Alas, how often do we only recognise true greatness in people after they are gone forever. Maybe we are destined to do this over and over again because it is only in the vacuum of loss that we can step back and grasp the full impact of a life lived to the full. How true – and even more so – that is in the case of the late Fan Yew Teng. During his memorial in Brickfields on 5 January, speaker after speaker peeled away so many layers of Fan’s multi-faceted personality. Politicians tried to straight-jacket him but Fan refused to conform and crossed many real and artificial boundaries. He didn’t need the usual trappings of wealth and status to become a towering Malaysian.
Unionist, political activist, dissident writer with his trusty type-writer, global citizen – Fan was well ahead of his time. Long before the Internet had shrunk the world into a global village, he was already a global citizen campaigning against war and oppression around the world. Long before our era of climate change, Fan had embraced simplicity so that his carbon footprint was probably minimal. In fact, the environmental component of Fan’s Socialist Democratic Party manifesto in the 1980s was much more substantive than those of other contemporary parties. Lilianne Fan and P Ramakrishnan give us a glimpse of his remarkable legacy. Other giants have also passed on. We carry obituaries of activist lawyer G Balasundram and the late Tun Lim Chong Eu.
Back to the the green theme, Ken Yeong takes a firm stand against nuclear energy, Angeline Loh peers out of her Tanjong Tokong apartment window to see a concrete jungle sprouting skywards while Yap Soo Huey urges us to hop on a bus to reduce congestion.