Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Hightway, a tribute to him, holds many important lessons for Malaysians

Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway, Penang

Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway
Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway (23 April 2009)
© Timothy Tye using this photo

Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway (Federal Route 3113) is a 17.84 km expressway that runs along the eastern coast of Penang Island. It starts at the junction with Prangin Road Ghaut, across from Weld Quay, and ends in Batu Maung, at the junction with Jalan Batu Maung and Jalan Permatang Damar Laut. The expressway includes the entire lengths of the former Jelutong Expressway and Bayan Lepas Expressway.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng announced the renaming of the expressway in honour of Dr Lim Chong Eu, the second Chief Minister of Penang who passed away on Wednesday, 24 November, 2010. The renaming of the expressway is meaningful to many Penangites as a tribute to the man who personally ushered the state into becoming one of the most developed in the country.

This the full name is quite a mouthful, I will henceforth call it the Chong Eu Expressway. This is the second road in Penang named after the Lim family, as Tun Dr Lim’s father had his name immortalized when Prangin Road was renamed Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong.

The Penang Bridge and Bayan Lepas Penang from the air:


A Tribute to Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu, Holds Many Important Lessons for Malaysians

His personal journey from wealthy Penang scion, to doctor, Independence activist, politician and statesman, holds many important lessons for Malaysians on both sides of the political divide.

WE lose something as a nation when our great men and women pass away. The late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu – Penang’s Chief Minister for over 20 years – was a remarkable leader and a great Malaysian.

Dr Lim’s personal journey from wealthy Penang scion, to doctor, Independence activist, politician and statesman, holds many important lessons for Malaysians on both sides of the political divide.

Foremost was his intellectual prowess.

Dr Lim excelled as a student.

Notwithstanding his privileged background, he distinguished himself by securing a prestigious Queen’s Scholarship to read medicine at Edinburgh University.

Many Malaysians, in their haste to be egalitarian, have tended to down-play the importance of educational excellence for politicians.

This aggressively anti-elitist stance is both foolish and dangerous.

An elite dominated by the anti-intellectual or poorly-educated is clearly ill-equipped to formulate and execute policies in a complex and ever-changing global environment.

Next, Dr Lim’s leadership of Gerakan to victory in Penang during the 1969 general election was to thrust him back into the very heart of national politics, at a time when Malaysia was at its lowest ebb.

Indeed, the creation of Gerakan itself was a remarkable achievement.

The party rejected racial politics, instead seeking to combine social democracy with liberalism.

It brought together an eclectic group of activists, ranging from academics (Syed Hussain Alatas and Wang Gungwu), trade unionists (V. David and V. Veerapan) and politicians (Tan Chee Khoon, Dominic Puthucheary and Lim Ee Heong).

Despite its current weakened state, it was – until the rise of PKR – one of the most successful multi-racial parties in Malaysia’s history.

One can only imagine what Dr Lim must have been thinking in May 1969 as he observed Malaysia descend into chaos. He was clearly shaken by the riots and killings.

Perhaps inevitably – given his background – he found himself more comfortable with the Alliance’s conservative milieu. He hence brought his party into the embrace of the much-weakened Alliance, later to be reincarnated as Barisan Nasional.

It was a historic, much-criticised decision, but he stood firm. Moreover, having chosen to side with Barisan, he remained loyal to the end.

As Malaysia emerged from the trauma of 1969, Dr Lim quickly grasped the challenges facing Penang.

The removal of the island’s free-port status and the closing down of British military bases were seen as death blows to its prosperity.

However, Dr Lim was creative and resourceful. Having made peace with the Federal Government, he crafted and implemented policies (often via the Penang Development Corporation) that were to attract scores of global electronic companies to the island.

He could be dictatorial but he certainly delivered on his promises.

He modernised the island-state, turning it into an industrial hub that was to generate hundreds of thousands of jobs for its people.

These achievements were all the more remarkable considering that he had to stand up to strong opposition from within and outside Barisan.

On one hand, he had to battle DAP supremos like Karpal Singh and Lim Kit Siang, and on the other, he had to manage Penang Umno with emerging nationalist voices like Anwar Ibrahim.

However, as many have pointed out, one of Dr Lim’s mistakes was that he compromised too much vis-a-vis Gerakan’s position in Barisan. This in turn sowed the seeds of the party’s collapse in the 2008 polls.

But one thing which cannot be taken away from him was his loyalty to his state, to Gerakan and the coalition.

He never once spoke ill of his successors or Barisan colleagues.

Indeed, his silence and forbearance after he lost power was a mark of his humility and dignity.

He understood that the younger generation of leaders had to be allowed to make their own mistakes and learn from them.

Dr Lim’s distinguished political career is an important reminder that politics is fluid and impermanent.

In 1990, after decades of hard work, he was swept away by an unexpected groundswell.

To Barisan Nasional, he is a symbol of its lost multi-racial and service-bound past; something they must regain to win back Penang and the nation in the next elections.

For Pakatan Rakyat – especially the DAP which currently governs Penang – he is a reminder they must bridge the divide with the Federal Government while managing their own, sometimes fractious, allies.

Nonetheless, Penangites are determined and inventive.

Even without federal funds, they’ll craft an alternative future that will no doubt be as ground-breaking as Tun Dr Lim’s prescriptions were all those decades ago – all testament to his dedication, perseverance and brilliance.

One Response to “Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Hightway, a tribute to him, holds many important lessons for Malaysians”

  1. rightways Says:

    The Common Attributes of the Success and Failure:

    Success – Those grateful to their roots, self developed, independence, humble, well behaved, well equipped, highly educated, thrifty, can contribute, add, create values for family and nation, etc. Persons like the late Dr. Lim who got a Queen’s Scholarship to do medicine even his dad was a rich doctor could support him.

    Failure – Those ungrateful to their roots, dependence, badly behaved, arrogant, boastful, ill equipped, poorly educated, always expect parents supports, squandering, maybe able to make lots of money but selfish, useless to others and no value creation, troubles making in society and nation.


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