Monday, May 11, 2015

The anguish of a father

I am not sure if I have posted the following, which has remained a draft in my blog list for some time...

A friend forwarded the following story stroy to me. Apparently it was written by Wong Ho Leng, MP for Sibu and State Assemblyman for Bukit Assek. Touched by the story, I lost no time in routing it to friends and relatives.

... Untold Story about Guan Eng

I had written 2 paragraphs about my visit to Guan Eng when he was serving his sentence in Kajang Prison. I made that visit in October 1998 together with Chong Siew Chiang. I had merely written that during that visit in Kajang Prison, Chong Siew Chiang and I had a heart to heart talk with Guan Eng for 1 hr. 45 minutes in respect of his legal case which had cost him his freedom, political office, professional career, pension and much else besides. 

I had said that it was a sad but eventful meeting. I was economical in my words.

There is one aspect of my visit to Guan Eng that day that I did not write about. Actually, I could not write about it, because it was so, so humiliating and sad. I did not write about it because Kit Siang did not want me to see it. But I did see what Kit Siang desperately tried to let me not see it.

Kit Siang was supposed to drive us to Kajang Prison. He was busy that morning and our departure from our HQ was delayed a little. Kit Siang was speeding like nobody’s business. When we arrived at the Prison, we “checked” in at the office. It was at this time that I saw the prisoners walking out in their prison uniform for row calls at the wardens’ office. They had to squat in rows, every time and every day that they did so, and the prison wardens would call their numbers.

As I walked in, I saw the familiar face of a prisoner with an unfamiliar crew hair cut. He was squatting at the front row. Both his hands were placed over the back of his head …

We had a split second eye contact but I pretended not to see … It was very dissimilar to those other cases when I was required to visit the prison as a lawyer.

Half an hour later, we met. Kit Siang did not join us. I would not know where he had gone to. Guan Eng started by saying that he wanted me to send a message to Party members and supporters in Sarawak not to despair over his fate. “Tell them that they can break my back, but they cannot break my soul.”

As we discussed his case, I knew that he was not well at all. He was pale and complained of body pain. He also complained that he had not consumed sufficient salt, the food being tasteless. We were worried that his fragile body won’t take him through. We were concerned about his safety in there. He assured us that the inmates there had treated him alright, that they all knew that he was wronged.

It was unbelievable that even when he was at the pit of his life, he had his heart for the Party members, in our case, the comrades in Sarawak.

We told him our view about the legal case. It was clear to us that he was fated to sit behind bars for another 10 months. He knew as much. Royal pardon was out of question.

As Kit Siang drove us away from the Kajang Prison, he made sure that we had a taste of the signature food of Kajang town – satay. At the coffee shop, Kit Siang greeted the town folks who wished him well and to remain strong, but in his leaner body frame, I saw the pains that he had endured. Political adversaries had long accused him of cronyism and nepotism, and the building of a Lim dynasty. The fate of his son losing everything after standing up for a Malay girl who was raped by a Chief Minister, and having to languish in jail for 18 months, showed the cruelty and venom of those accusations.

Siew Chiang was habouring many questions inside his chest and it took a long time for him to break his silence. He asked Kit Siang why he was speeding desperately this morning. Kit Siang then told us. He wanted to make it to the Prison before the row call. If we had made it in time, our meeting could begin, and Guan Eng would not have to take part in the row call. During the row calls, the prisoner had to squat in a row, hands behind the head … As the father, Kit Siang did not want us to see his son in that moment of ultimate humiliation.

Siew Chiang told Kit Siang that he did not see Guan Eng in the row. I said I did not also. Then Kit Siang told us where Guan Eng was squatted. He sped, because he had not wanted us to see the ultimate humiliation to his son.

But I had sinned with my eyes.

The signature satay was tasteless to me amidst cries of injustice that innocent people had to suffer.

On our way home, there was hardly any communication between us. Our hearts were heavier than lead. In my mind, I saw the flashes of a prisoner, hands behind his head, his face so familiar, squatting in the row like other inmates. I repeatedly asked myself whether Guan Eng deserved this. Why should I see that moment in his life when his father had wanted me not to? But that was what it was, for Guan Eng had to endure that humiliation for 365 days.

It was after midnight in Kuching not long after Guan Eng’s release. We had finished our party function and all were hungry for supper. We found a little place in order to replenish our tummies. There was no food left except plain porridge. I ordered some, teasing Guan Eng that the porridge must be better than what he was used to in Kajang. Guan Eng cursed me for reminding him of what he had gone through.

That day about 2 weeks ago, when I stood for photograph with YAB Lim Guan Eng behind his Chief Minister’s desk in Penang, I recalled what I had seen of this man. From a humiliated prisoner, he had been vindicated by the powers in the people’s hands.

Much that YAB Lim had never responded to anything I said about his less than glamorous times behind bars, he will always remember the ultimate humiliation that a person had gone through. He will know the true meaning of justice.

In less than 10 years, God has shown YAB Lim Guan Eng the way. May YAB Lim now shower mercy and love to the great people of Penang.

A friend reverted with this email, which I am reproducing whole-sale below:
As part of the dap [sic] members, we used to keep GE company, before he was sentenced to sit out in kachang prison. Now he is arrogant and ignore us totally.

Also GE went to prison not on the fact that he stood up for a malay girl. He broke the law by printing without a permit.There are many lawyers in dap who knows fully well it is a jailable offence, but chose to keep silent.

After his release from prison,he was voted out of the Dap [sic] state body in Malacca with the second lowest vote.His wife betty got the lowest vote.

He used his power as SC [sic] to become CM of penang,when it is the state chief that shold be chosen.

In politic, it is dog eat dog and there is no honour.

And this is how I responded:
Dear So-and-so,

I was only a schoolboy when I read Pearl S Buck's The Good Earth. To me at that time, it was just another book about poverty-stricken China. I have not bothered to read another Buck because since then because somehow I seemed to have been led to believe that her books are all bad about China and Chinese. Things changed a couple of days ago. In a visit to a book shop recently, my wife’s attention was drawn to a recent biography on her and she decided to pick it up. Because she still had a few in her reading queue and since I was also running out of things to do, I decided to take a first cut at it. I couldn’t put it now, not until I had finished with it. I now realized how wrong I had been! I didn’t know she was living like one of those dirt-poor peasants in a war-torn, rural China then. The stories in her book were apparently based on real characters - herself, her parents, her siblings and those she cared in a very remote part of China where her father was serving as an overzealous missionary – albeit fictionalised somewhat to make the stories more gripping. Her works were, and still are, largely dismissed by many Chinese. Oh, she is NOT Chinese, how can she write correctly about Chinese and China? I suppose many of us would rather forget about that down-and-out period of China. She was supposed to accompany Nixon on his first visit to China, but none other than Zhou En-Lai personally asked for her to be excluded in the party. She had few admirers in China, Lu Shun, said to be China’s greatest author in the 20th Century, was a rare exception. His book The True Story of Ah Q mirrors much of hers. He talked about a clueless Chinese to wake up the Chinese; she related the sufferings of many in that era for the world to read.

Few objected when Bush established Guantanamo in the wake of his war on Terror, but when footages about tortures and acts of humiliation began to leak out to the world, Bush was condemned to the core and America became a pariah. People were not looking at the victims as Al-Qaida extremists; they were horrified by the fact that how a civilised country called the United States of America could do such things to people.

This “untold” story about LGE went deep into my heart, not because I am a supporter or sympathiser of LKS, LGE or DAP – as a matter of fact, none of them is appealing to me politically – but because I felt totally empathised by the sufferings of a father having a son languishing in a prison. The air of desperation, the indignity and the loss of self-esteem as a result of self-perceived humiliation in a holding cell manned by prison wardens and glimpsed by prison visitors can drive one to insanity. I literally could feel their sufferings in that helpless situation. My son-in-law has a cousin who was studying in Australia some years ago. He was looking for a room to rent one day. While speaking with a potential landlord in the latter’s apartment, he , out of the blue, reached for a chopper in the kitchen and killed butcher the man and his wife. By all account he was non-violent. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. His father is one of the foremost cardiac professors in Indonesia. He comes to Melbourne to visit his son in prison once or twice a year. Even after so many years, I still could feel his pain each time I see him.

All of us are entitled to our personal opinion. I like to share mine with friends, but I never expect anyone to agree with me.


Yu Book
I leave readers to form your own conclusion.

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