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Lim Kit Siang – fighter, unifier, trailblazer, visionary

Incarcerations didn't quench his thirst or extinguish the fire within him to seek a better Malaysia for all

Lim Kit Siang with P Ramakrishnan (both in the centre)

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Lim Kit Siang’s birthday was on 20 February. He turned 82.

A dinner was hosted by his family for this occasion on the eve at St Giles Wembley Hotel, Penang. While witnessing the exuberant adulation of those gathered that night and listening to the many glowing tributes paid by the speakers, the following thoughts and memories wafted through my mind….

The fighter

I remembered the struggle, the suffering and the fight, which consumed nearly three quarters of his life.

In his 57 years of political involvement, he has gone through many trials and tribulations which would have broken a lesser man. But he came through it all unscathed, unbowed and undefeated.

No other politician perhaps has been so demonised and vilified in an attempt to tarnish his reputation and destroy his standing in society. This concerted attempt was undertaken because they feared him and they feared his DAP – because it was growing stronger under his leadership and posed a real threat to his opponents’ continued dominance in Malaysian politics.

If Kit Siang was not seen as the devil or demon after more than half a century of this vile, persistent vitriolic, it would only mean that they had failed miserably in their wicked attempt to paint the man with a dirty brush. It would only mean that Kit Siang had convincingly established himself as a selfless, all-caring and embracing fighter for freedom and justice who was accepted as a devout and devoted Malaysian patriot.

You may not agree with his politics or his stance in confronting an issue – and some Malaysians don’t! – but you cannot deny the fact he fought passionately and vigorously for his belief. Whatever he did, without doubt, was for the betterment of the country.

Petty politicians could not tarnish this image or ruin his reputation by blatant lies or by spinning tales of horror about the DAP in the unlikely event it formed the government. So they vented their anger mercilessly on him and violated decency in decrying him.

But despite all that, he remains untouched by any scandal and untainted by corruption, and he projects a clean image of himself as an upright politician. This, his enemies cannot demolish. This will be the hallmark of the man in perpetuity.

He had been outrageously accused of being “anti-Malay, anti-Islam, anti-Malay rulers and being a Christian, a communist and even a relative of the late Malayan Communist Party leader, Chin Peng”.

These are scandalous, repulsive, baseless, false accusations hurled at him without producing a single iota of evidence to nail him.

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The prolific writer and speaker that Kit Siang is, it is incredulous that they could not dredge out any incriminating proof that he was the devil and demon they claimed him to be. They haven’t produced any shred of proof to buttress their litany of lies. 

Kit Siang himself has said he would have written and spoken some 10 million words during the span of his political career, yet they could not find a single word that would condemn and incriminate him. That is the measure of the man.

It is said any fool can tell the truth, but it takes a man of intelligence to tell a lie. It is obvious there are not many intelligent men around – only idiots are strutting around!

Horror of horrors, they even maliciously claimed that Kit Siang had urinated on the Malaysian flagpole on May 13 in 1969, in Harun Idris’ compound. Can you ever believe that Kit Siang would have gone, at the height of extreme tension, to the Selangor menteri besar’s house, which was then teeming with thousands of angry ethnic Malays wearing red bands on their heads and ready to do their worst? It was unthinkable! It was mentioned in an article that a poor ethnic Chinese coffee-shop boy who went to serve coffee was slaughtered. It was such a dangerous situation at Harun’s house.

The truth was Kit Siang wasn’t even in Kuala Lumpur when the tragic racial riots erupted, claiming so many innocent lives. He was in Sabah. But they would resort to anything to maliciously malign a man and cast him in a poor light.

They even concocted stories to claim he was born in Fujian, China, and came to Malaya at 16, even though there is irrefutable evidence he was born in Batu Pahat, Johor, on 20 February 1941.

He has never buckled under pressure or was ever intimidated by the apparatus of the state, which was used blatantly to put him away twice under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA). Each time he had come out even more fired up in his zeal to carry on the good fight with unwavering determination and fully energised to take them on once again! These incarcerations didn’t quench his thirst or extinguish the fire within him to seek a better Malaysia for all Malaysians.

His true grit and determination in staying the course under very challenging odds and obstacles set him apart from other politicians and, as a result, he stands out as a remarkable person of indomitable spirit.

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There have also been other accusations. Some have said he is ruthless. Yes, he has always been ruthless when taking up a cause or fighting an injustice or standing up for the person in the street. He has been ruthless in taking on his opponents and higher-ups who were the cause of injustice or the reason for the pervasive corruption in the country.

He does not compromise on these issues. He has been relentless in his pursuit of a Malaysia that would be recognised and accepted as a nation for all Malaysians, irrespective of colour and creed. His dream of a Malaysia that will be a home for all citizens without any discrimination will be treasured and cherished.

The unifier

The DAP has been painted as a Chinese party – to some truth, it is so. Its membership is predominantly Chinese, with a sizeable Indian membership; its core support comes from them.

Kit Siang has been very conscious of this accusation and had tried his very best to change this perception. He had brought many capable Malays into the DAP and fielded them as DAP candidates. Now, to the credit of the party, it has some very vocal elected Malay DAP MPs and state assembly members, giving the party a more balanced image.

Not only that, the state DAP chief for Kelantan is a Malay and the Terengganu DAP deputy chief is also a Malay. This is in the very heartland of Malay territory! I am told that there are also some Malay DAP branches with an entirely Malay membership. Kit Siang’s opponents have reason to fear and feel apprehensive about their future.

There is a new awakening among the Malays. Anwar Ibrahim recognised this when he said – following Kit Siang’s announcement last year to step down from electoral politics:

“… (A)s a Malaysian and as a Malay, we are indebted to you, Kit Siang, for educating the masses on their rights in this country.

“Some Malay leaders say the Malays are lazy, dependent on subsidies, ungrateful, and easily forget (the government’s support).

“But Kit Siang said the opposite. He did not only speak about politics and the country, but also on racial sensitivity and perception. He said things that were different from what other Malays think of.”

Anwar praised Lim for his integrity and his will to remain consistent and never concede, and for never having compromised on his values and principles.

“In politics, we need this integrity, courage and tenacity. Lim embodies these qualities. Malaysians will remain proud of you,” he said.

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The trailblazer

Kit Siang was truly a trailblazer for the DAP, opening new frontiers for his party. He took his fight to new territories – from Malacca to Selangor to Penang to Perak and to Johor – and took on formidable adversaries without fear or favour. His valour in this formidable task was extraordinary and admirable.

He sought new terrain to spread the DAP’s wings and strengthen its presence. He succeeded in this mission beyond expectations. If not for him, the DAP would not have witnessed the heights of success we witness today.

The visionary

When it is the habit of politicians to hang on to power until they drop dead, Kit Siang chose to step down voluntarily as the chairman of the DAP last year, paving the way for younger members to step forward and contribute to the party and country.

Not only that. He declined to contest in the 2022 general election. That surprised many Malaysians as he was and still is at the height of his popularity, and there was no need for this decision to give up power and position.

Kit Siang could have easily won a few more terms in Parliament and remained a force in Malaysian politics. But that is Kit Siang for you – it is about the party and its future! It has never been about him. It has always been the country and the people that concerned him and consumed his passion and energy.

Many think that Kit Siang’s vision and mission is praiseworthy.

To give up all this while he is still strong and popular is something that wins the respect of Malaysians for a leader who has never been driven by greed for power and position for himself.

But in life, it is not all about power. We must have the courage and vision to make way for others. We must create space so that others can step in.

What John C Maxwell once said is true: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

I am confident Kit Siang will not fade away into the sunset. That is not him or his style! He will pick up the cudgel whenever there is a glaring abuse of power, whenever there is injustice crying for help, whenever human rights and freedom are threatened and trampled upon. You can bet on that!

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Benedict Lopez
9 Mar 2023 9.16am

LKS has done a fairly good job as a parliamentarian but he is not in the same league as DR Seenivasagam and Dr. Tan Chee Khoon.

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