One man army down

Wednesday June 25, 2008 – Eric Chia Dies of a Heart Attack.

SUNGAI PETANI: Former Perwaja Steel managing director Tan Sri Eric Chia Eng Hock died of a heart attack at his Park Avenue Hotel yesterday. He was 74.

A maid called for help after Chia failed to respond when she tried to wake him up at 9am.

The hotel’s panel doctor confirmed that the tycoon had died of a heart attack.

Read more from The Star

I was in the middle of writing Module 2 when I saw this news online yesterday afternoon. In June 2007, he was acquitted in the KL Sessions Court of committing criminal breach of trust 14 years ago. I was struck by his statement when the acquittal was announced. He told the press that the vindication came too late. He had already lost his family and was estranged from his children because the shame of the court case.When I was a junior in UUM, I was part of the educational trip planned by the Management Executive Club (MEC). One of our stops was Perwaja Steel in my hometown state of Terengganu. We aimed to see the Big Kahuna of course, but we had been told earlier that regretfully, he would not be able to join us due to schedule conflict. We were welcomed warmly by senior managers of Perwaja Steel, who briefed us on the company and on their work. When I asked those 2 gentlemen about their experience working with the Tan Sri, their faces took on a different expression, like someone talking about their favorite uncle. They told me how he not only cared about the employees, but also about their families. They told me about the housing complex, the working and living environment, and how he accepted everyone the way there are. Race difference? WHAT race difference? All work for the same company, nationals of the same country, yes? Yes.Then came the surprise. The Big Kahuna arrived! The helicopter landed and he joined us. Were we awed? You bet your bottom Ringgit we were. I watched the senior managers’ faces, plus a few junior managers that walked in to join the session – they all looked relaxed, pleased to see their big boss. Quite different from the look of a boot-licker, I had noted. He welcomed us warmly and ushered us to our tea and kuih. Some wisecracking senior from our team pointed out to the Tan Sri that we also had a Terengganu-an in our midst (that would be me, of course) and the Tan Sri asked me their names and what my parents did. I told him they worked in KT general hospital. He then joked that he needed medication for his sore throat. I replied, perhaps out of nervousness until I forgot to put a clamp on my mouth – “Just go look for my parents in the GH and tell them I sent you. They’ll help you right away!” Yep – I was indeed amusing in my youth.Privately, I had asked him for advice. What would work best for us when we jump into the dog-eat-dog world after graduation? He looked at me and told me this: “My dear, you need to care about the people who work with you and care about your work. Just care.” Noticing how we could chat easily, the same wise-cracking senior labeled me “anak angkat Eric Chia” until long after we returned from that trip. I didn’t mind.Regardless of what he was accused of, I choose to remember the late Tan Sri Eric Chia’s warm, booming laugh. A happy man who loved his work and cared about the people who worked with him.Farewell, sir.


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