Sun (Used by permission)
by Regina William
PENANG (Oct 1, 2007): In the courtroom, he was an
adversary to be reckoned with and while those who engaged him in debate or
discussions described him as brilliant, unrelenting and one who did not suffer
Lim Kean Siew, 85, who passed away at a private hospital on Sunday of heart failure, has been hailed as an icon, who had many "different lives".
Many who knew him personally described him as being "misunderstood" due to his frankness and assertive ways.
Among those who knew the former lawyer–politician during his heyday in the 1960s when the Socialist Front governed the elected city council of George Town is Datuk Anwar Fazal the father of the Malaysian NGO movement, who served as an assistant secretary then.
"He was a political icon, being in the Socialist Front at that time and he had a certain brilliance and it was particularly challenging to get into an argument with him because he was always passionate about issues.
"He was one person who was always ready for progressive thinking and had many new ideas, and this made him different.
"The council during the times when it was run by the Socialist Front was also very involved with literary issues and Kean Siew brought intellectual elements to the city council when he was there with his brilliance and lively debates," Anwar said today.
He said Lim led many "different lives" –– in the Socialist Front, MCA, legal fraternity and social circles –– and will be remembered by different people for the different ways and his many contributions.
Consumers Association of Penang president SM Mohd Idris described Lim as a very good friend whose concern was about the poorer working class.
Idris was elected as a councillor on an Alliance ticket in 1954 and Lim was elected as a councillor in 1957 under the Socialist Front.
"We were both in different camps but we have always been friends. He used to work very hard as a councillor.
"Though on a personal level, he did not portray a very friendly outlook, he was more for a just and fairer society and he put in a lot of energy, time and effort into that.
"I will miss him as he was a good friend," Idris said.
Lawyer Tang Khye Kian, who started his legal career with Lim 30 years when he was bright–eyed legal eagle described Lim as a true community leader.
"I was 22 when I returned from England and joined Kean Siew's legal firm.
"Over the past 30 years, I have been with him, as a lawyer and also when he was with MCA.
"To me he was very iconic as he was very concerned about what was going on in society and political scene.
"All this while, despite his age, he was very versed with what was going on politically and in society and was still able to discuss and talk about issues.
"For me the loss is very personal as he was my mentor and a true friend," Tang said when contacted.
Tang last met Lim two weeks ago at his usual tea hangout at Campbell Street."I would usually pass through that way after the courts and if I see his white head visible there, I would stop by for a chat with him," he added.
Tang said when lim joined the MCA, he set up the workers and peasants division to change the party's image which was that of a "towkay's party".
Tang who also served as a municipal councillor and continued working with Lim when he won the Pengkalan Kota state seat in the 1980 by–election following the death of CY Choy.
"I branched out after working with him for five years. I learnt a lot from him –– he was an unselfish man and I could always approach him for advice whenever I encountered difficulties in cases even after leaving his firm."
Lawyer and Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh, who described Lim as an opponent to be reckoned described Lim as "very interesting and very knowledgeable".
"I first knew him in 1968 when I was reading chambers but I faced him in the courtroom when the DAP filed an election petition against Kean Siew when he won the Pengkalan Kota seat .
The DAP candidate, Teoh Teik Huat, lost the case.
"That was the occasion that I had to cross swords with him and he came across as a very interesting person and very knowledgeable.
"No doubt, he was one of the best lawyers in Penang especially during the 1960s.
"It is sad for Penang to lose two brilliant legal figures, Kean Siew and retired Federal Court judge Tan Sri Michael Chang Min Tat who died last week," Karpal said.
Lim is survived by wife Pamela Ong, three sons and a daughter.
His wake is at the Batu Gantung crematorium funeral parlour where his funeral will be held at 11am on Thursday.
Lim was the founder, the national secretary–general and the chairman of the Labour Party of Malaya and leader of the Malaysian opposition in the 1960s.
He was an elected MP for the Datuk Keramat constituency in 1959 and 1964 and joined the MCA in 1975, when the Socialist Front and Labour Party went defunct, as the presidential adviser.
He became member of the presidential council and central committee and served as Penang MCA liaison committee chairman from 1979 to 1983.
Much admired for his sharp mind, frank opinions and oratory skills, he was the first Barisan Nasional assemblyman to win the opposition stronghold of Pengkalan Kota.
Born in 1922, Lim came from a family of lawyers. His brother is renowned constitutional expert Kean Chye and his sister is Datuk P.G. Lim. Their father, Cheng Ean, was also a noted barrister.