Monday, February 20, 2017

Lim Kit Siang is a “bad guy”?! Seeing Lim Kit Siang from My Eyes.

My childhood memory: Lim Kit Siang is a "bad guy"! 

I grew up in a small town called Batu Anam and studied in chinese schools, where the core values were to be obedient and hardworking. Throughout my primary and secondary schools, I always thought that what teachers, textbooks, RTM news and newspaper said were always right. I memorized the whole history textbooks (yes, that's what a nerd do!) believing that what I read was the real history. I rarely read newspaper, but when I did, I would read only the headlines. I also didn’t bother much about watching TV news, but when I did, it would just be part of it as the news was before or after the TVB evening shows (I used to like to watch TVB drama during childhood days.

However, from the little things I knew from the mainstream newspapers and TV news, I did know about Lim Kit Siang and had an opinion on him. I guess that’s the amazing thing about human being, we always have an opinion on just about anything based on the information we gather, no matter how little it is. 

To me, at that period of time, Lim Kit Siang was a “bad guy”, just like Anwar Ibrahim. The “rocket” was a trouble-maker. I couldn’t even remember the full name of “that rocket party”. I always wondered why the parents of my childhood best friend voted for DAP - those “bad people”.  (Mainstream media brain-washing really worked on me during my childhood and teenage days.) 

As the years went by, I went to the university, then worked and studied overseas, my view began to change – history text books were not necessarily correct, the newspaper and TV news were not telling me the full truth and the government surely was not saint and did not know it all! But even then, I wasn’t that into Malaysian politics although I would vote for the opposition; I had a neutral view on DAP and the leaders including Lim Kit Siang. 

Unlike many people, Lim Kit Siang had never been my "childhood hero”.

With LKS at one of the DAP fund-raising dinners 

First “Encounter” of Lim Kit Siang and the DAP

I first met, or to put it more correctly, saw Lim Kit Siang, was when I first visited DAP headquarter for  a meeting. Before I went to the HQ, I had in my mind painted many pictures of what I expected the DAP HQ to be, but to my surprise, it was completely out of my imagination. I had been to Wisma MCA before to do my UK student visa, so I expected the DAP HQ to be similar to that of Wisma MCA. But it wasn’t the case. It was much smaller and humbler. And the most surprising thing for me was the place we had our meeting was just next door to Lim Kit Siang’s office! I had always imagined political leader of his statue would have many layers of secretary. But no, I saw him, through the transparent glass of his office door. So humble and simple.

Everything in the DAP HQ including Lim Kit Siang was much simpler and humbler than I had ever imagine. It was this first experience in HQ that first attracted me to the party and it dawned on me that there was perhaps, still a political party in Malaysia that worth joining.

I believe such spirit is still the same to this date. We have spent so much on Impian Malaysia projects since its launch in 2013 to help people in the rural areas and started many other new initiatives while our HQ building remains largely unchanged. This is impossible if we have leaders that value superficial achievement more than real works that will benefit the people and change the future of Malaysia.

Lim Kiang Siang as the Magnet to the DAP

As I was considering if I should enter into politics to make change and whether DAP was the right party to join, just like many young people, I went to the website to check DAP out. I was struck with the struggle of the party, succintly stated on the website:

The DAP is committed to the struggle for a free, democratic socialist Malaysian Malaysia, based on the principles of human rights, equality, social and economic justice, and founded on the institution of parliamentary democracy.”

I believe with my whole heart that this is the Malaysia that I want to see. And ideologically, I had been a social democrat. So all fit well. But still, I was in doubt, people can say they stand for one thing but do another.

So I continued to search for information on the internet and stumbled into this YouTube video series “A Malaysian Dream – Life and Times of Lim Kit Siang” (you should watch it if you haven't).  I watched the videos and was truly touched by how Lim Kit Siang stood for the right principles even that meant insult, jail and repeated intimidation and persecution. Along with the story of Karpal Singh, I was convinced that the DAP leaders will do what they say. Many people think that it was another leader that brought me to the DAP, perhaps introduction yes, but it was Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh walk-the-talk stories that “sealed the deal”.

Continued Inspiration

Even now that I am an elected representative of the DAP, Lim Kit Siang as the top leader of the party has never been a personal friend of mine. At times I even worried that he doesn’t remember my name. But he has not stopped to inspire me in this political journey.

Right after the general election in 2013, he launched “Impian Malaysia” the Malaysian Dream movement and envisioned it to be a movement that will bridge the gaps between different communities in Malaysia to realize the principle of DAP of a Malaysian Malaysia, equality and social and economic justice. When I first heard that, I thought to myself, “how could a person of Lim Kit Siang’s age still have so much idealism?” Sometimes young politician like me get “real” very fast and doesn’t dare to dream and speak about our ideals anymore. But it is exactly because of idealism and people who dared to dream the impossilibity that the history of the world changed.

Lim Kit Siang has inspired me to continue to hold on to idealism in this journey and not only holding on to it, but to keep speaking about it unashamedly. And of course idealism cannot become reality without actions. Lim Kit Siang himself has traveled high and low in the country, including to the rural place that could only be reached by sampan, to continue to speak about things that matter to the country. Over the last 50 years, he has written more than 10 million words to talk about policies that will make Malaysia a better place. In the Sarawak State Election in 2016, he traveled more than 4,000km to campaign for the DAP candidates and despite DAP put so much efforts and resources in our rural outreach, we still couldn't get a breakthrough even in one rural seat in Sarawak. I remember vividly how our campaign team broke down in the operation centre and how the whole world seem crashing down on us after the results were announced. But Lim Kit Siang, the 75 year-old man who has traveled the most during the entire campaign, picked us all up by issuing a new direction for the party the next day after our lost. 

Journey in pursuing our idealism is not easy. Sometimes I am disillusioned and discouraged with the seemingly unchangeable future of Malaysia but I am always reminded of the short conversation I had with a colleague. I was complaining to him that I was sick and tired of all that were happening and asked why in the world were we doing this, he just gave me a short reply “if you think you are tired, think of Lim Kit Siang, he has been fighting this for fifty years.”

Are you sick and tired of the mess that's going around in this country? Do you think that it is impossible for us to change anything and just want to give up, pack and leave? Think of Lim Kit Siang. 

We must fight on, just like Lim Kit Siang. 

This article is modified from an article I contributed as part of the collection in Lim Kit Siang 75th Birthday Book last year.