The late Dr M K Rajakumar was a great man in a tumultuous era in Malaysian history. Unfortunately, he lived in an era that was not ready for a man like him; otherwise, he would have moved the world, observes Tan Kai Hee.
Some people are living, but are already dead
Some people are dead, but they live on
~Zang Kejia, “Some People”
I feel very honoured to have had Dr M K Rajakumar as a friend.
In the 40 years I knew him, he was my mentor. The first time I became acquainted with his name was through the 1954 Fajar incident. For provoking the wrath of the colonialists, Raja and the other seven members of the Fajar editorial board were hauled to court, their celebrated case a harbinger to the anti-colonial movement and struggle for democratic freedom which would shake Singapore and Malaya.
Outstanding political worker
Raja was a very kind and amiable person. From the time he joined the Labour Party (LPM) in the 1960s, he proved himself to be an outstanding political worker. As an anti-colonial hero of Fajar fame, he was highly respected by the Left and the masses; but he preferred to keep a low profile and declined high office in the party. All the same, whenever any big issue cropped up in the party, everyone would immediately think of him.
Many policy documents, speeches and press statements were drafted by him within the shortest time. Whether it was in articulating party policies and strategies at meetings or delivering speeches at rallies, he was always eloquent and lucid, reflecting his wealth of knowledge and nimble mind.
From the first day I met him till his demise, he was the person I held in greatest respect in the LPM. His was a life dedicated to upholding truth and justice. He was my model. He had always been a defender of the socialist ideals. He did not care for fame or glory, but quietly worked for the people. He was poor but had great moral integrity, he was never tempted by money or position. Instead, he often donated what little he had to disaster victims within and outside the country.
He opened a small clinic in Jalan Loke Yew to serve the people there, and had never talked about giving it up. At the same time, a lot of well-known and important people also came to him for treatment and counsel. They sought his views and advice, and he never hesitated to share with them his knowledge and understanding of current issues and situations. That was the way he was: never turning anyone away, always giving; all through his life leading numerous fighters for justice on to the right path.
All his life, displaying no desire for eminence or wealth, he quietly made his contributions to the country and the people. He was like Dr Norman Bethune of Canada, who went all the way to China to offer his services in the liberated areas of China to treat and care for the soldiers. He was also like Nobel laureate, Mother Teresa, who gave of herself ceaselessly. This kind of selfless internationalist spirit earned Raja the admiration and respect of the Malaysian people.
In 1965, Raja and I were locked up together in Block C of the Batu Gajah Detention Centre. Sharing our cell were Hasnul, Burhanuddin, Tajudin and Nazar Nong. Boestamam was next door. We had all struggled for freedom, democracy, genuine independence and equal rights in the country. We were all victims of the ISA and passed a long, difficult and unforgettable period together under detention.
Unwavering will power
As a highly intellectual doctor, his firm stands and unwavering will power were astounding. His commitment in all his undertakings deeply impressed me. At that time he was also my language tutor and mentor in strategic thinking. My later survival and success in the business world owe much to his tutelage during those years and his subsequent counsel.
I am gratified that besides guiding me in my work and career, he was always concerned about my health and safety, constantly providing me with advice. Unfortunately, he himself fell sick from overwork and had to go in and out of hospital numerous times for heart surgery. I felt saddened for not being able to lighten his suffering. On the other hand, he remained jovial, greeting everyone with a cheerful smile – never dwelling on his painful struggle against his illness. I was dumbfounded and humbled.
In his final moments, as his family, Dr Jeya and I watched him pass away in peace, the pain in my heart was intolerable.
He was a great man at a tumultuous era in Malaysian history. Unfortunately, he lived in an era that was not ready for a man like him; otherwise, he would have moved the world.
Rest in peace, my old friend, my old comrade, my guiding spirit. We will remain true to your ideals and your dreams and continue down the path you have laid for us – step by step, generation by generation.
(Translated from Chinese by Tan Pek Leng)
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