How does one acclaim a man who is a living legend? Recognised by every Malaysian for his tireless advocacy for justice and freedom. Acknowledged by friend and foe as an indefatigable fighter for a better Malaysia. And admired universally for his unquestioned courage, incorruptibility and integrity.
Shakespeare wrote that some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.
Lim Kit Siang was all three and more. He also inspired greatness in others.
Lim Kit Siang or Kit as he was known to friends, was born into a poor family in Batu Pahat. His parents were illiterate but his mother taught herself to read. Her passion in learning was communicated to her youngest child who was blessed with a brilliant and incisive mind, infused with steely determination and discipline as well as gifted with a natural charisma and oratorical skills that made him a standout leader.
Using his academic brilliance to gain prominence, he had greatness thrust upon him after winning a parliamentary seat in the 1969 general elections. Kit allowed himself to be detained under the notorious Internal Security Act in 1969. Kit allowed himself to be detained even though he was warned to stay away in Singapore. But he refused to run veritably walking into the shadow of the valley of death. On landing in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, he asked the police whether they were waiting for him and was whisked away.
The May 13 riots were frightening times for our family but Kit never showed fear. He taught himself law and Jawi in detention, devoured books and wrote letters that showed his clarity of thought and compassion for the weak. After Kit’s release from detention, Kit achieved greatness by his dint of effort and unquenchable courage.
His speeches sounded like a dissertation of what should and could be, not the fatalistic acceptance of what is. His factual account of the excesses, wrongdoing and corruption was like a treatise of abuse of power. One of his greatest feats was digesting the vo
luminous BMF scandal report in 3 days, his expose of corruption in the purchase of naval warboats and his trenchant opposition to the amendments to the Offiical Secretas Act.
I do not wish to write about Lim Kit Siang trials and tribulations, neither his greatest success and regrets nor his greatest joy and sorrow.
I want to touch on Kit’s greatness that have been rarely explored, his ability to inspire others to scale heights and even attain
greatness. Kit led both by example and also by empathy with those around him. A word or his mere presence sufficed. Somehow we who followed him were greatly comforted that he would be there for us to pick us up when we fall or to help us if we were in trouble.
The affection and love party leaders and members have for him is genuine. We may not agree always with him but we trust his judgment and idealism implicity. Many joined DAP because of Kit, those who did not stayed on in DAP also because of Kit.
Our National Chair Karpal would bristle at any slight on Kit and would express his anger at those who tried to denigrate Kit. Our National Advisor, Dr Chen Man Hin always advised us to seek Kit’s counsel. Karpal never failed to remind me that what we achieved today is due to Kit’s leadership during those tough times and that we must never forget Kit’s historic role in helping DAP to win power.
Of course, there were a few who fell by the wayside. Greatness is not easy to live with. After all, for one who had a difficult time growing up under a banyan tree, I can understand how some eyes can be dimmed when they fail to live up to the ideals.
This is why we appreciate Kit more. With maturity we realize how important Kit helped in blazing the path, keeping the flame burning and lifting up flagging hopes whether in the best or worst of times. Most of all Kit kept all of us in the right path. That we must not only do things right but must do the right things.
Thank you Kit for inspiring DAP and us to greatness. Happy 70th Birthday and may you be with us for many more years.