Gong Gong says

This is a posthumous blog of our father's (Lim Kok Ann) life. When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography. We'd like to celebrate his life by sharing his autobiography through this blog.


"I have dredged these anecdotes from memory just to pass the time; if they amuse my grandchildren their purpose will have been served; if they provide any instruction, it will be a happy coincidence; that they are disjointed is probably to be expected.

Aurora was the name of my grandfather’s house in Kulangsu.   Amoy, where I spent the first five or six years of my life.   I still have vivid memories of events that took place when I was barely three years old.

Lim Kok Ann
October 1996"

Saturday, November 01, 2008

3.4 Lim Chong Eu returns from China

To return to our domestic affairs: soon after I started work Chong Eu turned up in Singapore, disembarking from his plane with a microscope in one hand and his wife in the other. Chong Eu had found his way to Chungking via the Burmah Road and joined the staff of my uncle Robert, Surgeon-General Robert Lim He-Shing (Mandarin for Kho-Seng), one of Chong Eu’s duties being that of personal physician to General Cheng Ch’eng.

When the Communists seized power in 1947, Robert Lim’s boss, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek evacuated his forces to Taiwan. Robert Lim took the occasion to disband his own staff and to ask Generalissimo Chiang for leave of absence to attend to some personal matters. As the Chinese Government was still on a war footing (and still is!), no general could resign, so Robert Lim asked for leave. Most Chinese generals managed to put by something for a rainy day, but I take pride in the fact that Robert Lim left Taiwan without a cent in his bank account though he left the Chinese Army Red Cross ambulances with two years’ spares of tyres and batteries. Robert became director of the laboratories of Miles Ames in Chicago, a company that made Alka-Seltzer, the popular fizzy beverage. Miles Ames also made sedatives, barbiturates and such, and Uncle Robert’s job was to test each new preparation for effectiveness and safety. I thought it rather tough that Uncle Robert had to start a new career at the age of sixty; I did not know that I was to do the same, though in far happier circumstances.

Sing Yen (Joyous Swallow), Chong Eu’s wife, came from a prosperous textile family and met Chong Eu when she served as a nurse in Chungking. Her father was much opposed to her marriage to a “barbarian” but love won the day. Becoming a housewife in small-town Penang was hard going for Sing Yen because she did not speak either English or Hokkien and few in Penang spoke Mandarin (Hua-yu).

Chong Eu joined his father’s practice in Penang but soon found his metier in politics by joining the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA). The largest political party in Malaya then was the United Malay National Organisation UMNO lcd by Tcngku Abdul Rahman whose platfom, was that Malaya belonged to the Malays who should govern the country and that the other major races should be (junior) partners, the Chinese through the Malayan Chinese Association and the Indians through the Malayan Indian Congress (MJC).

Chong Eu’s view was that Malaya belonged to the people living there while the “special position” of the Malays should be taken into account On this issue, Chong Eu eventually left the MCA and formed his own Party, named the Gerakan, based in Penang. While still a member of the MCA Chong Eu was elected to the Malayan Parliament and among other things, had a large hand in framing the Constitution of the proposed Federation of Malaysia in which his phase, the special position of the Malays” was adopted. Most Malays read this as meaning the “rights” of the Malays, but Chong Eu’s wording did not accord the Malays any constitutional rights that were not defined. On my part, I had refrained from taking part in politics, not having a clear vision of what was ahead for us. As a member of the Federal Budget Committee, Chong Eu gave me this piece of political wisdom on economics: Any capital out-lay that is a one-time conunhtmerit might be acceptable, but it is the annually recurrent expenditure that can kill a project. Is not the failure of the Welfare State due to ignoring this elementary principle? On the question of emigration to find pastures new, Chong Eu’s view was that the world was getting smaller and what you seek to avoid in one place could catch up with you, expressed succinctly in the question, “How far can you run?”

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