THE BIRTH OF FIAP
On an afternoon in early December 1970, I received a telephone call in my office from Dr. Soichi Ichida from Tokyo , Japan . He introduced himself to me as a recently elected Vice President of the Federation of International Philately (the FIP) who has been very active in football and philately in Japan . He telephoned to see whether he could meet me when he comes to Singapore the coming Saturday to discuss the formation of an Asian wing body of the FIP, to promote philately in Asia, as during that time Asia was relatively undeveloped form the philatelic point of view as compare to Europe and the Americas. I readily agreed.
When the Saturday morning came, I received his telephone call to say that he has just arrived in Singapore and was staying at York Hotel in Mount Elizabeth off Orchard Road . I drove to York Hotel and arrived there at 2 pm and met him at the Lobby of the hotel. Dr Ichida was a stout gentleman in his late fifties/early sixties who spoke very good English, we got down immediately to talk passionately about philately when he brought me up to his hotel suite on the eleventh floor.
Dr. Ichida told me that he got my name from Mr. Soh Ghee Soon who was once the President of the Football Association of Singapore whom Dr Ichida had come to know through his earlier association whit football in Japan . I was a fairly young architect in private practice at that time, but had taken over as President of the Singapore Stamp Club in 1967, the premier stamp club in Singapore which was founded in 1940 and until 1967, had President predominately from England . When Singapore became an independent Republic when it separated from Malaysia in 1965, the issue of its own stamps as a Sovereign Republic and its own control of design and production became important, a stamp Advisory Committee under the Minister for Communications was formed in February 1968. I became one of the founding members of this Committee and Soh Ghee Soon had come to know of it.
Of an Asian Federation and a wing body of FIP was planted on fertile ground in Singapore, and soon took root. Over a two-hour meeting and discussion, the decision was made. I was to contact all the other passionate collectors in South-East Asia and Australia whom I know, to plan and arrange an inaugural meeting in Singapore as soon as possible. Over a period of three months I had contacted John Gartner in Australia , Dr. A. R. Kandiah in Malaysia , Retired Air Marshall Suryadarma of Indonesia and Christopher D’Almanda of Hong Kong and through John Gartner I had come to know of Charles Stewart of Bangkok who was then the General Manager of the Singer Sewing Machine Co in Bangkok . Dr Ichida himself introduced Mr. Samad Khorshid of Iran .
The First Six Months
Dr Soichi Ichida relied on me to communicate with all these passionate collectors and to have them agree to come to Singapore for an inaugural meeting as soon as possible.
So for the first six months in 1971, I was in contact with all the above-named, and come to think of it, at this time while reminiscing of the of the FIAP founding, none of them are around-except myself.
In 1971, I had just opened an architectural practice in Kuala Lumpur for my partnership then known as Design Partnership and I traveled to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore on practically a weekly basis. However, I knew Dr. Kandiah and his philatelic colleagues since 1962, and for many years I have been meeting him, C Nagarajah, and Loh Chang Yoong. “Naga” was quite a young man then, like myself and I am glad to this day he has continued to take an active role in FIAP as the editor of the FIAP Journal published annually.
In 1971 I met up with Soichi Ichida twice, once in Tokyo . While in Tokyo he introduced to me Yoshio Watanabe. He explained to me the complicated situation of the philatelic factions in Japan . On one hand himself with Hiroyuki Kanai and on the other Meiso Mizuhara, with the fourth person Ryo Ishikawa whom he described as an individualist who is not much a team player but who when pressed for a commitment, would at most times be on his side. Watanabe he described as a very loyal and important ally to himself and Kanai.
I had come to know of John Gartner and his wife Zelma, from December 1969. A few months earlier he had met Andrew Tan in Singapore, and Andrew had suggested that he and I should meet as we share the same passion in philately. I met John Gartner and found that we shared much in common. I had spent six years in Melbourne, doing my Matriculation in 1957 and the next five years doing Architecture in the University of Melbourne . I, therefore, understood the “Aussie” jokes that Johan Gartner likes to pull over so often and he in turn finally found someone who understood them and who could occasionally issue out a “repartee”. So we had good times when we ever get together with him then regularly drinking his “whisky, lime and dry” a concoction I can never understand, and with me my beer which I first “graduated on” in Melbourne, before my Architecture.
Retired Air-Marshall Suryadarma had been corresponding with me on philatelic matters for several years already from 1976 I believe. We had one other interest in common, with the water. I was a regular competitive swimmer in my student and University days in Melbourne , and Suryadarma was a very keen scuba diver, collecting shells besides rocks and stones. When I visited his home in 1968, and again in 1973, he showed his extensive stamps and stone collection which occupied practically every room of his house.
Christopher D’ Almada was about the same age as Soichi Ichida. A very fit, slim and trim gentleman who was single and of Portuguese descent whose forebears have come out of Far East from Portugal in the early nineteenth century. A fine athlete in his younger day, he was the Hongkong sprint champion in the 1930s. A very soft spoken and likeable gentleman who lived on a sea-side bungalow with a steep drop to the waters below. He was a much respected philatelist in Hongkong who in later years introduced William Kwan as his successor in Hongkong.
Whit me in Singapore was the late So Kai Ming, who was the Secretary of the Singapore Stamp Club where I was the President from 1967 to 1976. I later introduced Tay Peng Hian and Chan Huei Lock to FIAP. Chan Huei Lock succeeded me as the President of the Singapore Stamp Club in 1977, and remained as President until 1991, probably the longest serving president of this club.
The founding players of the FIAP being introduced to each other over a period of 18 months, the time was ripe in early 1972 for the first pre-inaugural meeting of the FIAP. This meeting was held in Hotel Negara on 16th December 1972 with the following attendees.
Dr. Soichi Ichida ( Japan ), Koh Seow Chuan & So Kai Ming ( Singapore ), Y Watanabe ( Japan ), Ret’d Air Marshall Suryadarma ( Indonesia ), John Gartner ( Australia ), Dr Kandiah & C Nagarajah ( Malaysia ).
The name proposed and agreed then for FIAP was INTER- ASIA PHILATELIC FEDERATION. The headquarters for the FIAP was agreed to be in Singapore . John Gartner was charged to draft the first constitution and I was to be responsible for getting it registered in Singapore.
This was how the FIAP was born, conceived in 1970, and delivered in 1973. It received its birth certificate in 1974, and the first official inaugural congress was held in Kuala Lumpur in 1975.
By Koh Seow Chuan, RDP, FRPSL