CONTEMPORARY MALAYSIA

con·tem·po·rar·y - Modern times in its generic sense, living, occurring, or existing, at the same time; often also used as a synonym for "modern" Ma·lay·sia - A country of southeast Asia consisting of the southern Malay Peninsula and the northern part of the island of Borneo.

Readers,

An article taken from the blog of MP Wong Ho Leng, State Assembleman for Bukit Assek, Sarawak, touching story about the current Chief Minister of Penang, of his rise from the prison cell to the post of Chief Minister of Penang today.


I had written 2 paragraphs about my visit to Guan Eng when he was serving his sentence in Kajang Prison. I made that visit in October 1998 together with Chong Siew Chiang.I had merely written that during that visit in Kajang Prison, Chong Siew Chiang and I had a heart to heart talk with Guan Eng for 1 hr. 45 minutes in respect of his legal case which had cost him his freedom, political office, professional career, pension and much else besides.

I had said that it was a sad but eventful meeting. I was economical in my words.

There is one aspect of my visit to Guan Eng that day that I did not write about. Actually, I could not write about it, because it was so, so humiliating and sad. I did not write about it because Kit Siang did not want me to see it. But I did see what Kit Siang desperately tried to let me not see it.

Kit Siang was supposed to drive us to Kajang Prison. He was busy that morning and our departure from our HQ was delayed a little. Kit Siang was speeding like nobody’s business. When we arrived at the Prison, we “checked” in at the office. It was at this time that I saw the prisoners walking out in their prison uniform for row calls at the wardens’ office. They had to squat in rows, every time and every day that they did so, and the prison wardens would call their numbers.

As I walked in, I saw the familiar face of a prisoner with an unfamiliar crew hair cut. He was squatting at the front row. Both his hands were placed over the back of his head …

We had a split second eye contact but I pretended not to see … It was very dissimilar to those other cases when I was required to visit the prison as a lawyer.

Half an hour later, we met. Kit Siang did not join us. I would not know where he had gone to. Guan Eng started by saying that he wanted me to send a message to Party members and supporters in Sarawak not to despair over his fate. “Tell them that they can break my back, but they cannot break my soul.”

As we discussed his case, I knew that he was not well at all. He was pale and complained of body pain. He also complained that he had not consumed sufficient salt, the food being tasteless. We were worried that his fragile body won’t take him through. We were concerned about his safety in there. He assured us that the inmates there had treated him alright, that they all knew that he was wronged.

It was unbelievable that even when he was at the pit of his life, he had his heart for the Party members, in our case, the comrades in Sarawak.

We told him our view about the legal case. It was clear to us that he was fated to sit behind bars for another 10 months. He knew as much. Royal pardon was out of question.

As Kit Siang drove us away from the Kajang Prison, he made sure that we had a taste of the signature food of Kajang town – satay. At the coffee shop, Kit Siang greeted the town folks who wished him well and to remain strong, but in his leaner body frame, I saw the pains that he had endured. Political adversaries had long accused him of cronyism and nepotism, and the building of a Lim dynasty. The fate of his son losing everything after standing up for a Malay girl who was raped by a Chief Minister, and having to languish in jail for 18 months, showed the cruelty and venom of those accusations.

Siew Chiang was habouring many questions inside his chest and it took a long time for him to break his silence. He asked Kit Siang why he was speeding desperately this morning. Kit Siang then told us. He wanted to make it to the Prison before the row call. If we had made it in time, our meeting could begin, and Guan Eng would not have to take part in the row call. During the row calls, the prisoner had to squat in a row, hands behind the head … As the father, Kit Siang did not want us to see his son in that moment of ultimate humiliation.

Siew Chiang told Kit Siang that he did not see Guan Eng in the row. I said I did not also. Then Kit Siang told us where Guan Eng was squatted. He sped, because he had not wanted us to see the ultimate humiliation to his son.

But I had sinned with my eyes.

The signature satay was tasteless to me amidst cries of injustice that innocent people had to suffer.

On our way home, there was hardly any communication between us. Our hearts were heavier than lead. In my mind, I saw the flashes of a prisoner, hands behind his head, his face so familiar, squatting in the row like other inmates. I repeatedly asked myself whether Guan Eng deserved this. Why should I see that moment in his life when his father had wanted me not to? But that was what it was, for Guan Eng had to endure that humiliation for 365 days.

It was after midnight in Kuching not long after Guan Eng’s release. We had finished our party function and all were hungry for supper. We found a little place in order to replenish our tummies. There was no food left except plain porridge. I ordered some, teasing Guan Eng that the porridge must be better than what he was used to in Kajang. Guan Eng cursed me for reminding him of what he had gone through.

That day about 2 weeks ago, when I stood for photograph with YAB Lim Guan Eng behind his Chief Minister’s desk in Penang, I recalled what I had seen of this man. From a humiliated prisoner, he had been vindicated by the powers in the people’s hands.

Much that YAB Lim had never responded to anything I said about his less than glamorous times behind bars, he will always remember the ultimate humiliation that a person had gone through. He will know the true meaning of justice.

In less than 10 years, God has shown YAB Lim Guan Eng the way. May YAB Lim now shower mercy and love to the great people of Penang.

28.3.2008