(Speech by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah at DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang’s 75th Birthday Celebration at the Equatorial Penang on 20 Feb 2016)
1. Given the adversarial nature of our politics, speculation about Kit Siang being the doyen of MPs in the Dewan Rakyat is merely a moot point. But his sitting across the aisle from the Government bench notwithstanding, Kit Siang has contributed his fair share to the development of our political and parliamentary practice. We will surely come to this conclusion if we took a disinterested look, devoid of “partisan bias” and the “plays to the gallery”, at his politics and parliamentary role.
2. The slow progress in our political maturity has somewhat affected the relationship between the parties forming the government and the opposition. This has developed a them-and-us mindset among our politicians and parliamentarians thereby denying the country the progression of “the other side of the aisle” into His Majesty’s loyal Opposition. Perhaps it is time we deliberately moved in that direction. And certainly Kit Siang will be able to offer his positive contribution in this, given the length of his tenure as an Ahli Dewan Rakyat. His experience will surely be useful even though he has been in the opposition all the while.
3. Such a happy time as a birthday celebration allows us to reflect upon what we have done and achieved, and our enjoyment of God’s blessings. But we cannot run away from the fact that life moves on; and so it is with politicians and parliamentarians. The time will soon come when we have to give way to a new set. But we owe it to this beautiful and beloved land to conduct our political activities in the most matured of ways. And so, regardless of which political divide we are in, it is incumbent upon us, as experienced politicians, to help establish benchmarks for the practice of refined democratic politics by this new set that will benefit the rakyat.
4. Political bickering and one-upmanship have to be put aside and politicians must be guided by their conscience in serving their various stakeholders. It is in this regard that Kit Siang, as an elder of his party and a veteran MP, can play a role. Our ability to reach out across the aisle to work with each other will certainly contribute towards improving the quality of our politics and at the same time, help to speed up its maturity.
5. Politicians should now be driven by the noble need to serve the rakyat and the greater good of the country. We should, therefore, reduce politicking to the minimum. We must scrap confrontational politics and do away with the scoring of points at the expense of each other. Regardless of our ideological differences, we must get on as friends and not as mere political colleagues. The government and the opposition must necessarily accept each as partners who are well synchronised with each other. They should be like ronggeng partners; moving in tune with each accommodating the other. When one advances, the other withdraws and so on and so forth.
6. This conciliatory stance by politicians of different beliefs should bring about a friendlier political culture where party card carriers and parliamentary colleagues of different shades are able to accept each other, regardless. This will most certainly add to the dignity of politics, a commodity which is unfortunately short in our trade at the moment. Should we be able to bridge this divide and work in concert with each other in an ethical manner while being principled with high integrity, respect for our politics will definitely soar.
7. At the personal level, such a professional and amiable approach to working among people of different political convictions will allow for the development of civil relationships that are meaningful and make an occasion such as this that much happier and friendlier.
(Note: Tengku ended his speech with a poem by Samuel Ullman referring to Kit Siang’s 75th birthday anniversary)
“YOUTH” by Samuel Ullman
Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.
Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.
Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.
Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.
When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.