A lifelong battle
“In whatever world that we live in, sacrifices are often needed for the achievement of justice and democracy. However, the question is, what amount would we have to sacrifice?”
Lim Guan Eng was a simple man who grew up and came of age in the world of politics. In the last 20 years, he went through the worst and the best that the political world could offer.
Prior to his political career, Lim was a Senior Banking Executive with a degree in accounting from Monash University, Australia. He was first elected as a Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka in 1986, after defeating Malaysian footballer Soh Chin Aun with a majority of 17,606 votes.
In October 1987, Lim first tasted persecution when he was detained under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) during the ‘Ops Lalang’ ISA crackdown and was only released after 18 months. In 1994, Lim was arrested by the Malaysian police following his criticism of the government’s handling of allegations of statutory rape against the former Chief Minister of the state of Melaka, Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Thamby Chik.
Consequently, while the Attorney General decided not to charge Rahim Thamby Chik, Lim was charged under Section 4(1) (b) of the Sedition Act 1948 for “causing disaffection with the administration of justice in Malaysia”. Lim was also charged under Section 8A (1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment but was released after 12 months.
In prison, the young Lim was subjected to utmost humiliation. His head was shaved and he was forced to squat with his hands behind his head for the daily roll call. When his wife and children came to visit, he had to speak to them through a separator glass with an intercom. It was enough to break a man’s spirit.
Barred to contest in the 2004 elections due to his conviction, Lim made a huge comeback in the 2008 elections by becoming Penang’s fourth Chief Minister.
On his reasons to enter politics, Lim states that “every Malaysian should be concerned about political developments. One could be an environmentalist but in order to implement the policies that he/she believes in, it has to be political. Most of the things that affects our daily lives can be linked back to politics”.
It is Lim’s belief that everyone has the ability to make a difference and change the world. If a person is not interested in politics at all, they can at least do their part as a citizen by voting.
Lim also believes that the March 2008 elections were the political awakening of the younger voters who wanted change. They have grown tired of BN’s lack of democratic values and corrupt practices. Internet access of course, played a huge role in what happened that day. The influx of alternative information also turned off older voters from the ruling party.
Did Lim expect to be Chief Minister of Penang?
“I was wondering if I would win my own seat. I was just hopeful of breaking BN’s two thirds majority in the Penang State Assembly,” he says.
Lim remains optimistic for the future but he understands that not all elected representatives are doing well. Experience is something that many are working on and some learn faster and others slower. Each elected representative has different abilities.
UMNO has continued to attack Lim’s administration on racial and religious issues. Lim’s response was that UMNO is not only bankrupt of ideas, but they do not have the public interest in mind. UMNO, according to Lim, is looking out for their private interests. The Penang state government will continue to fight for the truth based on the principles of CAT (Competency, Accountability, and Transparency) governance.
Lim’s administration has become a model for the other states in Malaysia. In 2010, Penang achieved a record 12.2 billion in Foreign Direct Investment. It also hit a record high in state revenues, collecting RM 1.1 billion in accumulated funds for the whole of 2009.
In the 2009 Auditor General’s Report, Penang was the only PR-ruled state to receive the ‘baik’ (good) accreditation in their financial standing. It also collected 29.1 % more in actual revenue, bringing the tally to RM 376.51 million.
The Auditor General’s Report also revealed that a Bumiputera Housing Trust Fund for the state was set up for the first time, with RM 12.65 million channelled to it.
Three state agencies also received the level of ‘sangat baik’ (very good) in contrast to only two back in 2008.
Lim’s Government was also the first government in Malaysian history that gave money back to the people. Senior Citizens were the first to receive RM 100 a year and a RM 1000 one-off payment is given to the family of senior citizens who pass away.
This has now been extended to single mothers and handicapped persons. RM 100 one-off payments will also be given to newborn babies whose parents are Penang voters and earn less than RM 4000. One time payments to students getting placements in local universities has also been increased to RM 1000.
Lim has dispelled the myth that a people-centric government can never exist in Malaysia. CAT has indeed shown that Malaysia will continue to have hope if the people want it to.