Sinologist Dr Lai Kuan Fook believes that we cannot change history but we can learn from past events and gain wisdom. He has written a book, Looking Back Into Past Histories And Events, which is a compilation of significant events in the country’s history.
Lai, in his 70s, took over two-and-a-half years to write the 282-page book in Chinese. The book is based on his research of local historical events dating back 60 years. Among the important events in local history were the Baling Talks (1955), the formation of the Malayan Union (1946), Federation of Malaya (1948), Alliance Party (1952), Barisan Nasional (1973), and the May 13 incident (1969).
He says: “The Chinese always believe they can learn from history. What’s done cannot be undone but we can learn from historical events. If our reactions were wrong and led to unpleasant happenings in the community, there are still lessons to be learnt from history so that we don’t repeat our mistakes.”
Among the historical events that impacted the Chinese community was the Japanese Occupation where an estimated 100,000 (mainly Chinese, including those in Singapore) were killed, and the formation of Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA). One major issue concerning the Chinese community was how Tun Tan Cheng Lock “fought” to get citizenship for the Chinese born in the country.
Lai was Perlis state assemblyman (1986-1990) and former vice-chairman of MCA’s education bureau. He was a supporter of Lee Kim Sai, then deputy president of MCA. Lai left the political scene in 1990 after the defeat of Lee to Ling Liong Sik.
Lai is also advisor to the Young Buddhist Association Malaysia, the Society of Confucianism Malaysia and the Yi-Ching Society Malaysia.
In the 1980s, Lai was a columnist with Sin Chew Jit Poh, and wrote extensively on Chinese culture and politics. He was a senior lecturer at Mara Institute of Technology (now Mara University).
Lai is a much sought-after public speaker and an authority on Chinese culture and customs, and issues affecting the local Chinese community. He is co-editor of The History Of Malaysian Chinese and A Collection Of Biographies Of Malaysian Chinese Entrepreneurs.
Lai’s latest book, Looking Back Into Past Histories And Events, will be launched at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 2. Tan Sri Hua Pheng Yin Huah, president of Huazong (the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia), is the guest of honour at the event.
Looking Back Into Past Histories And Events (RM40) is available at Shanghai Book Store in Jalan Sultan, Kuala Lumpur.