Star Onilne - A true Malaysian to the end
by wong chun wai
Datuk Dr Goh Cheng Teik
A man of many talents, he was also a political scientist, academician and writer
PETALING JAYA: Datuk Dr Goh Cheng Teik was a Member of Parliament, political scientist, academician and writer. But most of all, he was a true Malaysian.
He spent the last 15 years battling Parkinson’s disease and often, he had to move around in a wheelchair, wearing a sweater even in the heat.
Despite his difficulties, he made it a point to present himself at Menara Star to deliver his handwritten analyses on issues developing in Malaysia.
There was no appointment made, no telephone call, no email and no WhatsApp message. Dr Goh was old school, he believed in the importance of meeting people and talking to a person face to face.
He would tell the receptionists and security guards at Menara Star that he must meet me. He would leave our office if I was away.
“Please use it if you think it’s suitable to print, otherwise, it’s okay. Thank you very much for meeting me,” he would say to me, politely and humbly.
I have known the former Gerakan vice-president and Nibong Tebal MP since I was a rookie reporter, when I started my journalism career in Penang.
Penang was, after all, the political base for the multiracial party and most of its top level leaders including the founder, the late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, were from the state.
But that was not all.
Dr Goh was a head prefect at St Xavier’s Institution, our alma mater. He was held in high regard by me and fellow Xavierians because he studied at the prestigious Harvard University.
He studied political science. As a schoolboy, I had not heard of such an academic course and interestingly, this was the course I eventually took up at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, where I graduated from.
I was just eight when the mayhem of May 13 broke out. I remember my father carrying me on his shoulders, joining the crowd at the massive final rally – on the eve of the general election – at Esplanade Padang, where the people roared with enthusiasm as the speakers called on them to “sink the sailing boat” – a reference to the symbol of the ruling Alliance.
Later at secondary school, I read Dr Goh’s short monograph on “The May 13 Incident and Democracy in Malaysia”, published by Oxford University Press, which looked at the impact of racial riots and what it did to our democracy.
He was then a lecturer at Universiti Malaya but the green-coloured booklet truly struck a chord with me because he introduced the term “the politics of consensus” and he used the Bahasa Malaysia term, musyawarah.
He also shared his thesis on how Umno leaders plotted against Tunku Abdul Rahman to remove him from office during those turbulent times.
Dr Goh was a true Malaysian, who continued to push for such moderate thinking and sharing of political power without the need for the racial and religious rhetoric.
He had a great interest in our education system and over the years, lamented on the decreasing number of Malaysians who made it into Harvard.
Dr Goh had the distinction of heading the interview panel that selected students from Malaysia for entry into Harvard and many times, he spoke about the deteriorating quality of Malaysian applicants.
“I personally called the Harvard College Admissions Office. I was told that although they received applications from Malaysians, no one was even shortlisted for interviews as they are not considered competitive enough,” he said, in a 2012 interview with The Star.
Dr Goh, who conducted such interviews for Harvard for more than 20 years, said he was disappointed that so many of our students failed to gain admission into the Ivy League institution.
Being a patriotic Malaysian, he fought hard to get Malaysians into Harvard.
Over the years, Dr Goh shared with me a startling piece of news – that the string of distinctions obtained by our students at public examinations had lost credibility, and no longer meant anything to top US and UK universities.
Dr Goh received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard before completing his Ph.D from Leiden University in Holland.
He continued to deliver lectures at Sunway University as an adjunct professor, sharing his insightful analyses on national and international issues.
Dr Goh joined Gerakan in 1972, and from 1974 to 1999, he served as MP, parliamentary secretary, state executive councillor and deputy minister, under four ministries. He resigned from Gerakan following an internal party feud and retired from politics in 1999.
His final message to his beloved Malaysia and Malaysians was simple, to remember never to lose sight of what unites them.
His demise marks the end of an era but the play-up of racial and religious issues has unfortunately, not passed on.
Farewell, Cheng Teik.
Note: some photos above have been picked by this blogger, and are not from Star Online, wakakaka