Puan Pendek Ahmad, the grandmother of a 15 year old girl, sought help from the Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng, the husband of Betty Lim. Her granddaughter had been placed under "police custody" by the police in Bukit Aman and the family who had no access to her sought help from Lim Guan Eng (or YB as the family fondly calls him). Relentlessly, Guan Eng pursued the matter seeking a reunion for the family and helping Puan Pendek to secure the release of her granddaughter.
He conducted a series of ceramah (talks) titled "Kisah Benar" (true story) on the girl. He was arrested and charged under Section 3 (a) of the Printing and Presses and Publishing Act 1984 for maliciously printing a pamplet that contained false news and Section 4(1)(b) of the Sedition Act 1948 for promoting dissatisfaction with the administration of justice in Malaysia.
He was found guilty of both charges and fined RM 15,000 by the Melaka High Court. The Court of Appeal increased the sentence to 18 months jail on appeal. The Federal Court later upheld the decision of the Appeal Court.
The following is an interview by CANews on
Sept 15 1998 with Guan Eng's wife Betty Lim (BL)
and Puan Pendek (PP) the 15 year old girl's
CANews: Based on your personal experience what is your perception of justice in Malaysia?
BL: For there to be justice, one must speak the truth and fight against injustice. My husband, Lim Guan Eng, Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka has been doing this all along , fighting for the weak and the poor. However, in the pursuit for justice, there is a price to be paid. There is pain and sorrow and forced separation from loved ones. I still believe that truth and justice will finally prevail. As for me, it will be justice when my husband is released.
PP: My family and I cannot talk too much, otherwise we will be detained. I believe that the truth will always prevail. The guilty will receive their due sooner or later.
CANews: Do you share Guan Eng's struggle for justice? Is the sacrifice worth it?
BL: These past three years, from 1995 when
he was first charged to his incarceration, have been painful journey for
me and my family. It has been a journey about holding firm to one's belief
of equal treatment before the law and the right to the truth. Guan Eng
believes in it passionately and that is why he took up controversial cases
where "the angels fear to tread".
I was worried and advised him to exercise caution but Guan Eng told me he considered it his duty as a parliamentarian to expose any wrong-doing and if in the process, he had to pay the price, he was prepared to do so. Like my husband, I have no regrets. I know what he did is right. No power in the world can change what is right to wrong.
Perhaps my husband sums it best when he remarked before being led away to Kajang Prison: "I do not regret losing my liberty, my position as a Member of Parliament, my profesional accreditation as an accountant or even financially bankruptcy because I believe what I did was right in (a) that if I have to go down I go down in celebration of the Malaysian way of life where I am imprisoned for helping a Malay, my fellow Malaysian (b) that helping people is right. If I have to go to jail for trying to help an old Malay lady without any benefit to myself, then I have nothing more to say!" I am proud of Guan Eng.
PP: YB tak buat salah.(YB did not do anything wrong) I believe him innocent and is now put in jail. Time will tell. We Malays believe that one day those who have done wrong will receive what they deserve. I will wait for that day. I will live long enough to see it happen.
CANews: How has Guan Eng's imprisonment affected your life and that of your young children?
BL: We are a very close knit family. Due
to the demanding nature of his work and myself being a working mother,
Guan Eng always insists we spend quality time with the children. We are
blessed with three children, Rachel (seven), Clint (six) and Marcus (three).
Whenever time permits, Guan Eng takes the children for short holidays.
He always tries to make time for the family. The children miss him terribly.
The two older ones tell me that always dream of him coming home.
As for me, my husband has, is and always will be both my friend and inspiration. He is responsible for motivating me to become a lawyer and pursue an active legal career. He believes just as behind every successful man is always a woman, the vice versa applies. My children and I miss him a lot. We want him home so badly. We never cease to pray that he will return home to us soon.
CANews: How did you react to YB's imprisonment?
PP: I have felt very uneasy since his arrest. I cannot sleep at night. An innocent man who has helped me and my family is being punished. Where is justice? He has been convicted for exposing the truth. I pray five times a day for YB's early release. I have special "sembayang hajat" (special prayer intention) for him.
CANews: How do your children perceive their father's imprisonment?
BL: I do not want my children to have any negative thoughts against their father so I explained to them the reason why their father is in jail i.e. for helping an old grandmother to defend the rights of her granddaughter. My two older children cannot understand why their father has to go to jail for helping another person. This is not what they have been taught. Only bad people go to jail. Helping another person is good deed. I cannot give them an answer because I do not have any. However, the support given by the public and well-wishers is self-explanatory in convincing then that their father has done a good job.
PP: When my granddaughter was put in police custody, I had no one to turn to for help but YB. For helping my family he is put in jail.
CANews: Being a single working parent to three children, what are the problems you encounter?
BL: So far I have yet to encounter any major problem. My family members, including in-laws, friends, neighbours, my boss, party members of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the public have been very understanding, helpful and supportive. Some have offered to baby-sit my children or send them to school while I am at work. The children's paediatrician treats them without any charge. The plumber and electrician attend to repairs in the house for free. Some even offer to drive me to Kajang for our monthly family visits. Initially, I was worried about my children for they are at such a tender age and are unable to fend for themselves. However, thank God for the encouragement and support they receive from their friends and teachers. I really appreciate the kindness and support that has been extended to me and my family in this trying period.
CANews: Supporterss of Guan Eng, many of whom are strangers to you, have turned up for the candlelight vigil outside the Federal Court, have signed the petition seeking a Royal Pardon, are participating in the fast. How do you feel about this?
BL: The support and concern of the public in the form of their participation, thoughts and wishes give my family and I a lot of encouragement. We really appreciate what they have done. I just hope and pray that truth and justice will finally prevail so that Guan Eng can return home to us soon.
CANews: What is your source of strength to help you cope during this period?
BL: I believe in God. Whenever I feel like breaking down I will pray for the strength to go on. I have to be strong not only for husband but for my children too. I have promised Guan Eng that I will be playing the role of both mother and father for the children in his absence. The support and concern given to me by the public as mentioned above also gives me a lot of encouragement and strength. the nature of my work also helps to strengthen me because clients come to me for legal advice and I cannot turn them away just because my husband is in prison. In order to help them professionally, I have to be strong.
CANews: How do you feel about Guan Eng's petition for a Royal Pardon?
BL: This is the final and only recourse left for my husband to be feeed. The public had done their part by participating in the first signature campaign which was launched by the DAP. A total of 203,993 signatures from the public were collected within 10 days. These signatures have already been submitted to the Yang Di Pertuan Agong on September 8 1998. A second signature campaign is now in progress. Puan Pendek bte Ahmad had also written a letter to our King to seek a pardon for Guan Eng. I have been informed that 12 Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), the Bar Council of Malaysia and other organisations will be petitioning to the Yang Di Pertuan Agong for my husband's release. I do hope and pray that the Yang di Pertuan Agong and the Governer of Melaka will give their fullest consideration to my husband's case as he is not a "criminal". The question now is, can the Pardon Board make a decision that is impartial, independent and not politically motivated? After all, justice must not only be done but seen to be done. My husband's liberty is now in its hand.