(Speech by Dr. Lim Guan Choon, Lim Kit Siang’s youngest son and fourth child, at Kit Siang 75th birthday party at Equatorial Hotel, Penang on 20 Feb 2016)
A very good evening distinguished guests, dear family and friends, including my father’s classmates from Batu Pahat Year 1959.
On behalf of my family, I would like to thank all of you for coming.
We are gathered here today to celebrate a very special occasion: my father’s 75th birthday.
We were in this same venue five years ago, and we hope to see you again in five years’ time for his 80th birthday party.
A lot has changed in the last five years, it has been a tumultuous time for Malaysia and Malaysians.
But what has not changed is my father’s courage, steely determination and endurance in fighting for what is best for the country.
To me, he will always be my hero who inspired not just me and my generation but the subsequent ones.
He taught himself many things. He studied not just law while in detention in 1969 but also Jawi and yoga.
I benefited from that as Jawi was somehow a compulsory subject for Standard 2 pupils in Batu Pahat in the year 1972.
He taught me Jawi and there was free yoga lessons for the family. He was also very quick to embrace IT in the 1990s way before most of us caught on to it.
Despite his very busy schedule, he always made time for the family. We would rarely miss any blockbuster movies especially the martial art flicks from Taiwan in the ’70s which was the reason one of my earliest ambitions was to be a renowned swordsman.
We played table tennis together at home. When they built a squash court near our house in Melaka, we both taught ourselves squash and he was extremely competitive and gave me a hard time.
He is indefatigable: he can criss-cross the country over many days to attend meetings, forums and ceramahs.
I can’t keep up with him. In fact, his energy and passion put a lot of the younger generation to shame.
He is relentless. He has cautioned me about running too many marathons but let me tell you if running marathons was a fad in his day, with his sheer endurance he would have done ultramarathons for sure.
Fortunately, he is blessed with a strong disposition but the family is not too happy with his frenetic pace and would like to take this opportunity to persuade him to slow down a little.
I remember very vividly his major health emergency. It was Labour Day 2011 and I took part in the Georgetown bicycle ride with my two children when I received a phone call from him. He was in Kuching.
He had just undergone cataract surgery on his left eye 10 days before. He told me that when he woke up, he could not see anything with his left eye. It was a complete blackout.
My heart sank as I knew he most likely had suffered a rare but extremely serious complication which can lead to complete loss of vision.
It was a trying time for me as a doctor and son, and the whole family but even more so for him but throughout this crisis, he remained calm patient and resilient.
His humility struck many of his caregivers. Fortunately, we were able to get him back to Penang that night for a major eye surgery the next day.
He was fortunate to receive good, medical care in Penang. He responded to treatment, and over the next one to two weeks, his vision recovered almost fully.
Of course after just a few days in hospital, he was keen to return to hectic schedule. He was NOT a good patient.
Due to his unflinching belief and passion for justice, fighting for what is right without fear or compromise, he was detained twice, first in 1969 and the second time in 1987.
It was a dark period for our family, difficult for him but even more difficult for my dearest mom.
She had to raise four children aged 3 to 9 as a single parent with no knowledge of what the future held.
She had to face it all over again in 1987, this time a double whammy, as not only her husband but her eldest son was arrested.
I remember our weekly trips from Melaka on Saturday afternoon to pick up my sister Hui Ming from KL and driving to Taiping for an overnight stay before a short drive to Kamunting for a visit lasting one hour.
This is followed by a long drive back home to Melaka with only a following visit the next weekend to look forward to.
For my mom, the worry and trepidation do not go away even after their release as the danger of further detention remains as long as they are in active politics.
My father travels extensively. However, he would always make it a point to call in every night. I remember even as a child, I could sense my mom’s unease every night until the phone call came to reassure her that he was safe at least for the time being.
Despite all the pressure, she was resilient. She had successfully held the family together and we didn’t turn out too badly.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my mom for being the unsung heroine and giving my father the opportunity to continue his fight for a better Malaysia.
My father taught us mainly by example to distinguish right from wrong and to do good.
He has never told us what to do and let us make our own decisions but always there to offer us unwavering support when we are down.
We are extremely grateful. We love you dad and wish you good health, happiness and for your dreams to come true.
Finally, I would like to thank my extremely efficient sister Hui Ying and her team for putting tonight’s celebration together with the support of my dear brother, the Chief Minister.
So sit back and enjoy the evening, and thank you very much.