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Published: Wednesday November 24, 2010 MYT 10:21:00 PMUpdated: Wednesday November 24, 2010 MYT 10:55:06 PM
By CHRISTINA CHIN
GEORGE TOWN: Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, 91, who served as Penang Chief Minister for 21 years, died on Wednesday.
He leaves behind his wife, two sons and two daughters.
He was admitted to Penang Hospital on Oct 26 after he suffered a stroke but, when his condition worsened Wednesday, he was allowed to go to his home in Hillside, Taman Bungah, where he passed away at about 9pm.
The Gerakan founder was a towering leader who presided over Penang's remarkable economic transformation but led a simple life throughout his political career spanning 39 years, shunning awards and titles.
He only accepted a Tunship after retiring from politics.
When he took over as Penang’s second chief minister in May 1969, the state was going through a difficult period after the withdrawal of the state’s free port status. Unemployment had shot up to 16.4%.
Dr Lim went overseas to attract investments that would provide jobs and managed to build one of the largest electronics manufacturing bases in Asia, earning the island the tag Silicon Valley of the East.
He came up with the “Free Trade Zone” concept to enable Penang to develop an industrial sector - a concept new to the country then.
Aside from courting western companies, he oversaw the transformation of Batu Ferringhi into a tourist destination and cleared pre-war houses to build the 65-storey Komtar, which was then Southeast Asia’s tallest building.
He also built the Penang Bridge.
Born in Penang, Dr Lim attended Penang Free School. In 1937, he was a King’s scholar at the Edinburgh University in Scotland and graduated in 1944 with a medical degree.
Formerly a medical officer with the Chinese Armed Forces, he founded the Radical Party in 1951 that won the first municipal council elections in George Town.
In 1954, he joined the MCA and was a member of the Razak Commission for Education.
He defeated the late Tun Tan Cheng Lock for the MCA presidency in 1958 but quit the party a year later following differences with Umno over the allocation of parliamentary seats in the 1959 general election.
He formed the United Democratic Party in 1962 and co-founded Gerakan in 1968.
The party swept the Alliance ruling coalition out of Penang in the 1969 general election and Dr Lim was appointed chief minister.
However, in 1973, Gerakan joined the Alliance Party to form a coalition called Barisan Nasional.
In 1980, Dr Lim stepped down as party president saying there were “many young and promising leaders in the party who are just as capable of holding the post”.
He was succeeded by (Tun) Dr Lim Keng Yaik in 1980.
He continued as chief minister but lost the Padang Kota state seat in the 1990 general election and then retired.
After retiring from politics, he stayed away from Gerakan affairs and kept mum, even when the party went through trials and tribulations.
He retired a humble man without a whiff of corruption.
After retiring, he became a passionate horse breeder and turned his attention to business, as chairman and adviser to several large corporations.
He also refused to publicly comment on the country’s political development when approached by newsmen.
In 2007, he was named founding chancellor of Wawasan Open University in Penang.
Penangites will not forget Dr Lim’s legacy.
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