WHEN Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik attended the opening of the Tunku Abdul Rahman College branch campus in Kampar last Sunday, little did MCA members and the public know that it would be his last major MCA official function.
In many ways, it was a fitting occasion.
It was also the first indication that the succession plan was finally turning into a reality. On stage were Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting and Datuk Chan Kong Choy, with other party leaders.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who opened the campus, also gave another hint.
Thanking the choir, led by Datin Seri Ena Ling, who performed at the function, Abdullah said he felt “the MCA is now in good condition”.
The third permanent branch campus is certainly another feather in the cap for the 60-year-old politician who will be recorded in MCA history as having gone the extra mile to provide affordable education for Malaysians.
The May 18 opening ceremony, which was also the last function for him in his capacity as party president, was even more special as 18 is also Dr Ling's favourite number.
And most of all, he has every reason to reflect and celebrate as TAR College with a current enrolment capacity of 30,000 is a far cry from its first intake of 700 students in 1969.
Born on Sept 18, 1943, Dr Ling was first elected as Mata Kuching MP in the 1974 general election and he retained the seat for another two terms – 1978 and 1982.
In his fourth term, but this time as Labis MP, the Transport Minister kept a low profile until he took over the helm of the second largest Barisan Nasional component party on Sept 3, 1986.
The medical doctor turned politician is a born leader.
A graduate from the University of Singapore in 1966, Dr Ling was an ex-president of the Singapore Students Union and also president of the Malaysian Rugby Union.
A sentimentalist, he loves to occasionally share his experiences as a student at the Royal Military College in Kuala Lumpur back in the 60s, with reporters after the weekly post-Cabinet press conference in his office – from the prominent people who graduated with him to his train journeys back to his hometown in Taiping and life in the college.
His liking and interest for people from all walks of life is also reflected in many ways.
For instance, he always takes the opportunity to introduce foreigners to the multi-ethnic hawker food in Malaysia, including bringing them to the hawker centres.
Dr Ling is also known for his “elephant memory”, which many attributed to his medical training and also his stamina which saw him crisscrossing the country attending official and party functions besides attending to his ministerial work and duties.
Perhaps the driving force behind him is his belief in regarding “today as always better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today”.
This philosophy was evident when the party under Dr Ling's leadership implemented several major educational programmes since the early 90s – from the Langkawi Project to promote education excellence among the poor in particular, to raising funds for Chinese schools and finally to the setting up of Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman last year.
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