Lim Kit Siang announced his retirement over the weekend at the age of 81, bringing down the curtain on an illustrious political career, which spanned more than five decades.
Yesterday, Dewan Negara President Rais Yatim urged the government to honour the DAP supremo with national awards for his contribution.
Agreeing with this, former law minister Zaid Ibrahim said Lim should be accorded the honorific title of “Tan Sri” similar to Tan Chee Khoon, who was the co-founder of Gerakan.
“Of course, the abrasive and combative style of Lim’s politics is different from Tan and angers the Malays. But I believe he is not anti-Malay or anti-Islam.
“He was reacting to the equally abrasive Malay first politics of (former premiers) Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Muhyiddin Yassin. The Malay/Muslim polity must start seeing politics in non-racial terms.
“Lim’s singular contribution to parliamentary democracy is, without doubt, a strong one and we should remember him for that,” he told Malaysiakini.
Apart from being incarcerated during the Internal Security Act (ISA) crackdown in 1987, Lim’s political adversaries have often accused him and DAP of posing a threat to the Malays and Islam.
Some went to the extent of blaming him for the May 13, 1969, racial riots and labelling him a communist.
Lim has denied these allegations, claiming it was part of a diabolical political plot to sow distrust and hatred amongst the Malay electorate.
Asked if the government would consider Rais’ proposal, Zaid was not optimistic.
He said while Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob might consider paying tribute, the right-wing elements in Umno would do their best to prevent it.
“Umno has no strong leader at the moment to ride over the racial emotions of the party,” he added.
Interestingly, Zaid claimed that former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak would be the sole Umno leader with the courage to give recognition to Lim.
He noted how during his tenure, Najib had ruffled the feathers of the Umno hawks with his inclusive approach and the decision to dismantle the draconian ISA.
“But (fugitive financier) Jho Low and many in our midst have condemned him (Najib) for the 1MDB scandal,” he added.
For a protracted period, right up to the recent Johor polls, Lim and Najib have been embroiled in a war of words with their respective media statements.
The DAP leader never missed an opportunity to remind Malaysians about the 1MDB scandal and warned them against the return of a kleptocrat.
Whereas, Najib claimed that Lim was obsessed with him and sarcastically referred to the veteran politician as “MenHen” or “minister of Najib’s affairs”.
Meanwhile, DAP lawmaker Lim Lip Eng, who also agreed that Lim deserved to be recognised for his efforts, pointed out the latter’s struggle for a better Malaysia was not motivated by such rewards.
“Lim never asked for recognition or titles from the government and in fact, he turned down such offers from state governments.
“He did what he did because of his principles,” he added. – Malaysiakini