Malaysia Dateline

Book Review of ‘Lim Kit Siang: Malaysian First’

Kee Thuan Chye’s poetic retelling of Lim Kit Siang’s journey, paints a vivid picture of the statesman’s courage under fire.

Meticulously researched and brimming with exclusive information, the author begins by taking us back to Kit Siang’s childhood as he slowly explores the world around him and uncovers the inequality and injustices in his beloved country.

Kit Siang’s life undoubtedly converges with the evolution of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), from its humble beginnings to the force majeure they have become today. We see the blood, sweat, and tears Kit Siang poured into the party, spending night after night trying to recruit just one member, mostly to no avail.

Who could blame them? After all, we’re talking about a time where anyone associated with DAP could be hauled off and taken to jail without a moment’s notice. The crime? Fighting against a government that used fear to racially divide a country.

There are many times in the book that the reader is forced to confront the ugly truth of how racial politics has dominated this nation for decades, with systemic divide-and-conquer rhetoric propagated by those in power.

The author also takes you behind the scenes of some of the darkest moments in Malaysian history, including the infamous May 13 Riots, as it lifts the veil on how those events were shaped, defined and retold by the Umno propaganda machine.

We are reminded of the abuse and harassment that Kit Siang and his peers suffered at the hands of the establishment. The political threats, intimidation, and obstacles that would follow Kit Siang would be a constant in his life. And yet, through it all, he persevered.

When the authorities created obstacles for Kit Siang and his comrades by taking away their transportation, Kit Siang with blistered feet, walked 35 kilometres under the midday sun to continue on with the protest to save Bukit China

Even when faced with the prospect of spending his life behind bars under the Internal Security Act or seeing his son, Lim Guan Eng handcuffed and taken away for defending a young girl who was allegedly raped by a powerful Umno politician, Kit Siang never backed down.

This exertion of personal courage under intense political pressure is a common theme that runs throughout the book.

What I find most fascinating however is the author’s innate ability to pick up on the duality of Kit Siang. A loud outspoken revolutionary who consistently goes up against the establishment, and the sensitive introvert who holds on to ideals far too wholesome for this world.

Although many have written about the DAP stalwart in the past, I believe that this might be the most definitive account of Lim Kit Siang and the life he’s lived so far. One might imagine that the memoir of a political behemoth might be a heavy read, but instead, each sentence is easy to digest and pleasurable.

There is beauty, sadness, and vulnerability in the personal stories shared by Kit Siang and those closest to him, which leaves the reader eagerly awaiting the next instalment.