COMMENT It is hard to believe that Lim Kit Siang, whose name is synonymous with DAP and the opposition in Malaysia, would be celebrating his 75th birthday on Feb 20, 2016.
At this age, most people would have retired or would have been quite inactive. However, this is not so with Kit Siang, who is evergreen and active in Malaysian politics.
There is no power to stop him from doing what he wants to do!
I have yet to come across a man who is so passionate about bringing about fundamental changes to Malaysian politics other than Kit Siang!
The phrase 'without fear or favour' would best describe his approach to politics.
Kit Siang comes from a humble family in Batu Pahat. He entered active politics when he became the organising secretary of the DAP in 1966. Later, he became the party’s secretary-general and chairperson.
He is the longest-serving member of the Malaysian Parliament. He also served three terms as a state assemblyperson, in Malacca and in Penang.
The DAP, as the most popular and strongest opposition party in Malaysia, is testimony to the efforts and work of Kit Siang. Nobody can deny this!
Share of punishments
Kit Siang's long span in politics was never smooth. He had his share of punishments, but remains until today a powerful and prickly thorn on the side of Umno-BN.
He was detained twice under the Internal Security Act, in 1969 and in 1987, for 18 and 17 months respectively. He had his share of suspensions from Parliament and the state assemblies.
Despite the injustice meted out to him, he bounced back to fight another battle.
Most cruel of all the allegations was the accusation that he was the person responsible for the occurrence of the May 13, 1969, race riots.
An ordinary person would not have withstood such as an accusation, but not Kit Siang. He soldiered on to prove his detractors wrong.
Despite the mercurial nature of Malaysian politics, nothing seems to deter Kit Siang from relentlessly pursuing his dream of 'Malaysian Malaysia', the clarion call of DAP to unite all Malaysians into a single bangsa, irrespective of race or religion.
Earlier on, the full utility of this call might have fallen on deaf ears, but the ruling coalition's greed, corruption and worsening race and religious relations might deflect things in the right direction.
Ideologically, Kit Siang would be somewhere in the middle-left, with his propensity to go for social democracy, an ideology that was popularised by Edward Bernstein on the basis of European parliamentary experience.
Such an ideology is something opposed to the revolutionary socialism preached by Marxists.
However, Kit Siang is never doctrinaire about his ideological pursuits. It is rather his pragmatism, his knitty-gritty approach and getting down to basics that have earned him respect among Malaysians of all walks of life.
He remains the longest-serving Member of Parliament. For many years, he was the leader of the opposition in Parliament, until he made way for the leader of PKR, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail ( photo ).
Kit Siang would go down in history as one of the best parliamentarians Malaysia ever had.
In Malaysia, Parliament is no Parliament without the presence and the debates of Kit Siang. He is so serious about his work that he spends endless hours researching and preparing his speeches and arguments.
Despite all the heavy work and extreme challenges, Kit Siang is a family man. He has four children and his eldest is none other than Lim Guan Eng, the current chief minister of Penang. I understand that the others are all doing well.
During his early days, times of political turbulence, I wonder how much time he would have had with his family. We cannot imagine how the family coped when he was detained or suspended from Parliament or state assemblies.
Despite the political odds, how did he manage to bring up his family?
As long-time admirer of Kit Siang, I used to wonder about the rare abilities of this man. It was this man who cast a spell on me to enter the DAP after I was given the 'exit' from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in 2005.
Even though I was not close to Kit Siang and was not a party member, it was Kit Siang who took up the matter of my 'sacking' with the former prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
There was no reason for Kit Siang to fight for me. I had not done any favour for him or for the DAP. However, I later realised that one way of paying back his kindness was to join the DAP and fight along with him.
Not just blind loyalty
This was not just blind loyalty, but the high respect I had for the man and his party.
Lee Kuan Yew achieved greatness in moulding Singapore into the nation that it is today.
It is unfortunate that a person and a statesman like Kit Siang never had the opportunity to helm the government in Malaysia.
If there had been less racial and religious politics, Kit Siang would have made it to prime minister. I am sure, given his democratic and progressive qualities, he would have outclassed even Lee Kuan Yew.
Even though Malaysia had a number of prime ministers, with the exception of Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra ( photo ), none of them could be described as a statesman.
If only Kit Siang had become the prime minister, the country would have attained great heights!
It is never too late. Kit Siang has not retired and neither is he tired of Malaysian politics. The tougher it gets, it will need a tough person like him to get going.
Kit Siang's birthday celebration, apart from honouring the man and the politician, should be an occasion for Malaysians to take stock of the great deeds of the man and what he wanted for the country and all its people.
His honesty, integrity and the rare ability to fight for justice and fairness should spur us to fight for a better Malaysia.
I don't think there is such a thing as retirement for Kit Siang.
His mind is still razor-sharp! He is still on the lookout for scandals and wrong-doings!
P RAMASAMY is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang and the state assemblyperson for Perai.