Saturday, December 30, 2023

Lee Lam Thye: A lifetime of service to Malaysia and its people – Benedict Lopez

Lee Lam Thye: A lifetime of service to Malaysia and its people – Benedict Lopez

Tribute to a humanitarian activist and patriot on his 77th birthday.

Published on 30 Dec 2023

Whenever a problem arose the first person many people would think of was Lee Lam Thye. Facebook pic.

VERY few have earned the distinction of being a renowned politician and social activist. Blending the path of being both entails only a person with steely determination.

A rare Malaysian who for decades has and continues to embody these virtues is Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye. Born to a poor family on December 30, 1946, it was his assiduousness, tenacity and true grit that made him a well-liked person by his peers, classmates and teachers at St. Michael’s Institution and among all his friends all over Malaysia.

Lee attributed his commitment to serve the people selflessly to his parents. They motivated him at a young age to always be unassuming and caring to all human beings. And within a short span of time, it became part of his DNA.

First elected to the Selangor State Assembly in 1969, he subsequently served the parliamentary constituency of Bukit Bintang for four terms from 1974 to 1990.

He was popularly known as the MP with a typewriter, as he always had it with him everywhere he went about when discharging his duties. Lee was always ready to type a letter of complaint anytime to the authorities to solve any problem for anyone or any community.

To Lee, help must be given to anyone who needed it, irrespective of race or religion. Party afflictions, too, were unimportant to him when helping someone.

Upon his retirement from politics, Lee donated his famous typewriter to the Election Commission Museum at a special ceremony on August 30, 2007.

In 1969, his allowance as a state assemblyman was a meagre RM500 a month. So, to service his constituents, he had to raise funds from the public to finance his work.

Revered by all

Widely respected for being a voice of moderation and noted for his fluency in Bahasa Malaysia, he easily earned the trust and confidence of all walks in society. As an MP, he always raised pertinent issues affecting the people and country.

While many of his colleagues in the opposition were regarded as vocal dissenters, often being confrontational with the powers that be, Lee took the road less travelled.

He avoided provocative behaviour, preferring to work together with civil servants and those in authority to arrive at tangible solutions. And it paid off, as he managed to get many problems resolved. He was well respected by the civil servants.

Perhaps, he is one of the few Malaysians who is revered by Malaysians of all walks of life, races and religions. Sadly, only a minority like him have crossed the ethnic and religious divide in our country.

National unity is of paramount importance to Lee. As a trustee of the Malaysia Unity Foundation, he works tirelessly towards racial unity among Malaysians. Lee is of the view that being a Malaysian does not mean one must be less Malay, Chinese, Indian, Eurasian, Iban, Dayak etc.

He believes Malaysia’s diversity is its invaluable asset and that we should accept each other as fellow Malaysians. Such bonds cultivate patriotism, advances harmony and reduces racial polarisation.

Lee is of the view that Malaysia Day should be declared as Unity Day. This day should reflect the aspirations of all Malaysians, despite the challenges we face as a nation.

He believes that Malaysia Day can provide a platform to unite our diverse races, to strive together for a common goal and for the success of the country.

No slowing down

Lee’s reputation as a social activist is legendary.

Renowned cartoonist Lat once drew a cartoon of a man, struggling to hold up a riverine house which was on the verge of collapsing into the river following the erosion caused by floods.

The father told his son “Quick! Call Lee Lam Thye (instead of the authorities).” The son replied, “Papa, he’s retired!”

Such was Lee’s national standing as a social activist.

In a nutshell, whenever a problem arose the first person many people would think of was Lee Lam Thye.

Throughout his journey as an MP and social activist, Lee had friends helping when discharging his duties.

Among them were the late Orang Asli activist Datuk Anthony Ratos and his wife the late Datin Dr. Leela Ratos who ran a private medical clinic along Jalan Pudu, just a stone’s throw away from Lee’s office.

Even at 77, Lee is actively involved in various organisations, which makes many puzzled about his bundle of energy, zest and zeal in working so fervently.

Has Lee slowed down over the years as he advances in age?

Definitely not, as he is still enjoying his passion in life. No one can even see any imminent sign of any retirement on the horizon.

I bought a copy of his book ‘Call Lee Lam Thye’ which illustrates his entire lifetime of service to our country and people. He is definitely a rare breed and a remarkable a Malaysian by any measure.

Many happy returns of the day, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye. God bless you always. – The Vibes, December 30, 2023

Benedict Lopez served as director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) in Stockholm and as economics councillor at the Malaysian embassy in Sweden from 2010 to 2014. He has travelled widely to all parts of the world during the course of his official duties with MIDA.

1 comment:

  1. I've been really mistrustful of him since his "Bukit Bintang Move"