Chong Eu a great Penangite, a great Malaysian, and a great patriot

By Thomas Lee

Wednesday 24 November 2010 was a sad day for Malaysians, especially Penangites. It was on that day that the beloved Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu passed away.

Chong Eu was born in Penang on Wednesday 28 May 1919 to a young medical doctor Dr Lim Chwee Leong and his wife Cheah Swee Hoon. He was given the name Chong Eu, which roughly translated from Chinese means “heaven’s blessing”.

Dr Lim Chwee Leong was just 22 years old when he graduated as medical doctor and left his hometown of Singapore to work and settle in Penang. The young doctor’s decision to make Penang his permanent abode was certainly a heavenly blessing for the island state as his first child Chong Eu was destined to be the person who would bring abundant blessings to the people of Penang.

Chong Eu was born and grew up during a very exciting epoch-making period of world history, involving two great World Wars, several national revolutions, especially those of Russia and China, many regional wars, including the Korean War and Vietnam War, and the emergence of the anti-colonialism liberation movement in the Third World countries.

Several months before Chong Eu was born, World War I that began in the middle of 1914 had just ended in late 1918. The world was then in the midst of recovering from the Great War, which involved more than 70 million military personnel, with nearly 10 million killed.

And during the month of Chong Eu’s birth, an anti-imperialist, cultural, and political movement called the May Fourth Movement was launched in China following student demonstrations in Beijing on 4 May 1919 to protest against the Treaty of Versailles, especially Article 156, which made Shando a territory under the Japanese administration. The May Fourth Movement was in the vogue during 1915 to1921, and was later called the New Culture Movement.

Hence, Chong Eu grew up in a world undergoing a process of transition and transformation, with nary a year passing without any new conflict or crisis somewhere in the world. Obviously, the cultural, socio-political, and intellectual and emotive impact and influence helped mould the growing intelligent young boy destined for greatness.

Chong Eu had his primary and secondary education in Penang. He was originally enrolled in a girls’ school, but was transferred to the Hutchings School where he completed his primary education, and went on to study at the famous Penang Free School, which produced, among other national leaders, the first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.

Chong Eu completed his secondary school in 1937 with excellent scholastic distinction and achievement, and went to England for his tertiary studies in 1938.

Few people know that Chong Eu studied law at Gray’s Inn before he took up medical studies at the University of Edinburgh as a King’s Scholar, graduating in 1944. His stint at Gray’s Inn proved to be a valuable experience and beneficial preparation for his life career as a politician and chief minister.

His time in England, which coincided with the period of World War II, lasting from 1939 to 1945, was not only an adventurous learning experience for him, but an enlightening exposure to the real suffering of people, especially after he observed the cruel atrocities and inhumanity of Nazism in Europe.

Chong Eu said that his decision to enter politics was largely due to the impact and influence of the ferocity of the socio-political storm sweeping the world during his student days in England.

Hence, Chong Eu felt strongly that people of principles should to come forward to stand up and be counted to help make the world a better place to live in.

Chong Eu told me this when I met him in Adelaide during the Penang Festival held there in 1974. I was then the publicity secretary and editor of the Malaysian Students Union in South Australia, and was helping the Penang state government in organising the first Penang Festival in Adelaide after the twinning of the two cities. Penang was founded by Captain Francis Light in 1786, while Adelaide was established by his grandson Colonel William Light in 1836.

As a politician, Chong Eu represents a rare breed of honest, bold, brave and courageous characters, who are undaunted and fearless in the defence of truth, honesty, freedom, and human rights.

For example, Chong Eu, who joined the MCA in 1952 and was its president from March 1958 to July 1959, quit as the president when he could not accept what he considered as unfair treatment of the party by the then Umno president Tunku Abdul Rahman, and was not fully supported by his party colleagues in his reform plan.

Chong Eu was perhaps the only MCA leader so far who dared to stand up fearlessly to the Umno leadership. He could have “behaved” himself and just do what the Umno leaders wanted him to do, like most of the MCA presidents after him, and he would have been given big position and great honour in the Alliance coalition federal government. But Chong Eu stood firm on his conviction and principles.

Even after his party Gerakan joined the Barisan Nasional in 1972, Chong Eu did not compromise his political beliefs and principles, and was much respected by the various prime ministers and Umno during the term of his office as Gerakan president and chief minister of Penang.

Chong Eu is surely a great Penangite, a great Malaysian, and a great patriot. The nation owns much to this great man. Much more could be written about him, but what is the most significant is that he is one person who has made Penang a great place to live and work in, and Penangites are forever in his debt.

He may be gone, but two great structures in Penang stand as testimonies to this great architect of Penang — Komtar and the Penang Bridge. Komtar is named after our second Prime Minister Tun Adbul Razak. I think we should name the Penang Bridge after Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Friday, 26 November 2010 - 8:06 am

    I can’t stand this white washing. Lim Chong Eu may not be the worst BNite in Malaysian history and did some good BUT the man made huge huge problems that we have to live to today.

    He was first of many to oppose the original National Front formula of genuine compromise not the fake one today. After he won the MCA presidency, he seek to consolidate his power artificially which he did not get Tunku’s support and his opposition used against him and hence was about to lose and forced to leave to form Gerakan.

    His politics resulted in Gerakan foolishness that allowed UMNO to blame May 13,1969 on others rather than themselves. THEN as MCA power decreased after that, he sold out the very principles he caused all the problems and leading to ultimately unprincipled Gerakan that we have today.

    Penang Bridge and Komtar were projects that he cashed in on. It was built too soon and when done was obviously not going to be good enough, cost too much resulting in having to build a second bridge now that will cost a bomb. Penang electronic/manufacturing – which idiot did not see it as the obvious thing to do after Mahathir opened up FDI out of no choice too.

  2. #2 by wanderer on Friday, 26 November 2010 - 8:47 am

    How can a “Pendatang” be recognized as a great Malaysian.
    Patriotism?…never existed with the Chinese, so said the
    UMNO Defense Minister.
    Lagi given a Senior TUN!…mamak kutty of Kerala, eat your blooming heart out!

  3. #3 by Thor on Friday, 26 November 2010 - 9:01 am

    We, Malaysians have gone cuckoo!
    You can’t take shiit as food.
    How good you’re at first and if you’re to join BnUmno then, you’re also a crook, so why all the hoo hah.
    Just let Bn fellas do the moaning.
    I believed if Mahathir were to die one day, the country’s flag will be raise half mast as well and he might even be remembered as an icon .

  4. #4 by hongkie123 on Friday, 26 November 2010 - 10:00 am

    Uncle Lim (not the Genting one) must have made a serious mistake. How can Tun Lim Chong Eu be a great patriot? He’s not even a patriot. Reason: Tun Lim Chong Eu did not joined the army.

    Anyone not in the army is not patriotic, according to our Defence Minister. Tun Lim Chong Eu was never in army. Hence he shall never be a patriot, not according to me, but according to the Defence Minister. And since he is not a great patriot, Defence Ministry would never agree to a state funeral and half mast flag.

  5. #5 by ktteokt on Friday, 26 November 2010 - 10:17 am

    One who was uncertain of his own decision cannot be great! Being a founder of GERAKAN as an OPPOSITION PARTY, why did LCE decide to join the bandit camp of Barisan Nasional? This shift from one side of the fence to another showed he had shallow roots!!!!!!

  6. #6 by ktteokt on Friday, 26 November 2010 - 10:18 am

    What’s more he was made a NUT (spell TUN backwards) by the BN government!!!!!!!

  7. #7 by monsterball on Friday, 26 November 2010 - 10:43 am

    Did you all see Koh Tsu Koon front page at Malaysiakini and Star paper concerning Dr.Lim’s death?
    When Lim Guan Eng declared public holiday and half mast flags…this KTK said it is Fed.decision.
    Who needs Federal decision for something concerning Penang and over a death of someone?
    Even death matter..KTK stoop so low to publicized himself.
    Look at the shape of his face….like a cunning devilish raven bird..and the face of LGE of a simple and kind concerned leader.
    Yes…face…writings speaking and actions.. tell the character of a man.

  8. #8 by limkamput on Friday, 26 November 2010 - 12:55 pm

    When a person is dead, we usually talk good about that person. That is a natural and a decent thing to do. But what is so great about this man when we labelled him great Malaysian and great patriot. Multiracial Malaysia and two-party system would have emerged and started in 1969 if not for this man in the hurry to sacrifice long term objectives for short expediency. We are good in generalisation. May be he did play a role in bringing industrialisation to Penang. But if Chong Eu were the MB of Kedah (instead of CM of Penang), would the success be the same? We the people sometimes over attribute the success to our so-called leaders and under appreciate our own hard work, ingenuity, tenacity and sacrifice.

  9. #9 by dagen on Friday, 26 November 2010 - 3:33 pm

    Yes. I agree. Limkamput is most probably right there with this chong eu guy.

  10. #10 by yhsiew on Saturday, 27 November 2010 - 1:19 am

    This is how the world appraise a politician. If he does more good things than bad things then he is called a good politician. Chong Eu probably falls under this category.

  11. #11 by Comrade on Saturday, 27 November 2010 - 9:41 am

    reply to yhsiew #10

    Yes, a trick of the devil
    Do good to cover up evil
    But actually in God’s eyes
    Do good only, no vice

    True repentance is the only way
    Or meet God’s wrath one day
    Food for thought to one and all
    Esp to BN leaders lest your downfall

  12. #12 by raven77 on Saturday, 27 November 2010 - 6:51 pm

    Medical doctors like Lim Chong Eu, LIng Liong Sik, Porno Chua Soi Lek and of course The Kutty…should all be banned from politics….these guys make irrational decisions and make the country suffer…

  13. #13 by katdog on Monday, 29 November 2010 - 1:06 am

    LCE was the one that set up the FTZ in Penang, one of the first in the nation. It was him that convinced companies like Intel to set up their first manufacturing plants outside of US. Today tens of thousand of Malaysians owe their jobs to the hard work of LCE who transformed a muddy padi field into a global manufacturing hub.

    In the 1960’s, Penang had lost its free port status to Langkawi, the island was suffering crippling unemployment of 16%. Like it or not, it was under LCE’s watch that the tiny state of Penang successfully turned around and became one of the most industrialized and wealthiest states in the country.

    No man is perfect. We may disagree with some of his decisions, but one must be fair and give accord where it is due. For good or bad, in the end, one can safely say that he did do what he believed was best for the people of Penang.

    In the end, we have to at least give our grudging respect to the man that was the captain that steered Penang to success through the 70’s and 80’s.

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