(By LOW YAK BUANG/ Translated by LEE MEI NYEE/ Sin Chew Daily)
Tun Salleh and Lim Lian Geok are definitely people of two different times. However, the sudden and perplexing changes of the history often link the two irrelevant persons and matters together. I’m afraid that they have never met each other before, but both of them are the judiciary’s victims.
In an interview with The New Straits Times, the new minister of the Prime Minister’s Department, lawyer Datuk Mohd Zaid Ibrahim said the first thing he is going to do is to honestly propose to the government, to apologise to the former Lord President of the Federal Court Tun Mohamed Salleh Abas and five other judges, who were expelled in the 1988 judicial crisis. It is enlightening.
This incident has set a record in the World Guinness Book. Many groups and political parties have requested to reverse the previous judgment. However, they are the people from the opposition, and are not recognised by the government.
Perhaps the shadow of this incident is still clouding and an apology will not make up the losses, but Zaid is believed to be the first minister who talked about this issue. Not only can an apology comfort these people, but it can also restore public confidence towards the judiciary.
Let’s look at the ethnic soul of the Chinese community, Mr Lim Lian Geok. This ordinary teacher fought for the interests of the Chinese education. However, he was charged with disloyalty and stripped of his citizenship. The cemetery he was buried in is somehow not his “country”.
At that time, Lim was alleged by the government to be disloyal to the country. However he was regarded as his community’s soul by the Chinese. If he is really disloyal, it is ironic that the 6 million Chinese in the Malaysia regard him in high esteem.
The interview of Zaid and the news on the landscaping works of Lim’s cemetery ended up in the newspapers together. The advisor of Lim Lian Geok Foundation Dato’Sim Mow Yu said at a ceremony that “Lim is the greatest leader of Chinese education. He sacrificed himself to bring light to other people. He defied power and keep our Chinese education”. Can Lim’s sacrifice be seen in the same manner as the honest statement of Zaid?
If Lim knows that the Chinese community is always appealing for him, he will definitely feel pleased. However, we are lacking of a person like Zaid. The newly-appointed minister speak out honestly of the past incident by those in power. If Tun Salleh is considered as the injustice of the past decade, should Lim be also considered a victim of his time? When we are talking about the future of the Chinese education and some claimed that there are 60,000 non-Chinese students studying in Chinese schools, is there anyone who will seek justice for Lim?
An apology doesn’t have much meaning. I believe that the reputation of Tun Salleh will not be harmed. After all, the justice is in the people’s heart. It is the same for Lim. He can’t be accused because of the word “disloyal” by the authority. Injustice happens all over the world at different times. However, there must be a reckoning at some time to exonerate those who had been victimized. History must not repeat itself. Distorted history is a burden to the future generations. How far can we go with this burden?
Zaid’s apology suggestion received overwhelming response from the people. The Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad said an apology will not cause any harm to the government. These two people are “dissidents” in the government’s eye. Their good advice may sound harsh to the ears, but it is really what the people want. Is the elections results not clear enough?
Tun Salleh had to carry the pain for 20 years. Lim had also gone through more than 20 merciless years, after his citizenship was stripped in 1961 until he died in 1985. We are looking forward to Lim’s name to be cleaned.
( The opinions expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect those of MySinchew )