Martin Jacques, 69, should be made an honorary Malaysian. Not that he needs another accolade: an accomplished British academic, journalist and speaker, he is also the author of global best-seller When China Rules the World.
No, Martin’s links to Malaysia are more personal, and inextricably bound by his love for his late wife, Harinder Kaur Veriah. “I developed a special affection for Malaysia because of her. The first time I visited Malaysia [in 1993] was when I went to Tioman Island. And I met Hari on my second day there,” he explains.
Harinder had a difficult childhood growing up in Petaling Jaya. Money was scarce and she had to fend for herself from a young age. She put herself through law school and worked in Kuala Lumpur, London and Hong Kong as a lawyer. “As a result of her hardships, Hari had tremendous compassion,” says Martin. She died in Hong Kong in 1999, shortly after her 33rd birthday. Read Martin’s article here
In 2003, Martin founded the Harinder Veriah Trust in her memory, in tribute to her “generosity and enthusiasm for life.” Today, the UK trust spends about £10,000 a year to help underprivileged pupils at her alma mater, Assunta Primary School (2) and Assunta Secondary School, both in Petaling Jaya.
The trust pays for the girls’ uniforms, shoes, socks, school bag, stationery, school fees, lunch and two hours of tuition a week. This year, the programme was extended to cover 40 primary school pupils, and 29 students at secondary school. The trust aims to raise £15,000 a year to include more students in the coming years.
Martin concedes that his niche “little charity” that raises funds in the UK for a Malaysian school does not have universal appeal, making his, and his band of nine trustees’ task that bit harder. But it’s his way of staying emotionally connected, with his late wife and with the country. “I like the country’s multi-racial character. Malaysians have a special warmth, a generosity of spirit and welcoming attitude that you feel immediately,” he says.
If you’d like to donate or find out more, go to: harinderveriahtrust.org