Fearless Fan: The principled politician

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I couldn’t help feeling a sense of loss over Fan Yew Teng’s passing. He was one of a kind, a freedom fighter with a strong passion for justice, tempered with a hearty laugh and a friendly disposition.

He was a politician but a principled one – which may explain why he never struck fame or fortune. He may have quit his party, started a new party and then left formal politics – not because he was a katak or for personal gain. As always with Fan, it was on a matter of principle, a matter of conscience.

After his departure from politics, he led a fairly secluded lifestyle. But he never truly left the scene. Every now and then, he would send articles to Aliran, which the social reform group happily carried in its publication, Aliran Monthly.

A fearless writer, he would fire stinging broadsides at the Mahathir administration at a time when large sections of the the Malaysian public were either complacent or carried away by the former premier’s top-down model of development, which was riddled with croynism and plagued by financial scandals.

This was long before the reformasi era of the late 1990s.

But even though his distance from the rough-and-tumble world of politics gave him a refreshing perspective of the Malaysian landscape, Fan felt compelled to return to politics when the reformasi phenomenon erupted. Putting aside his differences with his former colleagues in the DAP, Fan re-entered politics – not because he wanted to ride on the bandwagon but because he took a decision to come forward and be counted. I suspect he saw it as his patriotic duty as a Malaysian, a human being, to take a stand for justice and freedom at a crucial time in the nation’s history.

Fan continued to write until recent years and broadened his worldview to look at environmental protection – saving the limestone hills of Ipoh became a major concern – and global issues especially US imperialism.

Whenever I saw the envelopes containing the manuscripts from him arriving at Aliran, I knew instantly they were his. As an editorial board member, I would have the pleasure of reading them: the pages would be painstakingly type-written – not keyed in using a PC. In a sense, the black carbon ink against the white sheets of paper mirrored Fan’s ability to emphatically distinguish between right and wrong and to call a spade a spade. His attachment to his typewriter, his basic tool, reflected his romance with the written word – in the same way an artist might prefer a paint brush and canvas rather than a computer graphics software tool.

And it was on those typewritten sheets of paper that Fan came into his own – in the most powerful way imaginable. He did not mince his words even after all those years had passed since, as editor of the Rocket in the early 1970s, he paid a heavy price for publishing articles that upset the government of the day. His life was one long love affair with the written word as a means of putting across his commitment to the cause of justice.

From someone I admired for his fearlessness and passion for justice, Fan became a friend and an inspiration. I never knew him as having an email address or a cellphone. Over the last couple of years I tried a few times to reach him on his land line in Perak to no avail. So news of his passing in Bangkok came as a shock.

Fan Yew Teng was definitely a ‘towering Malaysian’.

May his soul rest in peace.

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Antares

Thanks very much for so fondly remembering Fan Yew Teng. I was introduced to Fan in the early 1980s by mutual friends and it was always a pleasure to be in his affable and civilized company. He smoked a pipe and loved literature. Indeed, he was first and foremost a humanist and democrat with a strong calling for social activism. His heart was definitely in the right place – with the ordinary people, the salt of the earth. His noble intellect was dedicated to speaking out on behalf of natural justice and truth. He always championed the little guy against… Read more »

kee

Agreetodisagree, ya, Lim Guan Eng is the son of Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh has two tiger sons just like him. What is wrong when you have capable children to succeed you? Maybe you should take one step further, that is, prove that Kit Siang and Karpal’s sons are corrupted, ya? Yang, Dr Lim Chong Eu was like a semi god in Penang, dont play play, it would be safer to give him the benefit of the doubt. Blame the stupid Penang people for voting Gerakan for the past 2 decades… The other day when Anil posted an article… Read more »

kingkong

Kee

Agree to agree with you. What is wrong if the sons and grandsons are capable and not corrupt? But this “to disagree” bloke never highlight the incompetencies of the sons of BNs like LLS, Razaks, Husseins, Chuas and LKY. Like their fathers, they just want to dig for more.

Now pearl, DAP=UMNO has become the incredible hulk changing to Agreeto disagree(?)

AgreeToDisagree

” What is wrong when you have capable children to succeed you? Maybe you should take one step further, that is, prove that Kit Siang and Karpal’s sons are corrupted, ya? ” The MP’s seat or PM’s seat IS PUBLIC PROPERTY and not to be sequestered by a ‘family’ or a ‘group of families’ as if it had more rights but you cannot deny that if they do try to prevent other citizens from obtaining the seat, they would effectively be reserving it and prevent ALL OTHER CITIZENS from sharing no? How about term limits too? None for MPs? We… Read more »

Sewel

Fan Yew Teng is the last of the Mohicans. As a Malaysian you were a rock of social justice and social equity. Unmovable and unshakable in your belief in equality and justice. Such was your strength. Will miss your jovial cheeky humour, but i know you have gone to a better place. Adieu my friend.

Aram

Will CSL be a principled person if he can continue to stand up agaisnt Hishamudin in the ‘Umno Abang MCA Adik’ issue?

DR.JEFF BALAN

THE HONOURABLE SIR FAN YEW TENG

I AS A CITIZEN BESTOW ON YOU THIS TITLE,
MY FRIEND YOU LIVED TO CHERISH HUMAN RIGHTS.
YOY FOUGHT HARD AND FINALLY GOD TOOK YOU TO ANOTHER WORLD WHERE YOU WILL FIGHT ON.YOU WILL LIVE FOREVER TO FIGHT THE INJUSTICE TO MANKIND.
FAN YOU SPENT YOUR LIFE DEWFENDING MALAYSIAN RIGHTS
FROM THIEVES AND LIARS .
YOU SIR SHOULD BE TREATED WITH THE HIGHEST RESPECT
AND YOUR GREAT NOBILITY GREETED WITH THE UTMOST
DIGNITY.
REST IN PEACE MY FRIEND
YOUR FIGHT LIVES ON IN MANY MANY OF US

Mike

Attended a rally during the 1974 GE where he gave a speech.
He indeed was a fiery orator and he even challenged the police to arrest him on the spot.
It was a pity when he had a fallout with DAP leadership later on and left the party.

RIP Mr Fan.

wandererAUS

Fan a politician of my time, a great and principled politician. I still remembered him as an Opposition member that was responsible for bringing Perak alive!
A young DAP candidate, knocking out the “Giant of Perak”
He was the peoples’ favorite, wherever, he went and whoever he spoke to.
It was a pity I did’nt have the opportunity and the pleasure to meet him…although, I have met most of DAP strongmen. I felt proud that I was on the same side as this great Malaysian, a true son of Malaysia!
May his soul rest in peace…fair thee well, comrade.

Pasupathi.S

I knew bro Fan more a social activist and a champion of human right. I met him sometime in March 1995, when we wanted to organise a protest in front of Srilankan high commission over the killing of innocent Tamils in the pretext of waging war against Terrorist. Immeditely we struck a friendship and mutual respect.He never failed send me copies of his articles which were printed in Aliran, Watan and harakah. When he lost his manual typewriter, we wanted to get him a laptop which he refused. Later we got him a manual typewriter and l still remember the… Read more »

kee

ya, i read a bit of Fan, and being a principled person, he refused to join BN when invited or requested not like Dr Lim Chong Eu.

Anyway, i give Dr Lim Chong Eu the benefit of the doubt.

Yang

I dont give Lim Chong Eu the benefit of doubt. In fact he was an MCA person all along. There is no denying that he would rejoin Alliance one day and he did when BN was formed. Its just that he was lucky to leave MCA and be in the opposition after his quarrel with the top MCA people as there were widespread opposition during that time and won the election together with DAP. Whatsover he would not have been a leader by itself had it not for BN and has to depend on the BN for the development of… Read more »

AgreeToDisagree

@Yang, “This is what we want in a leader unlike Lim Chong Eu.” Don’t speak too soon for they both are the same. Kit Siang/Guan Eng are very much like Chong Eu. For your info, the state party election to be held on Sunday at Komtar has two vice-chairmen are DAP chairman Karpal Singh’s son Jagdeep Singh Deo and Lim Hui Ying, the sister of Guan Eng. Not too much better than Chong Eu’s closed tender KOMTAR case no? Any second liner DAP man could easily replace Lim Guan Eng if not for Lim Kit Siang. Not too much better… Read more »