AUGUST 17 — What little paths we had crossed...

Still a lasting impression and fond memories!

DAP stalwart and founding member, Dr Chen Man Hin passed away today at nearly 98 years old, a ripe old age of poignant meaning and principles.

Firstly, I must acknowledge that I do not know him well, though we had met several times, sometimes at medical meetings that I have lectured or chaired, at MMA meetings and AGMs, and a few times at friends of DAP and more recently in early 2010s at Pakatan Harapan (PH) rallies or dinners.

What I do know is that he had always been a soft-spoken gentleman, perceptive yet quietly visible in the background of noisy politicking. I believed he was a great reader and analyst of man.

Dr Chen Man Hin was DAP's chairman from 1966 to 1999. — Picture courtesy of Lim Guan Eng
Dr Chen Man Hin was DAP's chairman from 1966 to 1999. — Picture courtesy of Lim Guan Eng

Dr Chen was a uniting elder figure, that soothing calm personality, in the hurly-burly world of boisterous politics and certainly in occasional intra-party politics, where personality clashes can be divisive and cause splits and fracture-lines of ideology, style, amidst aggressive naked ambitions...

But because of his conciliatory, paternal yet noncombative style, I was informed that his advice was frequently sought, and cantankerous scrimmages among younger more truculent personalities, were soothed — a party unifier-pacifier, if you please.

On a personal note, Dr Chen had been practicing as a GP in Seremban for decades. He had always maintained his interest in medical updates, as well as health policies and issues, hence his frequent presence at medical meetings, despite his obvious political involvement at the highest echelons.

In early 2008, I was invited to a dinner organised by the Selangor-KL DAP Branch. During the heady days of Bersih rallies and serious talk was rife and loud, about opposition unity to topple the BN supremacy and corruption in our nation’s politics. Thus, opposition parties were seeking energetic ‘talents’.

I had been quite vocal in urging the public to be prepared and be more receptive for change for the better, yes, the Ubah campaign.

Then, I was writing periodically but pointedly in the media, via Malaysiakini, Malaysia Insider, The Star, Malay Mail, The Sun, that we Malaysians must aspire to, and be bold enough to change the incumbent but institutionally-flawed government for the better. I supposed, my writings must have created some small waves of attention, as to my political leanings.

I was pleasantly surprised to be seated at the same table with several DAP bigwigs that one dinner, LKS, Dr Chen, Dr Tan SG, LGE were there. We chatted quite amicably, but there was no mistaking the intent. The opposition was actively seeking creditable professionals to spearhead a campaign for Ubah! I had been vocal, somewhat articulate and I was a professional, and we all wanted better governance for our beloved country. I was then also the president-elect of the national Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), thus, I had the prerequisite profile.

I was invited there and then, to take part in the coming elections the GE12. As the time frame was tight, I had to decide quickly... but I couldn’t... I asked for some time to discuss with my family first, as this would have been a life-changing milestone in my life’s trajectory.

I was not quite prepared for politics that could rip apart whatever privacy one had. Public life is a calling that is often unforgiving. My family members felt unnerved by this, especially my late mum and dad who had always asked me to stay away from politics.

My wife of course reminded me on the spotlight glare on any opposition member... We had then a younger family to consider, our children had barely made it to college as yet.

So faint-heartedly, I declined the offer, through Dr Chen. I’d suggested they contact Dr Cheah WY instead who might be interested, after I had spoken to him. Dr Chen actually called me back and asked me to reconsider, we could do with more professionals, as candidates, he urged. He tried to soothe my misgivings as best he could, but he understood, if I had decided otherwise. He was persuasive but not pushy. He was as ever a gentleman of first order, unassuming yet principled and calm.

Dr Cheah was indeed the DAP candidate for Damansara Utama in GE12, 2008 and won by a landslide, and became the state ADUN.

Perhaps, my life’s trajectory would have been quite different for me, if only Dr Chen had been more persuasive then, and I, less pusillanimous and self-interested.

But politics in Malaysia has been and remains a terribly demanding and huge sacrifice for any aspirant. In the Machiavellian world of politics, I know I could not weather the strains and stresses of character assassination, gaslighting, misspoken truths, false accusations, compromises, lure of power and money, even for the most principled Saint.

So, I salute all the iconic uncorrupted principled politicians, who are still trying so hard to make Malaysia better.

Dr Chen Man Hin, Lim Kit Siang, Karpal Singh, must be the among the few rare men who had remained true to their lofty ideals and principles, escaped unscathed and untouched by lure of lucre, money politics, and who dare challenge the Art of the Possible in politics. Keep up the spirit!

I know of many others too, who have been trying so hard to make a difference, younger vocal politicians with clear aspirations and high moral underpinnings. Keep up the good fight! Help Make Malaysia Better!

RIP Dr Chen Man Hin, God bless!

You’ve fought the good fight, you have made our part of the universe, a tiny patch of earth, that little bit better, and that is truly, a great testimony and legacy, to a life well-lived!

RIP Sir! We salute you!

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.