One family: Chenghui and Chengqiang (extreme left and second from left) getting acquainted with their Malaysian relatives. Maisarah Mohd Husni is being carried by her grandfather Mohamad Subky.
PENANG: Abdullah Ha Chenghui and his brother Rais Ha Chengqiang came from Hainan for a family gathering here and were surprised to find out that one of their cousins is the Malaysian Prime Minister himself.
The Ha brothers, on their first visit to Malaysia, were among some 600 relatives who turned up here yesterday for the gathering of the descendants of Hassan Salleh or Hah Su Chiang, the maternal grandfather of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
The private gathering also coincided with the 78th birthday celebration of the Prime Minister’s mother Datuk Kailan Hassan.
Chenghui, 39, said when a Malaysian relative he was temporarily staying with pointed out that the Prime Minister on television was his cousin, he could hardly believe it.
When the Prime Minister turned up at the gathering yesterday, Chenghui wondered whether he would have a chance to speak to him.
“I was happy to be able to shake hands with the Prime Minister and when he learnt that my Muslim name is also Abdullah, he was a little surprised,” Chenghui said through an interpreter, Mariam Chen Xiao Mei who is a student at the International Islamic University Malaysia in Gombak.
Chengqiang, 48, said he was happy to meet so many relatives here and was surprised to learn that one of them was the Prime Minister.
“In China, three generations of our family did not have the chance to get a good education and we are happy to learn that we have relatives in Malaysia who hold high positions in the country,” said Chengqiang who hails from the Hui Hui village, Sanya City in Hainan.
The Prime Minister, who helped his mother to cut her birthday cake, left the gathering after a lunch while the others stayed on to exchange news through tea and lucky draw sessions.
Md Nasir Salleh, a nephew of the Prime Minister said the Malaysian relatives made contact with their Chinese relatives by chance in the late 1980s through an American woman who was studying the Muslim community in Hainan.
He said the researcher made enquiries in Pulau Pangkor and some residents there contacted a relative in Alor Star which led to the start of a letter correspondence with the Chinese relatives and visits by the Malaysian relatives to Hainan.
Organising chairman Datuk Mohamad Subky Abdul Raof, also the Prime Minister’s cousin, said their ancestor Salleh, a Muslim of Chinese descent had four sons – Hassan (Hah Su Chiang), Alibaba (Hah Su Hiang), Amin (Hah Fu Kong) and Hussin (Ha Hun San).
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is the grandson of Hassan while the two Hainanese brothers are the grandsons of Hussin.
Mohamad Subky said Hassan came to Malaya from the province of Kwangtung in the middle of the 19th century and made a living in Bayan Lepas, Penang as a planter of rubber trees and padi, and a jewellery trader.
Hassan had two daughters with his first wife Salbiah Abas, five children with his second wife Siti Rahmah Abdul Rahman and six children (including the Prime Minister’s mother) with his third wife Kamariah Abd Razak.
Mohamad Subky said this was a bigger gathering compared to the first one held last year in Pulau Sayak, Kota Kuala Muda.
“Our relatives came from all over Malaysia,” he said adding they might make it an annual event.
Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"