I won’t repeat his succinct story telling about the two 'half brothers', namely MCA and Gerakan (or at least Lim Chong Eu's UDP component of Gerakan).
Penangites witnessed the post-1969 political soap opera in my state when an already much displaced MCA attempted to steal its way back into its old niche by backstabbing and sabotaging its 'half brother' and also headhunting Gerakan frogs.
Some years later, around or after 1975, the MCA struggle to get on top of Gerakan was headed or strategized by Lim Kean Siew, a Penang political (socialist) icon in the early 60's. Lim Kean Siew, like Dr Tan Chee Khoon, was from the Malayan Labour Party. Due to the Labour Party's boycott of the general elections in 1969, it effectively self-extinguished its political existence. Lim then joined MCA in 1975.
When MCA failed in its coup d’état (to seize power from Gerakan, it seems, through BN approved 3-party contested state elections), the newspapers reported Lim laughingly acknowledged he was outfoxed by a more cunning foe.
Lim Kean Siew came from a distinguished Penang family of lawyers. His sister is the very distinguished Datuk Lim PG (Phaik Gan), a sweetheart who was Malaysia's Ambassador to the UN, union champion, director of the KL Regional Centre for Arbitration, feminist and, in many Penangites' opinion, should have been appointed Yang DiPertua Negeri of Penang, but alas, its too late now as she's in her 80's. Read the Bar Council brief of her here.
Back to Lim Kean Siew - he was not only a brilliant lawyer and committed socialist as many of his colleagues saw him - read the Bar Council's eulogy of him here - but my uncle said he was a fantastic fiery orator, in both English and Penang Hokkien. Sadly, this Malaysian socialist giant and political icon passed away in 2007.
By gargantuan contrast, Koh Tsu Koon was a pathetically poor choice to be leader of Gerakan as he wasn’t made of steel like Lim Chong Eu or even Lim Keng Yaik. Koh was plain too soft, too passive and always giving in to UMNO or, if I wish to be kind, too much of a gentleman, which in fact (and to be fair to him) wasn’t far from the truth.
But in Stanley Koh's most informative piece, which did mention UMNO’s role in the relationship of the two parties, I personally feel Stanley was not direct or forceful enough to point out that it was UMNO’s strategy to play the game of ‘divide & conquer’ by deliberately keeping Gerakan and MCA apart.
Hmmm, I wonder whether the late Lim Kean Siew was in fact referring to UMNO (and its behind-the-scene intervention to ensure Gerakan came up tops) as the cunning foe who outfoxed Penang MCA.
No doubt MCA was a pure capitalist creature while there were, at that time, shades of socialism in Gerakan (inherited from its Labour Party genes), and the latter had members who were not Chinese, it would not have been inconceivable for the two to merge into one stronger multiracial entity, to fend off a rapacious UMNO. It also suited UMNO to promote a Gerakan with a weak leader like Koh TK who always gave in to UMNO – the UMNO DCM was effectively the power in the state.
My family, relatives and neighbours once loved Gerakan, mainly because of Lim Chong Eu, but its current version leaves much to be desired. Thus on 08 March 2008, Penangites did what they did in May 1969 - they consigned the state ruling party, Koh's Gerakan and also its 'half brother' MCA, to the rubbish tip as they did to Wong Pow Nee's MCA some 40 years earlier. Thus it’s only fair and proper that Gerakan now kindly considers itself as extinct and allows Penangites the opportunity to once again enjoy a fresh new administration.
However, I recall from my earlier days in Penang that there was a protégé of Lim Chong Eu by the name of Khor Gark Kim. I knew of him only because he was a local Ayer Itam village bloke who rose like a lotus from the muddy waters of his village origins and circumstances. After Gark Kim became a teacher, his brother operated a tailor shop in the village.
I think Gark Kim studied at Chung Ling and then graduated from UM. He became a science teacher and had a reputation in the village as a hardworking man. My uncle, who knew him and his lovely wife rather well, mentioned that Gark Kim in his younger days was like Lim Kean Siew, rather passionate in socialism, thus I was surprised when he became a politician in a BN-ised Gerakan, by then a capitalistic entity like MCA. Maybe a whiff of Gerakan’s Labour Party genes had beckoned to his ideological core?
Apparently Khor’s political career grew from strength to fantabulous strength, where his party status and rank shot up in meteorite fashion for him to become, at one time, a Gerakan strongman next only to Dr Lim Chong Eu in the Penang line of power.
Once in the village, I saw him and his wife driving by in a chauffeured (Penang State) Mercedes. What an outcome for a village bloke who rose from his job as a humble school teacher to become a state exco member and the heir apparent to CM Lim Chong Eu.
Everyone naturally expected him to succeed Dr Lim as CM of Penang, but alas, it was not his mialee (fate, karma, kismet) to be so. As a result of internal Gerakan rivalry, he was ousted from Gerakan's upper echelon. There was bad blood between Khor and some current Gerakan pollies.
Soon after that he faded from the headlines and the minds of most Ayer Itam people, but just before the 08 March 2008 general elections, I was rather intrigued to see The Star Online photo showing him chit-chatting with the 2008 crop of DAP pollies for both the state and federal elections, which made me wonder what was going on?
I wonder whether he advised the DAP candidates on campaign strategy, perhaps as a form of extracting some long overdue retribution, wakakaka.
And I wonder again, just how Gerakan in Penang would have turned out if Khor Gark Kim had become CM of Penang?