Malaysia needs a reset and return to the original nation-building principles of the nation’s founding fathers, as exemplified by the first three Prime Ministers of Malaysia

I thank everyone for attending this launch and in particular the writer, Kee Thuan Chye, for this two-volume biography.

As Kee has testified, I did not know what he was writing, and the first time I read both volumes were when they were printed. I do not agree with all that he has written, in particular his speculations, but I would recommend both volumes as an insight of my 57 years of political struggle.

I started my parliamentary life in Malacca 54 years ago, when I came as a total stranger to Malacca to stand for election as MP for Kota Melaka at the age of 28.

Since then, I have been an MP for five states — three terms as MP for Kota Melaka from 1969 and then Bandar Melaka in 1974 and 1982, MP for Petaling, Selangor 1978, three terms of MP for Tanjong, Penang 1986–1995, two terms as MP for Ipoh Timor, Perak 2004–2008, and MP for Gelang Patah, Johore 2013, and MP for Iskandar Puteri 2018 — a total of 11 terms covering some 48 years.

I am probably the longest-serving MP in Malaysia, beating Tengku Razaleigh who served also 11 terms as MP for Gua Musang from 1986–2022 and earlier as MP for Ulu Kelantan from 1974–1986, by one year.

But in each foray to a new state, it is not to an easier and more comfortable seat but an uphill battle to strike new grounds or win back an endangered constituency.

The first thing that happened to me after election as MP for Kota Melaka was to be detained for the first time under the infamous Internal Security Act.

I was in Kota Kinabalu when the May 13 riots in 1969 occurred although I was subsequently demonized as the causing and leading the May 13, 1969 riots.

I was advised by family members and party colleagues to take advantage of the curfew at the Subang International Airport not to return to Kuala Lumpur and Malacca, and to wait until the “crisis” had blown over as my name was on the ISA arrest list, but I did not give it a thought as to run away from the constituency and the country was not on my mind at all.

But this was one of the many demonisations that I have to go through in my six decades of political life. I was even accused of urinating in front of the then Selangor Menteri Besar’s official residence to provoke the May 13 riots, but the person who concocted such a lie did not have much grey matter because if such an incident had been true, the person could not come out of the official residence alive given the incendiary and inflammatory atmosphere at the time.

In the first 20 years of my political life, I was accused of being anti-Chinese educated or an CIA, MI6, KGB, or Australian secret service agent, but in my last 20 years, I was accused of being anti-Malay, anti-Islam, anti-Royalty, communist, and promoting Islamophobia.

I am still waiting for the PAS President, Hadi Awang, to substantiate his wild and preposterous allegations that I am anti-Malay, anti-Islam, anti-Royalty, communist, and spreading Islamophobia, and he is unable to do so and yet unwilling to retract them, he is a disgrace to Islam.

I am none of the allegations of demonisation of me, but a Malaysian nationalist and patriot who regards Malaysia as my only home and country, who was born, bred, and will die in Malaysia.

I believe that Malaysia is a plural country which can be a role model to the world of inter-ethnic, inter-religious, inter-cultural, and inter-civilisational dialogue, understanding, tolerance, and harmony.

My ideas came from my school days in Batu Pahat, Johore sixty years ago.

When I was in Form III in Batu Pahat High School, when I was 16 years old, I wrote a poem for my class magazine “Light”, where I said:

One for all and all for one
We care not what colour, creed, or religion you belong
For aren’t each of us Malaya’s son
Then why let silly racial quarrels prolong?

This has always been my watchword throughout my public life, and I find it utterly abhorrent for anyone who is prepared to resort to falsehoods and lies as accuse me of being anti-Malay, anti-Islam, anti-Royalty, and promoting Islamophobia.

Anyone in Malaysia who hate Malays, or for that matter, any racial or religious group in the country, whether Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, or Dayaks cannot be true and patriotic Malaysians.

In my 58 years in politics, I have always regarded myself as a Malaysian first and last. I have never regarded myself purely as a Chinese, but as a Malaysian of Chinese ethnic descent whose loyalty is unswervingly to the Malaysian nation, having common cause with all Malaysians regardless of race, religion, or region to build a better Malaysia for all Malaysians.

I enrolled in Cheng Siu Chinese primary school in Std. I and Std. Two in 1947 and 1948, and in 1949, I switched to Batu Pahat English School to receive six years of primary and five years of secondary education. But I continued in Cheng Siu night school to complete nine years of Chinese education.

It is in the schools that one learns the great precepts in life, like the story of the Song general Yue Fei, whose mother tattooed on his back the four words, jìn zhōng bào guó 盡忠報國 (‘serve the country with the utmost loyalty’), but the country here is Malaysia and not China or the story of Wen Tianxiang 文天祥 and his immortal words,

(What man is ever immune from death?
Leave me with a loyal heart shining in the pages of history)

These precepts have guided me in my some six decades of political life.

Among the things we should do for Malaysia is to return to the basics to reset the nation-building process to ensure that our schools teach the new generation of Malaysians to be Malaysians, and not just to be Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Ibans, or Muslims, Buddhists. Hindus, Christians.

The country needs the commitment of all Malaysians to ensure that Malaysia return to basics, that we reset and return to the nation-building principles which the nation’s founding fathers have written into the Constitution and Rukun Negara — constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy, separation of powers, rule of law, an independent judiciary, Islam as the religion of the country but freedom of religion for all faiths, good governance, public integrity with minimum corruption, a clean and honest government, meritocracy, respect for human rights, an end to the various injustices and inequalities in the country, a world-class economic, educational, health and social system, and national unity, understanding and harmony from our multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious, and multi-cultural diversity.

If we can successfully return Malaysia to the basics, reset, and return to the original nation-building principles of the nation’s founding fathers, as exemplified by the first three Prime Ministers of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, and Tun Hussein Onn, then there is an opportunity to restore Malaysia as a first-rate world-class nation on Malaysia’s Centennial and be a model to the world of inter-racial, inter-religious, inter-cultural, and inter-civilisational dialogue, understanding, tolerance, and harmony.


(Speech by DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang at the Malacca launch of Kee Thuan Chye’s “Lim Kit Siang — Malaysian First” Volume 2 on Monday, 30th October 2023)

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