The three things that happened to me in my first Internal Security Act detention in Muar 1969-1970

Three things happened to me during the seventeen months of my first Internal Security Act detention in the Muar detention centre in 1969 – 1970.

First I started on law studies, which gave me an external law degree with the University of London and I later flew to London three times on the cheapest flight available at the time (Aeroflot) to dine in the Lincoln’s Inn (cheapest dinner in London at the time, but with the air tickets added in, quite expensive meals) to qualify to sit for the Bar Examinations and to be called to the Bar in London. But I did not become a practising lawyer.

Second, I taught myself to read and write Jawi.

But it was the third event which moulded my whole life, about integrity and loyalty to principle – the saying of the great Chinese patriot-poet-politician, Wen Tianxiang, who penned these immortal words:

“Who can avert his death since time immemorial?

“Let my heart remain true to shine in the annals.”

Through thick and thin, rain or shine, we must be prepared to stand up to the yardstick spelt out by Wen Tianxiang, for the “heart to remain true to shine in the annals”.

As I said just now at the launching of the renovated DAP branch at the Bentong new village, which I had opened 45 years ago in 1974, my visit to Bentong and Karak today is a visit down the memory lane.

I saw veterans and old faces like Lip Tuck Chee, who spearheaded the first DAP breakthrough in Pahang state by winning the famous Raub State Assembly by-election 36 years ago in June 1983, and ordinary men and women but stalwart Malaysians who contributed to Malaysian nation-building with their “blood, sweat and tears” because of their devotion down the decades to the DAP and love for Malaysia for a democratic, just and united Malaysian nation.

I was very touched just now that the girl who had presented me with a bouquet when I opened the Karak DAP branch twenty years ago in 1999 was present as a comely adult to hand me a pen for the signing ceremony to mark the opening to the Karak DAP Branch service centre.

I remember in particular the memorable Bentong by-election in 1989, which I had plunged into immediately after my release from my second ISA detention under Operation Lalang on 19th April 1989. The Bentong by-election was held on May 13, 1989. It was a five-cornered fight. Our candidate Lip Tuck Chee polled 31% of the votes securing 8,895 against the 17,401 votes polled by the MCA candidate, Lim Ah Lek.

Bentong, which was first contested by the DAP in 1974, seemed unwinnable for the DAP for four decades. A former Pahang Mentri Besar had once bragged that “you cut my ears and I’d jump into the Pahang river” if DAP can win Bentong.

But the decades of “blood, sweat and tears” by DAP members and supporters – the stalwart patriots of Malaysia – paid off and finally in the 14th General Election last year, we prevailed and Wong Tack won the Bentong parliamentary seat to become the first DAP MP for Bentong.

DAP has come a long way in the 53 years of political struggle – from the first breakthrough in Pahang in the Raub State Assembly by-election in 1983, to the first parliamentary breakthrough in the Raub parliamentary seat in 2013.

At present, the DAP has two MPs and seven state assembly representatives from Pahang, namely Tengku Zulpuri Shah bin Raja Puji (MP for Raub and Deputy Minister for Water, Land and Natural Resources), Wong Tack (MP for Bentong), Chow Yu Hui (State Assemblyman for Tras), Young Syefura binti Othman (Ketari), Chiong Yoke Kong (Tanah Rata), Lee Chin Chen (Bilut), Kamache A/P Doray Rajoo (Sabai), Woo Chee Wan (Mentakab) and Leong Yu Man (Triang).

We have made the crucial and critical shift in the 14th General Election on May 9 last year from the trajectory of a failed, rogue and kleptocratic state and headed in a new direction, resetting nation-building policies to build a New Malaysia of unity, excellence, justice, freedom and integrity for Malaysia to become a top world-class nation.

But there is no guarantee of success that we can inexorably reach the goal of a New Malaysia, for this is work of a generation and we can always be hijacked and the nation-building direction diverted along the way.

There is no way that a New Malaysia can be achieved by 2023 in one general election cycle.

I cannot overemphasise that the mission for a New Malaysia can be blocked, diverted or sabotaged before its accomplishment For instance, if Pakatan Harapan loses the 15th General Election, then its kaput for New Malaysia and Malaysia as a top world-class nation.

What we are attempting is not a “revolution” where we can chop the heads of those in the old regime and build a new administration with the “revolutionaries”.

This is not the way of democracy, where there is a clear distinction between the political leadership and the government administration, requiring the new government to bring along the old administration to effect the transition, reforms and changes in the country.

To use another analogy, we are trying to scale the mountain of a New Malaysia, whether Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Malaysia, or even Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, but we want to reach the top of the mountain of a New Malaysia, to become a top world-class nation of unity, excellence, freedom, justice and integrity while the advocates of “klepto-theocracy” want Malaysia to slide down the slippery slope to the ravine of a failed, rogue and kleptocratic state.

The political journey ahead is a new and arduous one, but we must have the stamina, perseverance, commitment and confidence that we are set on a trajectory to achieve a New Malaysia where we become a top world-class nation of unity, justice, freedom, excellence and integrity in keeping with our long-standing political principles and objectives.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri