PETALING JAYA: DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang is often a newsman’s delight as he is a prolific media statement writer.
But at times, his press releases, with bold and sweeping claims, can make the decision to use or not a difficult one for the editors.
And despite having just turned 81 three days ago, the octogenarian has not stopped the habit of personally typing his press statements – with at least one a day, sometimes going up to three.
This probably explains the estimated 25,000 press statements he has written so far since 1968, a year before he became an MP for the first time. Even if you average one a day, it would add up to only 20,000 for the 54 years since he started writing press releases.
Most editors will know that his statements are sometimes emailed during unearthly hours such as 3am or 4am.
Kit Siang, who was a journalist with Singapore’s The Straits Times for about five years in the early 1960s, used the typewriter until the late 80s when the nation started transitioning to computers in most areas. He was also the first politician to start a blog when he was in his 40s.
According to an aide from his office, the estimated 25,000 press statements include the ones he sent to media outlets and also those he put on his blog and Facebook account.
“Add the newsfeeds that he uploads onto his social media accounts, and it will be more than 35,000 posts easily,” the aide told FMT
“He was detained twice under the ISA – once in 1969 and the second time in 1987- for a total of 36 months. He could not write statements when he was in Kamunting, otherwise it could have been much more.”
His son Guan Eng recalled the nights when he used to be awakened by the clickety-clack of the typewriter from his father’s hard typing, and the “ding” sound that warns typists they are running out of space.
He said this was followed by the sound produced when the spacer handle was moved from the right to the left to start the next line.
“I used to admire the speed at which he typed. It was just the typewriter and him, nothing else – with thoughts just flowing though his fingertips,” Guan Eng told FMT.
“Then there will be another loud noise when he removes the finished paper and puts in a new one. He types like a machine gun and he is a self-trained typist. You would know that he was after some corrupt political leader or institution when you read the papers the next day.”
Guan Eng, the DAP secretary-general, said while one statement a day was quite common, his father had done six a day, especially during election campaigns. He said Kit Siang seldom made typing errors despite the speed.
“In his case, it was the case of the typewriter being mightier than the sword. He brought many scandals, like the BMF corruption case, to the attention of Malaysians with a typewritten statement.”
Meanwhile, a journalist said he had stumbled upon many politicians at airports but Kit Siang was the only one who was always busy typing.
“I saw him recently with an iPad on the left of his seat, a laptop and a stack of documents on his right. He just gave a cursory grin as I greeted him and merely responded ‘working on statement’ and continued with his typing. He is always in his own world,” he said.