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Terima kasih, saudara Lim Kit Siang

Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi

21 March 2022

In this article, I wish to pay tribute to a man I hardly know but have come to respect greatly, my friend, Saudara Lim Kit Siang.

As a Muslim, I judge many events, people and deeds from the values, world view and spirituality of Islam.

As I possess a wider view, perspective and understanding of Islam than 98% of Malays in this country, my position on people, deeds and thoughts are much different than most of those who profess the same religion.

In this article, I wish to regale four encounters with Kit Siang and summarise my thoughts and feelings of this important leader and son of Malaysia.

I was invited to be a member of the DAP in 2014 by Dr. Boo Cheng Hau and Mr. Liew Chin Tong.

I decided to be an ordinary member and never accepted any high post that was offered to me as that would be against my role as a civil servant and a public university academic.

Before this, I was an Umno member because my father had registered and paid the lifetime membership fees. I still have the membership card.

I then became a member of PAS during the Reformasi era to help Anwar Ibrahim’s freedom in 1998. I had supported PAS with money for over 20 years and also attended several of their conventions and many ceramahs.

I was also privileged to be invited to present my ideas of Islamic architecture to Tok Guru Nik Aziz and the whole exco members of PAS Kelantan and Terengganu at one time.

When I joined DAP in 2014, I was having doubts of PAS as possessing the real Islamic values of the Prophet. Thus, in 2014 through 2018 I had switched my pledge to DAP.

I had supported it with some financial contribution but also gave my thoughts and ideas in some invited lectures at DAP retreats and also their sekolah demokrasi. I also contributed to the Roketkini.

My reasons for becoming a DAP member were simple. I knew that Umno’s accusation and the Malays’ perception of the DAP as anti-Islam and anti-Malay were false but I had to prove them myself by participating and being part of the party.

I wanted also to be the bridge of Islam between DAP and the Malays.

Although I was offered seats in the general election, I had declined and wanted to stay as an academic to build bridges between communities and later perhaps as a senator heading an important department in either education or the unity portfolio.

I recall one of my first private meetings with Lim Kit Siang in 2015 at a PappaRich restaurant.

He was very sad at being accused as a racist by many in Umno but I consoled him in saying that many Malays, although educated in universities up to PhD, are still ignorant about the meaning of justice in Islam as well as the act of critical thinking by referencing readings of history and events.

I remember disagreeing with Kit Siang on the issue of Bahasa Malaysia where he was all out in promoting English as the global language. I took the stand that Bahasa Malaysia is critical if one wants to live in the Nusantara as one needs to navigate through the values and adab in Islam and Malay civility.

This is a subject that is sorely wanting in the DAP judging by statements of himself and top party leaders on issues of Islam.

After our lunch discussion, several Malay patrons recognised Kit Siang and posed for selfies with him while I just smiled and thought that the coming general election might actually bring in a nice surprise.

I never liked selfies and so do not have any picture with any political personality I meet.

My second memory dates to a time when I had clashed with Prof Ramasamy of Penang over Rayani Air.

As usual, Prof Ramasamy ignored any sense of adab in the Malay or Islamic practice in his scathing remarks to Malay and Muslim personalities.

I took the stand that it was okay for people who wishes to choose Rayani Air when they possess values of aurat or modesty but it should not be okay for government institutions to discriminate based on Islamic modesty.

Ramasamy’s scathing attack on my article was a clear testimony of his crude and crass manner.

At length Kit Siang had called me up and we met for lunch at Publika where he heard my side of the clash and it was diffused over lunch.

For me, much of the contentious issues on race and religion were never about content but on how and who should have taken up the issue.

I had stressed to Kit Siang that any Islamic issue should be brought up by a Muslim member of the DAP.

Even though in a democracy, anyone can state any opinion and that includes the religious values of others. But in Malaysia, freedom has an expensive price to pay.

I said that the DAP should form a special committee on Islamic issues and that all non-Muslim members should steer away from them.

With members like Dr. Aziz Bari and Zairil Khir Johari as well as Ustaz Hakim who runs the sekolah demokrasi, there is more than enough intellectual power to deal with them.

I said that I too can help in that department. Until today, I do not think that DAP heeded my suggestion.

The third memory I have is about the Najib-Kit Siang debate on 1MDB.

When I heard about it, I immediately wrote a letter requesting Kit Siang to not accept the debate. For me, it was a trap by Najib to increase his popularity after his fall and get into a Melayu-lawan-Cina match that he will surely win.

I told Kit Siang that Malays will never listen to reasons and rationales of morality from a ‘kafir Cina’, and more so against an important and renowned Malay personality like Najib.

Kit Siang called me and I reemphasized my letter and asked him not to accept the debate.

Kit Siang followed my advice and put out a statement that he was advised by a concerned Malay academic that the debate may cause racial tension and that he wanted to keep the harmony between communities.

One editor in a popular media portal wrote a scathing attack on ‘the Malay academic’ and on Kit Siang for not pursuing the debate.

For me that was an editorial that was irresponsible and had misused the idea of freedom of expression and the media in an event that would further divide the nation.

Fortunately, that editor was dismissed a year later.

My fourth memory of Kit Siang was two months after GE14.

I had called him up to request his permission for me to leave the DAP. Actually, I had tried to leave the DAP six months before GE14.

The pressure from the Malay society, family and friends was too much for my wife to bear and I had decided to try a different approach at nation-building.

I did not mind or care about losing friends or relatives but my wife did.

I had asked Liew Chin Tong on this matter and he advised me to leave after the election. He said if I were to leave and announce it publicly it would be used by Umno and others against the DAP.

So I waited, and two months after celebrating GE14, I called Kit Siang and gave my other reasons for leaving.

One reason I explained was that my ideas on Islamic justice and compassion were used by Malays to accuse the DAP of using me to confuse the Malays.

If I had remained in the DAP then the party would be accused of being the author of many of my ideas on nation-building and spiritual values of community relations. It was best that I leave.

Kit Siang was disappointed but agreed that this was the right political move and timing.

For me, the DAP and Lim Kit Siang have shown many of what I understand as justice, compassion and tolerance in the spirit of Islam and Rukun Negara for nation-building.

Umno and PAS do not have any of those things although they call themselves defenders of the faith.

The simplicity, honesty and integrity of Lim Kit Siang is testimony to the ideals of Malaysia as a civilised nation as well as a spiritual act of worship and sacrifice to a greater good.

Lim Kit Siang entered politics without any title to his family and he ended his career still without titles or honours to his name and family.

After 56 years, if that is not the definition of ikhlas and integrity, well, I do not know what is.

For my friend, Kit Siang, I only have this pantun to give:

Manusia jujur kurniaan Illahi,

Pemimpin ikhlas sukar diganti,

Namamu tiada pangkat menyeri,

Namun jasamu terpaut, kukuh dihati

Salam persaraan saudaraku, Lim Kit Siang.

Oleh Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi


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