The Dr. Wu Lien-Teh Commemorative Global Symposium 23 & 24 July, 2016
Speech by Chief Minister of Penang, YAB Tuan Lim Guan Eng
At The Opening Ceremony of the Dr Wu Lien-Teh Commemorative Global Symposium on 23rd July 2016
Penang is proud to be the home state of numerous historical greats of the country, namely P Ramlee, Malaysia’s greatest filmmaker, Loh Boon Siew, the pioneer in the automotive industry in Malaysia, Yeap Chor Ee, the banking magnate and last but not least, Dr Wu Lien-Teh, the internationally acclaimed doctor and plague fighter.
Ladies and gentleman,
Dr Wu Lien-Teh was a highly respected epidemiologist and doctor. His unyielding passion and determination as doctor together with strong perseverance have remained an inspiration for generations. His life story and heroic achievement had made all of us proud.
During his early career in Penang in early 1900’s, he was an enthusiastic activist in a myriad of contemporary social issues, ranging from advocating elementary education for girls, forming debating and literary clubs, to writing articles in newspaper calling for abolition of gambling and spirit farms. He established the Anti-Opium Association in Penang and organized the first Anti-Opium Conference in Straits Settlement to advocate banning of opium trade at times.
He was later invited to China, where he fought a challenging battle of the Machurian plague. His formulation of public health policies and institution of control measures were met with violent resistance. These measures were compulsory hospitalization of plague victims, contacts isolation, homes disinfection and people were encouraged to wear the “Dr Wu’s mask” which were uncommon practice at times in China.
He also conducted the first ever mass cremation of corpses in Chinese history which strongly against the tenets of Confucianism that venerated filial piety and ancestor worship in the past. This had led to not only saving thousands of lives by halting the epidemics.
Becoming world-famous for his outstanding achievement had never affected his innate modesty. He returned to Malaya during the turbulence time of Second World War, and continued to practice medicine in Ipoh until the ripe age of 80, before retiring in Penang.
The Dr Wu Lien-The Society was initiated in 2012 as a result of a Penang Story Lecture on Dr Wu which was organized by Think City, Penang Heritage Trust and the Old Frees Association. Led by the Founding President, Dato’ Anwar Fazal, together with support from representatives from the Old Frees Association, Penang Medical College, Harbin Medical University, Penang Institute, Penang Heritage Trust, as well as Think City and Penang Global Tourism, this initiative aims to promote this Penang-born legendary figure and to inspire the present and future generations. Since its inception, the Society has now grown its network to include several reputable institutions namely, the Malaysian National Clinical Research Centre Networks, United Nation University- International Institute for Global Health and the newly established Wu Lien-Teh Institute in Harbin, China.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The State government has been keen to support initiatives of the Society since the first Commemorative Symposium in 2014 through this 2nd Commemorative Global Symposium at Penang Institute, and the dinner tonight at the St Giles Wembley Hotel.
I am pleased to be here to witness the ceremony of signing of Memorandum of Understanding between the Society and United Nations University, International Institute for Global Health. The MOU addresses collaborative joint hosting of an annual public lecture on topic of contemporary global health importance, named as “The Dr Wu Lien-Teh Lecture”, from selecting a distinguished speaker to organizing the event. Additionally, both parties may collaborate on other initiatives related to global health importance.
It is also my pleasure to launch the first reprint of 1000 copies of the pictorial book of “Memories of Dr Wu Lien-Teh, Plague Fighter” in Penang by local publisher, Areca Books. The first edition was printed in Singapore in 1995 and out of stock. This current project received generous funding supports from Dato’ Cheah Cheng Hye, a Penang-born successful entrepreneur in Hong Kong, together with supports from the Dr Wu’s families and the Society.
The relocation and placement of Dr Wu Lien-Teh bust at Penang Institute signifies the recognition by the State Government for Dr Wu’s altruism and extra-ordinary contributions in making a difference for all.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, we are all here together to celebrate and honour the life of a Penang-born medical scientist who set the standard for generations of doctors to follow, and who nearly brought back a prestigious Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. It is great to see a reunion of more than 30 of the family members attending this event, including the 93-year old granddaugther, Madame Tai Ai Luen. I am very confident that Dr Wu Lien-Teh Society will continue to promote the legacy of this Penang-born iconic legend. I am proud to announce the opening of the Dr Wu Lien-Teh Commemorative Global Symposium and wish you a fruitful meeting among all of you.