VK Chin, former group chief editor of The Star, died this morning at the age of 75. He had been ailing for some time. VK, as he was always known, had a long and distinguished career in newspapers the length of the peninsula, from the Straits Echo to the Straits Times, and was in the launch crew of controversial papers like the Singapore Herald, and conventional papers like Business Times.
A longtime friend of Michael Chen of the MCA and close to many MCA leaders, he became chief editor of the National Echo when Tan Koon Swan was making a bid to lead the party. When the National Echo collapsed, he was brought to The Star as Asean correspondent by chief editor H’ng Hung Yong, an associate of Lee San Choon, the party leader. VK’s friendship with key MCA politicians propelled his rise to the chief editorship and kept him on as editorial adviser as others rose and fell.
VK was in Bali the day the paper was shut down during Operation Lallang in 1987, with other Malaysian newspaper editors attending a conference. The affected editors, VK and CC Liew of Sin Chew which was also shut, and PC Shivadas of the New Straits Times, immediately returned to their posts.
After the paper was revived six months later, with many conditions attached and a change in shareholdings, VK remained at the helm as the paper grew to commercial success and a lucrative public listing under managing director Steven Tan, a protege of Koon Swan, and a colleague when Steven and VK were both on the pioneer editorial staff of Business Times. He was moved sideways as editorial adviser, continuing to write a weekly column until his retirement.
It was the column that the general public saw of VK, and for which he received harsh criticism and much abuse, especially from online commentators, in providing a platform for the views of MCA leaders in particular and the prevailing view of national leaders in power. Internally there was criticism of his being retained at full six-figure salary and perks, for apparently being a mere columnist, and carping about the quality of his columns. Through it all, VK remained a link between the MCA leadership, effectively the paper’s owners, and the higher management of the paper and the company.
In April last year, already ailing, VK’s work was honoured with a lifetime achievement award from the National Press Club.
1936 – 2011
Amended to clarify VK’s retirement position.