The late Shirley Khoo Guek Siah was born on 23.05.1960, the youngest of a family of 5 girls in a small kampung called Gerisik which is separated from Muar by a river. He father passed away when Shirley was only 6, leaving the family very little in terms of financial resources or extended family support. She once mentioned to me that her father’s family not only looked down on her mother for the reason that she had produced no sons but had even sequestrated a large part of her late father’s meagre estate.

The widow was left to bring up 5 children, including one disabled child, on her own, with the income she derived from tapping rubber. Life for Shirley and her family was hard and a constant struggle for survival. When Shirley started school in the Holy Infant Jesus Convent, Muar, she had to daily cross over the river on her own from Gerisik to Muar by sampan before boarding the bus to school and this was from when she was at the very tender age of 7 and in Primary One. It was perhaps fortuitous that she was the youngest in the family, in that her mother, siblings and brother-in-law, on realising her potential, pooled together their then meagre resources to enable her to proceed to the United Kingdom in 1980 to read law at the University of Leeds. Despite her family’s generosity and best efforts which was a major sacrifice to them, Shirley told me that she was constantly on a shoe string budget and had to work between her studies to supplement her expenses.

On graduation, she returned to and served her pupillage under Mr Walter Danaraj Moses then of Messrs Moses & Saga in Johor Bahru and was admitted to the Bar on 18th August 1986.

The late Ms Shirley first practised in Malacca as a Legal Assistant at the firm of Messrs Vohrah & Tan Chee Lan and later at Messrs Nordin & Hamid. In 1988 Shirley returned to Johor Bahru and worked as a Legal Asisstant with Messrs T.S.Chong & Co and then with Messrs Cheang & Ariff.

In 1992, Shirley started he own sole proprietorship firm under the name of Messrs G.S.Khoo & Co. Thereafter her firm merged with the firm of Messrs Shareena Abdullah & Lim in 1997 until her demise.

Ms Shirley passed away at the age of 40 and leaves behind her husband, Dr Tjiang Men Loong and 2 sons, Ivan Tjiang Yong Siang and Ian Tjiang Yong Jie.

by Serene Ong

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