Templer's 12 pioneer army officer, Major Gen (Rtd) Datuk Lai Chung Wah, passed away at 84

ADRIAN DAVID


KUALA TERENGGANU: One of the last four surviving members of the ‘Templer’s 12’ pioneer army officers of the pre-communist terrorist era, Major Gen (Rtd) Datuk Lai Chung Wah passed away today.

Lai, 84, died after a prolonged illness at 10.30am at the Tuanku Mizan Armed Forces Hospital in Section 2, Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur.

According to his daughter, retired legal secretary Christine Lai, 56, the octogenarian was initially warded at the Ampang Puteri Specialist Hospital for 42 days before being transferred to the military hospital two months ago.

“He had sustained a series of falls and was in serious condition when he was sent to the hospital.

“He remained hospitalised until his death,” said Christine.

Lai is survived by his wife Lilian Chong Li Lian, 83 , a former teacher, his daughter, Christine, and god-daughter Lily Azumi, in her forties.

Christine said after retiring from the army, Lai served as a director with MAA Holdings and the Melewar Group.

The wake ceremony for Lai will be held at the Xiao En Centre in Jalan Kuari, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The funeral ceremony will be on Thursday at 11am.

One of his friends, Brig Gen (Rtd) Datuk Soon Lian Cheng said Lai was one of the last four surviving members of the ‘Templer’s 12’, a specially hand-picked group of officers by retired Field Marshal and later British High Commissioner to Malaya, Gen Tun Sir Gerald Templer on July 27, 1952 to form the Federation Regiment’s of multi-racial pioneer officers.

The other three ‘Templer’s 12’ survivors are Lt Gen (Rtd) Datuk Abdullah Shamsuddin, ranger Lt Col (Rtd) Peter Ng Boon Hwa and engineer Lt Col (Rtd) Khong Kim Kong, who is now residing in Vancouver, Canada.

“The three of them had met up during a Retired Armed Forces Officers Club reunion at the Defence Ministry’s officers mess recently,” said Soon.

He said Lai, who hailed from Kampar, Perak had enjoyed a brilliant and colourful military career.

“He was trained initially at Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan before attending an advanced course at the Officer Cadet School in Eaton Hall and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst , both in England, before being commissioned as a second-lieutenant with the Royal Armour Corps with the Federation of Malaya Regiment in 1955,” said Soon.

Lai was promoted to colonel in 1971 as the first commandant of the Army Combat Training Centre in Johor from 1972 to 1976.

Lai was also the first commandant of the Defence College at Haigate, Kuala Lumpur with the rank of brigadier-general and was promoted to the ‘two star’ major-general as the Army’s Inspector-General prior to his retirement.

“He's only the second Chinese officer to hold the two-star rank, the other being the late Major-Gen (Rtd) Leong Siew Meng, another ‘Templer’s 12’ member,” said Soon.

The rest of the ‘Templer’s 12’ who had since died were Major Gen (Rtd) Datuk N. Selvarajah, Brig Gen (Rtd) Victor Nelson Stevenson, Brig Gen (Rtd) Asna Mohd Sutan, Col (Rtd) Gui Poh Chui, Lt Col (Rtd) Thong Chee Sin, Major (Rtd) Lakhbir Singh Gill and Major (Rtd) Amiruddin Mustapha Albakri.