Former DAP stalwart turned social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye is very much in the news of late, right? All because of his recently launched memoirs “Call Lee Lam Thye: Recalling a Lifetime of Service”, or rather because of some of the things he penned in the said memoirs.
More about that in a while.
So, first thing first.
In 1990, just before the eighth general election (or a week before the dissolution of the Parliament, according to Lim Kit Siang of DAP), Lam Thye quit the DAP and politics.
His resignation made headline news and much was made out of it.
Supporters of the opposition were not only shocked but also dismayed by Lam Thye’s decision.
The opposition then was “riding high” and was confident of coming up with a good performance come general election, to at the very least deny the powerful Mahathir Mohamad-led Barisan Nasional of a super majority win.
Their optimism stemmed from the fact Umno dissident Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah had formed Parti Semangat 46, an Umno breakaway outfit, and had fostered ties with several opposition parties including the DAP in a pact called Gagasan Rakyat, after a fallout with Mahathir.
But somehow Lam Thye’s resignation threw a spanner to the works for the opposition, especially the DAP.
He however did not disclose (at least not openly) the reason or reasons for his resignation.
To be fair, it must be said that Lam Thye did not go into a tirade nor did he “badmouth” the DAP. And he certainly did not jump over to the BN.
Still, despite his “silence”, his act did have an adverse impact of sorts on the opposition in general and DAP in particular.
The pro-BN mainstream media then had a field day playing up the resignation, suggesting to the masses that Lam Thye, known more as a welfare officer (in helping the rakyat) than a politician, was “victimized” and “stabbed in the back” by DAP leaders accused of being “hardline” and “chauvinistic”.
Put simply, the media went to town with such a narrative.
And it did not help the opposition cause that Lam Thye had shed tears when he was interviewed by TV3, always a strong supporter of BN.
Suffice to say the visual of an emotionally choked Lam Thye weeping and wiping his tears was exploited to the hilt by the television station to give a very negative image of the DAP with hopes of swaying votes to BN.
Although Lam Thye again did not reveal the reason or reasons for his resignation, the “crying” visual was enough, as far as TV3 and the BN-friendly media were concerned.
It had done its job, so to speak. That was that.
However, Thursday June 16, 2022, Lam Thye presented his memoirs or biography if you like which was launched by the Sultan of Selangor. It is a story of his half-century journey from being a politician to being a social activist, a role he still assumes till this day.
As the title goes, it is, according to The Star, “a somewhat light-hearted reference to how people would seek him out to help resolve their problems”.
But Lam Thye also spoke in the open and for the first time since the events of 32 years ago, on why he quit the DAP and politics. And there is nothing light-hearted about what he said in his memoirs.
According to him, the DAP had wanted to remove him elsewhere from Bukit Bintang, a constituency he had held for four terms, and he blamed Kit Siang for it.
The veteran politician denied this, saying “it is a big lie” that he was the cause for Lam Thye’s resignation. Lam Thye, as expected, has stood by what he has said.
Enough said, as I have no intention of further writing what the two gentlemen have said or continue to say.
To the supporters of DAP, questions are being raised on the timing of the release of the memoirs, asking why the book was launched at a time when many believe GE15 is to be held sooner rather than later.
Obviously, they are saying they see something sinister and smell a rat. That’s what is being implied as I read it.
But the big question is, will what Lam Thye said in his book have an adverse effect on the DAP when GE15 is called, just like what his action did to a certain extent during the eighth general election?
Now will his words printed in the memoirs haunt the DAP during GE15?
I asked several friends who are impartial, neutral and apolitical. Well, that’s how I see them anyway.
To them, the answer is no, simply because what happened 32 years ago is no more the concern of people now, young or old. Furthermore, the younger generation knows very little how big a name Lam Thye was years ago.
To senior journalist Terence Netto, writing a letter to the editor ran by news portal FMT a few days ago, “Lam Thye’s memoirs are not going to peel open the scab and expose the wound of what was seen as a betrayal of the DAP just when such treachery would inflict the most damage.”
As he sees it, “DAP has moved on to better innings from the time of what was viewed as Lam Thye’s betrayal, so it’s unlikely that there will be much interest in disputing his narrative of things past.”
However, it needs to be pointed out that Kit Siang is still disputing Lam Thye’s narrative. There is still much interest. Somehow he feels it is only right to “challenge” what Lam Thye is alleging.
Anyway, the title accompanying Netto’s letter to the editor published by FMT read: “Lam Thye’s memoirs will do little to enhance his stature”.
Going by the comments on social media, quite a good number of people seem to think so.
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)