IT has been a long and fulfilling journey for Dr Ling.
Especially satisfying must be the manifestation of Utar – that it is finally physically taking shape after such a long wait has added to the joy of the man who has led the MCA and the community to many achievements.
Utar must surely be the pinnacle of Dr Ling’s life’s work as a community and national leader.
The university, long a dream of the MCA, fulfils the hopes and aspirations of the community. Dr Ling has done an excellent job in bringing this vision to fruition. He went even further – galvanising a movement that went down to the grassroots to raise money for the building of the campus in Kampar.
Dr Ling was always conscious of the good things his predecessors had done; he built upon the foundations they had laid down. And added some.
As he leaves the political scene – although he may not fade from public life completely – he will look back upon 17 eventful years as MCA president.
He was a young 43 when he assumed the presidency. The MCA had just emerged from a tumultuous period caused by a leadership crisis.
The party had long been seen as conservative and tradition-bound – a reflection of the state of the community.
Dr Ling brought freshness and set out to turn the party into a dynamic, change-embracing organisation that would make an impact for the community and on the nation.
In purposeful small steps, in much the same way he speaks in his characteristic measured tones, he took the MCA through a time of transformation that peaked in 1999 when the party coasted to a thumping victory at the general election. It was heady. The Chinese had never been so cohesive and united as a community and behind the MCA.
Under Dr Ling, the 54-year-old MCA and its leaders have helped build bridges – continuing the task of previous leaders even before the birth of the nation – that have aided the growth of Malaysia and seen Malaysian Chinese through some tough times.
He never veered from the party’s agenda, dedicating himself and the party leadership to ensuring the well-being of Malaysian Chinese in the social, cultural and political fields.
The community, as it reflects on Dr Ling’s presidency, can take pride and satisfaction from the fact that under him, it was able to make much progress in the economy, culture, Chinese education, religion, women and youth and sports.
From the Langkawi Project, an MCA initiative that assists students from poor families irrespective of race, to turning Port Klang and the KL International Airport into world-class gateways under his Transport Ministry’s blueprint to make Malaysia a transportation hub, Dr Ling’s untiring efforts have paid off in numerous, myriad ways and changed untold numbers of lives.
Today, thousands of graduates of TAR College, and soon Utar, have the MCA to thank for where they are, including some of the MCA leaders themselves.
He provided avenues for capable people to contribute to the nation. Women were not left out. Nor were the youths.
Dr Ling played no small part in ensuring the continuity and implementation of the ideals set forth by the MCA founders. He has kept the flame of the cause burning bright and steered the party steadfastly upon the course.
His stepping down is the final act in opening the way to the future. The leadership succession is testimony to one of the party’s maxims – that one must remember the source when drinking the water.
Dr Ling certainly remembers the source; his successor must do the same.
Ultimately, how the people remember their leaders’ contributions is what matters.
The great Chinese sage Lao Tze rightly observed: “When the effective leader is finished with his work, the people say it happened naturally.”
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