Chong Eu: A chequered legacy


The late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu will be remembered as a leader who left his imprint on Penang during a time of turbulence and ferment in Malaysia’s post-independence years.

His experiment with multi-ethnic politics with Gerakan – in its initial years at least – fired the imagination of many Penangites and other Malaysians.

His economic policy of promoting export-oriented, foreign investor-driven development – the standard World Bank model in support of MNCs – gave birth to the electronics industry and the Free Trade Zone in Penang. It compensated somewhat for the loss of Penang’s duty-free status.

This blueprint helped him with his greatest achievement from a socio-economic perspective: creating jobs at a time when unemployment was running high at 16 per cent. Under his administration, the Penang Development Corporation, also built affordable housing – entire townships – on both the island and the mainland, providing homes for thousands of Penangites.

Chong Eu also was instrumental in putting Penang on the map through icons such as Komtar and Penang Bridge.

Unfortunately, many of these policies, visionary though they may have been seen at the time, appeared  unsustainable in the longer term.

The lack of an integrated public transport system resulted in Penang becoming increasingly congested and even his pride, the Penang Bridge struggled to cope with the sheer volume of private motor vehicles. He was also helpless in seeing all but a small portion of the huge income derived from the bridge tolls going to private firms under Federal Government influence or control.

By allowing Gerakan to be co-opted into the Barisan Nasional, the multi-ethnic character of Gerakan was gradually eroded until it became dominated by a single ethnic group.

The recession in the mid-1980s and the current global financial crisis also exposed the vulnerability and serious limitations of the FDI and export-driven economic model in sustaining economic vibrancy and shielding the state from global shocks. The overwhelming focus on industrialisation, combined with the lack of priority given to agriculture (including vegetable farming) and fisheries, contributed to higher prices of essential foodstuff.

The economic model built using the draw-card of cheap labour to entice investors later meant that many Penangites struggled to cope with the rising cost of living. The much hoped for transfer of technology turned out to be only a trickle, as Penang grew increasingly trapped in a middle-income economy.

Komtar later grew run down and eventually many saw it as a sore thumb sticking out of of George Town’s unique built heritage. Some of the high-rise public housing built during Chong Eu’s time was poorly maintained.  The mushrooming of beach hotels and hill-side condominiums ruined the natural charm of much of the northern coast line. The pollution of the sea and rivers, the loss of green spaces, and worsening traffic congestion took a toll on tourism while the overall quality of life in Penang appeared to deteriorate.

During his tenure under the BN, many of Penang’s top schools declined and talented Penangites joined other Malaysians in migrating to KL, Singapore and elsewhere in search of better opportunities.

As Umno began to call the shots in Penang, Gerakan eventually began to look like a BN appendage rather than its lynchpin in Penang. The Umno influence and unsustainable development trajectory continued even after Chong Eu stepped down from politics in 1990, culminating with the ill-conceived Penang Global City Centre project, which was stopped by a concerted campaign and ultimately by Gerakan’s whitewash in Penang in the 2008 general election.

So while Chong Eu may be credited with saving Penang from immediate economic doom in the 1970s, in the process leaving his imprint on the state, the unsustainability of some of his administration’s policies over the longer term means that his record will be viewed by some as chequered.

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We should pay tribute to a person before he/she passes away.

nasi kandar kampung melayu = delicious

second that..


Man oh man Anil. I have to contend with a ball of monstrous proportions in my blog and already I find that a little difficult to deal with. I pity you with Gerakan K and now this DAP=UMNO fellow!

For once I agree with Gerakan K that we should observe a minute of silence but in his case, it should be a lifetime of silence, especially with that *=* fellow included and in-tow.

I don’t know who to feel more sorry for? You or me or the country? Or them loud-mouthed ignorant fools?


Whoever calls other ignorant fools should make sure that they themselves are not the same.


Are we having Pasar Malam overdrive?


To those of you who tell lies about a dead man, you only brought shame to yourselves and your own home.

Maybe after you are dead other people will do the same thing to you as you have done to Dr. Lim.


Now, now, since we have been fighting for freedom of speech, let’s exercise that freedom of speech and allow even the name-calling, no-facts commentators to air their frustration.

Just as long as it doesn’t become too offensive. 😛
Maybe he/she is too frustrated with life and this is his only avenue, where he/ she can be a big bully and loud mouth.


Now is the time to push for Penang bridge to be named after Tun Lim.

I certainly don’t want it to be known as Jambatan Tun Dr Mahathir if he suddenly kicks the bucket.


We have Komtar.

But why no Kompaklah? or Komab? in order of our previous PM from Penang?

Penang Bridge can be called ‘Jammm’ i.e Jambatan Mahathir Mohamad?


The name PENANG BRIDGE should remain. Otherwise people in the world will not know Penang if not they think the place is in China and China has too many structures.


To you every single thing must be RACIAL?

So what if the Penang Bridge is named after a Chinese guy?

Does that make Malaysia any less Malaysia?

If you worry so much that Malaysia might turn into another China, why won’t others worry that Malaysia might turn into another India? Like the Jalan Tun Sambanthan in KL, for example?


I am not talking about race but about Penang and its place in the world map as we can tell ignorant about one of the longest bridge in Asia Penang Bridge. You and your ignorant like AMNO. Better if you can suggest changing Penang Airport to Dr Lim Chong Eu Airport to the whole world.


Anil, you have been too kind to your readers.

DAP=UMNO, dont you realise, you sudah MELAMPAU, who do you think you are, huh?

Just becos your parents once upon a time were very very close to Dr Lim Chong Eu, so you have the right to scream here at Anil??? So childish…

So, all the readers here have to think like you do???

I, too, though with respect, think that Dr Lim Chong Eu must have had failed somewhere.


At that time, China is the BAMBOO CURTAIN. We have to send money back to Tongshan. Bicycles are equivalent to Mercedes. The Yanks and Japs are investing but not in China. Singapore has to survive but cannot go back to textile industries. So it is electronics. There was a big BOOM and Singapore cannot cope and there is spill over effect. What is the point of building electronic factories in JB as the companies provide transport. So it spill over to Penang. Just ask a few companies to go to Penang. But Penang has no Uni and electronic engrs and… Read more »


People do not send money back to Tongshan anymore but people are still sending money back to India.

Figure that out yourself !


If Anil didnt censor that would mean his site had become a rubbish dump la, just as stinking as UMNO’s politics… Dap=umno, i hope i have answered your question. Parti Cinta Malaysia is trying to gain cheap publicity by suggesting a state holiday… PCM thought by so doing, they can win back the support of Penang people. Maybe, because Penang people are real stupid, otherwise how come they took 20 years to oust Dr Koh Tsu Koon, yeah? I dont even see the purpose of declaring Monday a holiday. We will scare off the foreign biz people as we already… Read more »


LCE checked legacy begin with the fact that after he won his presidency in MCA, he tried to use (allegedly) underhanded means to consolidate his power, resulting in his own ouster. Leaving MCA, his politics resulted in Gerakan foolishness that saw UMNO getting away from being blamed for May 13, 1969 and much of this nation problem from that. Then after causing havoc that resulted in decline of non-UMNO parties power within BN which Tunku tried to maintain to his own detriment, he turned around and join those forces he said he was fighting against that resulted eventually led to… Read more »


LCE checked legacy begin with the fact that after he won his presidency in MCA, he tried to use (allegedly) underhanded means to consolidate his power, resulting in his own ouster.

Liar !

Dr. Lim was ousted from MCA because he had wanted to make the Chinese Language an official language in Malaysia, which angered the Malays from UMNO.

And with UMNO’s backing, Tan Siew Sin kicked Dr. Lim out of MCA.


Parti Cinta Malaysia suggest that Penang declare state Nov 24 or 28 as state holiday to honour Tun Lim. Imagine the time will come when every month we will have a holiday to honour some statesmen. PCM is struggling to become the new kid (hero) on the block

nasi kandar kampung melayu = delicious

if… if you are to join any political party..
please dont join this parti cinta malaysia..
sounds like a dangdut club name for me..


Perhaps, this smart a** bloke DAP=UMNO will do us all a favour by not, over demonstrating is scholar-istic ability!…who are you to judge others, be they, Tom Dick and Harry?
You are nothing but a backyard critic with an overinflated ego! When you have a shallow head, stay mute, no one will call you, ‘a pain in the blowhole’!


This DAP=UMNO ‘s call sign says it all. He is just like K and Gerakan K, all of whom have fallen off the Penang gravy train post 308 and are obviously using Anil’s blog to vent their frustrations. Gerakan K has effectively admitted to being a rent seeker in his posting in an earlier article as was pointed out by another commentator. Tun Lim was a great Penangite. He would have been greater had he like Lee Kuan Yew, put in place a worthy successor instead of a political eunuch who lost Penang’s luster. The state government should rename the… Read more »


Is name calling the only thing you know how to do well, Sir?


If you can’t debate with reason and logic and facts, please admit it.


” Lim Kit Siang is the one who has undone Dr. Lim’s work. If not for Lim Kit Siang, Koh Tsu Koon would not become the CM of Penang and the people of Penang wouldn’t have been bullied by Mahathir for so many years. ” DAP=UMNO – your quote above. The above is a spin. Penang lost its luster not because Tun Lim lost the 1990 election to LKS. Rather it was the political eunuch that succeeded Tun who was responsible. Tun Lim was already 71 when he was defeated. He retired with grace and was never known to have… Read more »


This bloke DAP =UMNO smells like PEARL and sounds like old PEARL… Why go and hit under another name? He only good in personal attack and criticising.

It is very disappointing if Anil allow such hitting below the belts to be in his blog because it simply bring down the level of discussions.


I am all for democracy and the right to speak up but not to insult personally. Otherwise we will miss the point of contention in the caption and deviate to personal attacks.


Hot, Cold, Spicy, Sour, Sweet or Utterly Distasteful.
Rojak sama-sama Blog! Or Pasar Malam Blog!
You have it all in Anil’s Blog.

That’s why we are called colorful multi-racial Malaysia!
The excuse here: No need to agree with everything!


Yes, we do need a compromised meager of sort between the legacy of Tan Sri LCE and the like of Na’vi. Imho, the late LCE fulfilled his part; but KTK didn’t do his. I agree 100% that it was LKS ‘defeating’ LCE that opened the door for ‘UMNO…to call the shots in Penang.’ We are all part of an imperfect checkered solution to maybe an unattainable perfection. If we really want change, we should just start doing it as collective individuals instead of just relying on someone else or a community leader. Want to green earth, just go out and… Read more »


It was LKS ‘defeating’ LCE that opened the door for ‘UMNO…to call the shots in Penang.’ This was only part of the strategies of UMNO to weaken Gerakan thro’ the use of opposition (enemy) forces to weaken his own alliance partner so as to take over the battlefield. A smart but cunning strategy of the Art of War. The other strategy was to put up a P’u Yi type of emperor leader in Gerakan as political kow tow puppet of convenience in majority Chinese Penang. This would present UMNO as a ‘considerate’ partner in the coalition but a lot of… Read more »


It was LKS ‘defeating’ LCE that opened the door for ‘UMNO…to call the shots in Penang.’

This was only part of the strategies of UMNO to weaken Gerakan thro’ the use of opposition (enemy) forces to weaken his own alliance partner so as to take over the battlefield.

I am afraid I am lost, Sir.

Are you saying that UMNO has so much control over DAP that even Lim Kit Siang bowed to the wishes of UMNO bosses and attacked (and defeated) Dr. Lim in the election, so to open the door for UMNO to usurp power?


Go learn the Art of War, darling. Nothing will seem so obvious in maneuvers. Otherwise, how to conquer? The British are very good at this, that’s why China fell during the last emperor’s reign. Understood?


Let us be fair. 1. Lim Chong EU did what he had to do, create jobs for Penang when the tax free status was removed. There was no vision in what he did. He admitted that. Getting into the electronic industry was just luck. But this do not take away the credit that he dared to act. 2. However, He did not take Penang a step further in the electronic industry by creating a native industrial sector like in Taiwan. Maybe, that was beyond the state govt. The continued reliance on multinationals is a weakness over the long term, while… Read more »


LBJ, I certainly agree with you. During those time many countries after becoming independent were trying to transform their economy through industrialisation with their cheap labour and Penang was just one of them trying to attract these FDI. Infact before Dr Lim come to power, the industrial programme has already started with the Mak Madin and Prai Industrial Estate in the 60s. Yes its with some luck also some hardwork he just continue on that job through the 70s when during that time, the whole of East Asia start transforming their industrialisation. I believe that even without Dr. Lim Penang… Read more »

Rifle Range Kid

Well said.

KTK stuck with SOW (same old way) to stick with low cost manufacturing that rely on foreign workers.

USM somehow did not admit top students in Penang for its engineering faculty, and moved its engineering campus out of the island! How to incubate innovation?

Little R&D to show. LGE inherited the consequences of MNC moving out to cheaper China and Vietnam.

Penang has good local chinese food. Because it is not halal it is not well promoted. So we lost many tourists!


I am a disciple of “Pure Democracy”…therefore, whatever. Anil wishes to say, it is his right to do so.
I may not agree with him but, I will defend his right and his freedom to post his appraisal of LCY… let him say his peace… Has the UMNO dictatorial disease caught up with our commentators here?
Come, come, fellas, the world will be a very dull place if we have one track mind…just like Gerakan K!!


As I have pointed out, any Tom, Dick or Harry can issue his own “appraisal” without even bother to check any fact. If Anil Netto is in the category of “Tom, Dick, or Harry” then of course Anil Netto can do what “Tom, Dick, or Harry” does. But if Anil Netto is above the level of “Tom, Dick, or Harry” then the onus is on Anil Netto to carry out some basic research before issuing his so-called “appraisal”. This has nothing to do with UMNO, btw. So please do not try to mix up this matter in order to make… Read more »


How can a “(non-Malay)” be recognized as a great Malaysian…
Patriotism?…never existed with the Chinese, so said the UMNO Defense Minister.
Lagi given a Senior TUN!…M, eat your blooming heart out!


My condolences to the late Tun’s family. The article is a very objective piece. I think Koh Tsu Khoon should do some serious soul searching.He should stop trying to score brownie points against the Penang Chief Minister, who is the epitome of dignity.


I believed thjat with the passing of Tun Lim Chong Yew, it would signal the end of Gerakan


I totall agreed with Anil


About late LCY revitalised Penang economy with electronic industry, I am rather surprise where he get the idea. Alas, Taiwan also took the exact path during Jiang administration, however, Taiwan successfully transform out from low value electronic assembly.
Too bad, Lim Chong Eu didn’t left no memoir.


The way forward for Penang to recapture its shine is to garner support for LGE from the people, public and private sectors, industrialists, businesses, alternative media owners, NGOs, investors and foreign stakeholders with interests in Penang. Support does not mean blind allegiance but constructive, proactive and affirmative support in the interest of the state and its people. Policies with regard to economic, education, industries, investments, environment, social and cultural, and heritage conservation that hinder or stagnate progress or create barriers to development prospects should be addressed or even challenged without fear or favour. Private initiatives, local or foreign can be… Read more »


Yes, all Penangites must now united!!!

We are better off than Malacca in most aspects despite the diffulty in getting the RM25 million heritage grant from BN.

Let’s promote our nasi kandar, Char Kuey Teow and Pasembor to everyone to melawat Penang!!!


And let us Penangites progress together without the bourgeois pretention, cronyism and prejudices of racist BeeEnd and love one another without the archaic religious barriers of colors, suspicion and fixated cultures. We could even out do Singapore if we only care to be genuine, tolerant and help each other without color prejudices but untung sama-sama in all endeavours and challenges. There will come a day I can see a … neighbour staying with a … wife/husband (of another faith)… without oppression or religious persecution. There will come a day when we can eat together in any Kopitiam without the issue… Read more »

nasi kandar kampung melayu = delicious

our nasi kandar itself won everything in malacca.. rite?

So simple

My condolences to the family. RIP

Anil is old enough to remember the early days of Komtar when it was widely derided as a white elephant. It still is.

Tun Lim was a widely respected man. Pity the same can’t be said of the (political) eunuch that succeeded him.


I don’t think your comments are fair, Anil. Tun Lim was abruptly taken off from his job in 1990. That was 20 years or 1 generation ago. During this period, in the semiconductor field for which Penang is world reknown, Intel rose to be no. 1 company in the business, up from God knows where in 1990. Samsung was still learning from the Japanese in 1990 but rose to be no. 2 in the same business 20 years later, and closed to beating all Japanese manufacturers combined. The Taiwanese are poised to be next giants with TSMC in the lead.… Read more »


I don’t think your comments are fair, Anil.

It has nothing to do with fairness, for Anil Netto’s main goal in issuing his so-called “appraisal” is to take advantage of the death of Dr. Lim to make some fame, or rather, notoriety, for himself.


Hopefully, the Federal senior protocol officers will take this opportunity to bury this Gerakan Beggar Party along side with this great Statesman/politician… the party he helped to build, so as, will not face further mockery!…

Andrew I

If we don’t like a chef’s cooking, it doesn’t mean we have to be able to cook better than him.

Politicians offer themselves up as public servants. We, as members of the public, have every right to scrutinize, criticize and assess what they are supposed to be doing on our behalf.

If you don’t like the scrutiny, don’t bother offering yourself.


Scrutiny for public servants is a must. However, Anil Netto has failed miserably in his attempt in “scrutinizing” what Dr. Lim has done.

Anil Netto himself should go back to learn the basic, which is, to do some research on why Dr. Lim joined the “Tongkang alliance”, immediately after the May 13 racial riot – which itself is a by-product of (an alleged) coup-de-etat orchestrated by Razak in throwing out the Tengku.

Andrew I

Failed miserably, as opposed to the opinions expressed by the msm journalists, which are pious and pure?

Come now. If the msm allowed us half the freedom that Anil has given you, I don’t think we need his blog.

I feel just as outraged as you when I read some of their opinions, but I don’t think they would print anything close to what you have littered across this thread.


Failed miserably, as opposed to the opinions expressed by the msm journalists, which are pious and pure?

Please tell me, Sir,

Do you know that there is a world outside of Malaysia?

Even within the context inside Malaysia, there still exist many Journalists with true integrity, dutifully reporting the truth as it is, without having to distort anything.

Unlike what Anil Netto has done in this case, unfortunately.

Andrew I

Well, that’s your opinion. There’s nothing here which is distorted. The only distortion is your reaction to what are basically general observations.

Your comments, on the whole, amount to nothing more than personal attacks …which do not win you the argument…in the world outside Malaysia.


Dr Lim just copycat LKY’s Singapore’s model – electronic industries but no Uni to produce electronic grad and major reforms. After a start, the industries do not need him anymore as they are just churning until it stops

He just like Wee, Zulf, Tan and Ziad desert his mates that form the Gerakan party like Prof Syed Alatas, Tan Cheen koon and Prf Wangand lost Gerakan Socialist ideas and goes Lone Ranger wthout Tonto


Do you even know what you are talking about?

There was no “Gerakan” back then.


Gerakan was formed by Dr Tan Chee Koon, Prof Syed Alatas, Prof Wang, Vellapan and Dr LCY with socialist ideas.

Dr LCY is exMCA guy and of course he left his buddies to join UMNO gang.

So there is no DAP=UMNO back then


I agree totally with Anil, in particular I quote, “…his record will be viewed by some as chequered.” A reader in Malaysiakini said he heard Dr Lim Chong Eu personally in a stadium in KL that he condemn BN of corruption but later he joined the … team as well. Why? So, there are lots of questions in the mind of the people why Dr Lim Chong Eu wanted to join BN? Why should Anil apologise, for what? Sometimes i feel that some of us here are just a little bit childish and we think we are great, about what???… Read more »


Why should Anil apologise, for what?

I have laid out the situation where Dr. Lim was under, where he was pressured to moved his party (pre-Gerakan) from the fold of “Opposition” to the “Tongkang alliance”.

But as always, Anil Netto has censored out all the information.

Ask him.