Penang Institute was formerly known as Socio-Economic and Environmental Research Institute (SERI) and was established in 1997. "Making ideas work" seems appropriate to the think tank of the present state government of Penang.
This morning, on our way to Penang, it occurred to me that Dr. Toh Kin Woon has something to do with Penang Institute. Cheng made an appointment with her former senior in Essex University, Dr. Wong Chin Huat, for 2 pm. Our initial plan to visit Lorong Kulit was shelved because Cheng woke up late. By the time we reached Penang bridge, it was almost 12.30pm. We decided to have Siamese laksa instead, in Pulau Tikus, but was disappointed to find the coffeeshop closed! We decided to have the second choice at the coffeeshop next to it.
We wondered if it was walkable to get to Jalan Brown from where we were. With an old Penang map in hand, I found Jalan Brown in B2 and Jalan Pasar in C2, which seems close enough, but we could not tell how far in walking distance unless we tried it. Just after lunch, we were game to try out, despite the hot midday sun. The shady trees on the way helped.
By the time we reached Penang Institute, it was only 1.30 pm. As we walked towards the old mansion, a car was driven into the compound. Imagine my surprise when I saw someone who looked like Dr. Toh! What a coincidence, I thought to myself. As he came near, I asked, "Dr. Toh?" He was surprised and greeted me with a handshake. I explained to him that we were looking for Chin Huat and pointed to my daughter seated inside, as his former junior in the university. Later Chin Huat appeared and said he was busy and we were given several issues of Penang Institute to read while waiting for him. I asked Dr. Toh why his name is not on the editorial list and he answered, "only when I write an article." Later, I found out from Chin Huat that it was Dr. Toh who set up SERI, presumably under the previous Gerakan state government!
I was impressed with the list of people on their editorial board as well as the list of columnists and contributors. Unpretentious seems best to describe the personalities and set-up, but from the quality articles, I can see them helping to shape the future of Penang... and hopefully, Malaysia.