Special Luncheon Talk by Lim Kean Chye

Saturday, 19 January 2008 11:51pm

Contributed by Sunil Lopez and Lai Chee Hoe

Lim Kean Chye PENANG, Sat: After the second session of the day, the young delegates to the 3rd Young Lawyers Convention made their way to the coffee house at the Bayview Georgetown for a spot of lunch. Most delegates would have walked into the coffeehouse and headed straight for the buffet table to satiate their growling tummies and most would have walked past an elderly gentleman and his wife sitting amongst other young lawyers who had gathered around this unassuming couple.

As lunch progressed, Dipendra Harshad Rai stood up and announced that there was a surprise guest amongst us. After an elaborate introduction, he revealed the name of this surprise guest who was none other than the famed lawyer and freedom fighter, Lim Kean Chye.

Lim was called to the Singapore Bar in 1950, and the Malayan Bar in 1961. He comes from an illustrious family which includes Dato’ PG Lim and the late Lim Kean Siew, and was a fearless advocate. In the year 2000, he disliked the way a Judge treated two young lawyers, and from then on decided to quit practice.

Lim spoke, as expected, with the easy confidence of a man who had seen much in his 88 years as boy and man. The tales of his life include surviving a German U-boat attack during World War II and the struggle for independence from the British.

For someone who had himself been through much hardship, he expressed genuine appreciation of the dedication of lawyers today who struggle for a better Malaysia. He is encouraged with the renewed interest of the Bar in advancing the causes of human rights, and acknowledged the efforts of the lawyers seeking to collectively shape the future of our country. On that note, he also believes that the young lawyers should continue to be active towards nation-building initiatives. Nevertheless, he reminded us that there is much to be done in upholding the rights of Malaysians in this day.

Lim was a founder member of the Malayan Democratic Union (“MDU”), which was formed on 21 December 1945. MDU was a political organisation which consisted of English educated Malaysians whose main objective was the assertion of the right to self-governance. He was not liked by the British, “to them I was a scum”.

During the question and answer session, Lim, who lived under the leadership of 5 Prime Ministers in Malaysia, answered that they were similar to the leaders today: “I think they are the same. They still hold on to the principle of UMNO supremacy. The only difference was that the late Tunku Abdul Rahman dies in poverty.”

Lim also explained that it was his mother who motivated him to do the things he did: “She was caring for the sick, poor and needy. She was a very generous person and probably influenced him”.

It was heartening to listen to a man who had fought the good fight in his day for a free Malaysia. Lim’s stories about courage and perseverance in the face of the iron rule of the British Empire in the then Malaya echo today in present day Malaysia where a different struggle rages on for political and societal change.

The tales of his struggles that Lim so willingly shared with budding lawyers during what would normally have been an ordinary lunch proved to be most humbling, refreshing and inspirational.

In appreciation, he received a hearty applause and a ‘Walk For Justice’ t-shirt and cap, which he received with caution, remarking that wearing the t-shirt might lead to his arrest.

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