Kerk Kim Hock - a patriot who was true to his principles

    (Updated )

    EULOGY | Kerk Kim Hock left us on Aug 9, 2017 after slipping into a coma for three days, following complications from surgery.

    His passing shocked everyone, as he looked healthy and well on his way to recovery. He had made a 61st birthday wish recently to live until 70.

    DAP extends our deepest condolences to his family. Their loss is not just a personal loss, not just a loss to DAP but also a great loss to the nation and Malaysians, especially to those in Melaka.

    For Kerk, as we fondly call him, was a true Malaysian patriot. Kerk was faithful to his family and friends as he was faithful to DAP and its principles.

    Despite being steadfast to principles of justice, democracy, freedom and honesty, he made friends easily and had very few foes. He was that rare Malaysian politician who was well-liked.

    Student politics

    That was a quality that first attracted me when I first knew him in university. We were students at Monash University, Australia and he was one year my senior.

    I had thrown my support for Kerk to reform the then Monash University Malaysian Students Union (MUMSU), which was led by Marxists, to adopt a more liberal and democratic union, not focused on political ideology but on student welfare.

    It was a no-holds barred, bare-knuckle political fight like all student politics. Kerk's political acumen even then stood out. We savoured our first political victory together, when he defeated the incumbent president and was successfully elected as president of MUMSU in a landslide victory.

    He refused to stand for re-election, instead pushing me to take over.

    Kerk impressed me then, that whilst he was fighting tooth and nail against his opponents, he could still engage with them. There were no hard feelings from him against his opponents. He always sought to win them over. He carried that trait of likeability into politics.

    He stressed repeatedly to me that our party and principles can only be strengthened when our opponents become our friend and ally. I always jokingly tell him, that this trait not only helped him in politics but also helped to win over his wife.

    Like many of us, Kerk joined the party because of Lim Kit Siang or Kit. Kerk was intelligent, articulate, sensitive and perceptive in analysing the people's mood. Kit saw Kerk's potential and quickly groomed him as one of DAP future leaders.

    Kerk had absolute faith in Kit's integrity and trusted Kit's political judgement implicitly. He told me many times that whilst he may not always agree with Kit's decisions, he always kept the faith because Kit's judgment invariably turned out to be presciently correct.

    Kit Siang wept

    It is no wonder that not only we cried when we heard of his death, but Kit wept openly when talking about his passing to DAP national advisor Dr Chen Man Hin.

    Kerk showed his both his loyalty and courage by remaining in the DAP even through our darkest hour. He did not leave the party even though he was amongst those detained under Operasi Lalang in 1987 under the infamous Internal Security Act.

    He returned to the leadership fold when I was imprisoned in 1998, following my conviction under the Sedition Act and Printing Presses & Publication Act for defending an underaged Malay girl who was raped.

    Neither did he leave the party when DAP suffered our greatest electoral debacle in the 1999 general elections, where both Kit and our national chairperson Karpal Singh were defeated. Instead, Kerk took over as DAP's fourth secretary-general.

    During his tenure as secretary-general, he helped to rebuild the party. Kerk used his personal skills to engage with the young and connect with the older members.

    He recruited younger leaders for the future, amongst them Anthony Loke. Even after his retirement from politics, he continued to care about the party and keep in touch with party leaders, giving us invaluable expert advice.

    Whilst Kerk may have won and lost his share of political battles like all of us, his greatest hour was his battle against cancer. When he was diagnosed with cancer in 2002, he never gave up but successfully beat back cancer, until he was diagnosed again in 2015.

    During that time, he never lost faith and whilst he was cheered up by the support given by party colleagues and supporters, his own inner strength and his family's devotion, care and love pulled him through.

    His resilience encouraged many suffering from cancer to not give up the fight, but also to continue to enjoy life with quality and joy.

    Even when Kerk was fighting for his life, he never stopped loving his family, his devoted wife and his outstanding children. Neither did he stop caring for his party and friends.

    Over the last few months, he continued to share his concerns with us, or point out any potential political blind spots we may have missed.

    His family is going to miss their father and husband terribly. The country and the party is going to miss Kerk. And we who know him well will really miss our friend.

    There will be that hole in our heart for Kerk but we will fill it with wonderful memories of the best times we shared together.

    Kerk after such a long battle, you deserve your rest. God bless you and rest in peace.

    LIM GUAN ENG is the Bagan MP, Penang chief minister and Ayer Putih state assemblyperson. He is also the DAP secretary-general.

    The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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