily attend court for colleagues as well as outstation lawyers. One did not have to know him well to call on him for help. All you needed to do was to ask. He would do it over and over again for others, even though at times he had to endure a little embarrassment when he could not provide an accurate answer to a question from the bench regarding something that only the lawyer familiar with the case concerned would know.

I am informed, and my learned friend has just confirmed, that Poh Min was a football fan and a loyal supporter of Newcastle United. Newcastle United? One may ask. That, to some fans of rival football clubs, and I would tend to agree, was perhaps Poh Min’s only flaw in judgment.

But I also learn from very reliable sources that Poh Min’s love for football and his love for his friends, added together, can still not hold the candle for his immense and unending love for his wife Saw Chin Chin, their sons Kuan Hi & Li Hi, his parents and his siblings.

Poh Min’s greatest aspirations in life was to bring up his sons as best as he could have, so that they would become good human beings, perhaps even better than their father himself, although that is a tough standard to surpass. That heavy but rewarding responsibility now rests on the shoulders of Chin Chin, with help, I am certain, from loved ones and friends. The task will be that much more difficult without a helping hand from Poh Min. But I am sure that, though Poh Min’s physical hand has taken leave, his spiritual hand will continue to guide and bless them. The dancer may have rested, but his dance continues.

I am confident that Chin Chin will carry out the task exceedingly well, and in such a way that Kuan Hi and Li Hi will become good and exemplary persons; and, despite not having Poh Min physically by their side, will grow up to know what a wonderful man and father Poh Min had been.

Poh Min would have been 30, come the 30th of this month. It is such a cruel twist of fate that he was taken away before his prime. One may be forgiven for wondering, with sadness, with anguish, or even with anger, why that has to be so. How does one make sense of all these? Was it a result of purely wanton randomness? Or is there some purpose to it that is beyond the comprehension of mere mortals? I am afraid I do not know what the correct answers to these questions are.

But I do know that a mandatory injunction should be issued, binding on all of us, including the Honourable Judges, compelling us to turn our sorrow into strength, and our emptiness into resolve, and carry on in a way that might make Poh Min as proud of us as we are of him.

There are good reasons why we always turn to poetry when we need to search for meaning in life. When times get tough, as sometimes life will be, Chin Chin could perhaps take the cue from William Yeats, and draw strength from knowing (with regard to Poh Min) that:

“many loved your moments of glad glance,

and loved your beauty with love false or true;

but one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,

and loved the sorrows of your changing face.”

If email connection could be established between the 2 worlds, what might Poh Min say to us? What

would he want of us?

I think he would like us to remember him fondly. But far more importantly, being the kind and loving person that he always is, I think he would want us to be happy. I think he might borrow the following words from another poet, Christina Rossetti, who in the 19th century wrote this poem called “Remember”:

“Remember me when I am gone away,

Gone far away into the silent land;

When you can no more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay

Remember me when no more day by day

You tell me of our future that you planned:

Only remember me: you understand

It will be late to counsel then, or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

And afterwards remember, do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.”

The last 2 lines encapsulate what I think Poh Min stands for: a person who has a lot of love and kindness to give, a man full of consideration and goodwill, in this world as well as out of it. He would not want us to dwell too long in sadness and loss. He would promote our happiness, even before his own.

Yes, we know that we have, respectively, lost a kind friend, a loving husband, a good father, an inspiring brother, a filial son. But we must also know that we will forever be enriched by Poh Min’s brief visit to us. He was, in a way, our youthful teacher who had to alight our train earlier than we do. May he find eternal peace and happiness.

I pray that the notes of today’s proceedings be preserved in the archives of this Honourable Court, and that a transcript of the relevant parts be delivered to Chin Chin, in honour of our colleague Poh Min.

Yeo Yang Poh

3 December 2008

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