Timothy Tye
Tribute to Dr. Lim Chong Eu (1919-2010)

Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu was the second Chief Minister of Penang. He is acknowledged as the person who did more to develop Penang than anyone else, living or dead. Dr Lim served Penang for twenty-one years, from 1969 to 1990, during which time he oversaw the transformation of an aging tourist island into a booming state that enjoys one of the highest standard of living in the country.

You could easily read his biography in Wikipedia and other sources. On this page, I will provide you my take on this man, as a Penangite.

Dr Lim Chong Eu was born on 28 May 1919. He went to the same school as my father, who was ten years older, but died thirty years earlier than him. As with Dr Lim, my father was involved in politics, and he had much admiration for Dr Lim. Although I have no interest whatsoever in politics, I admire and esteem Dr Lim for all the good things he has done.

It was Dr Lim who dared the people of Penang to think big and stand proud. Without Dr Lim, the people of Penang would not have jobs in many of the world-famous multinational companies today. Without Dr Lim, Penang would have become a backwater state. Without Dr Lim, there is no Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone. Without Dr Lim, there is no Penang Bridge. Without Dr Lim, there is no Komtar. Without Dr Lim, Penangites would not have "free trade zone" and "foreign direct investment" added to their vocabulary. Indeed, without Dr Lim, I would have so much fewer pages to write in Penang Travel Tips, because the state will be so much poorer with much fewer sights to document. Directly for a few and indirectly for all, everyone in Penang has been blessed, from the jobs they hold, the money they keep in the bank, and the malls they visit, because Dr Lim created the environment to make it all possible.

It is not just the people of Penang that have been blessed, it includes many Malaysians who are working in Penang, and the whole Malaysia. It was Dr Lim who brought the electronic factories to Penang, so that today people from other states are working here, buying properties here. Because of Dr Lim, the people of Penang can enjoy prices of real estate that are some of the highest in the country - for better or otherwise - due to his making the island such a choice location to be called home.

Throughout his tenure as the Chief Minister of Penang, Dr Lim has shunned all awards and titles, only to accept the highest title of Tun, upon his retirement. His defeat in the 1990 general election is a black day for Penangites. Although I respect the person who brought Dr Lim's political career to an end, and his son who is now the Penang Chief Minister, I can't say the same of the wimp who took over the Chief Ministership in 1990, and under whose helm the state was set adrift. That's the case of, when elephants went to war, it's the mousedeer that won. But, the mousedeer has not yet won my respect.

Upon his retirement, Dr Lim disappeared from the political radar. Although his name crops up here and there in relation to education and horse breeding, he practically receded from public view. Intensely private, he refused to give any interviews to journalists.

I was devastated by the news of his passing on Wednesday, 24 November, 2010 at 9:07 pm. It feels like I have lost a member of my own family. Up until his death there is no road named after him, no monument named in his honour. And I hope none is ever erected, for none can be as big as the one in the heart.

In recognition of Dr Lim's contribution to Penang, the entire length of the Jelutong Expressway and Bayan Lepas Expressway is from 26 November 2010 renamed the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway - finally, an instance when he cannot refuse.

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