PETALING JAYA: The softer, romantic side of DAP strongman Lim Guan Eng shone through during his 18-month stint at the Kamunting detention centre under the Internal Security Act (ISA) from October 1987, as the long-distance courtship with his then girlfriend was put to the test.
In the newly-released second volume of his father’s biography, “Lim Kit Siang – Malaysian First” by writer Kee Thuan Chye, the DAP chairman spoke of writing 300 letters to Betty Chew as he fought to maintain their then six-month-old relationship.
Guan Eng was among more than 100 politicians and activists, including his father Kit Siang, who were detained under the ISA in a security operation by the police, codenamed Operasi Lalang, when Dr Mahathir Mohamad was prime minister.
Although Chew was from a poor family she had worked hard to obtain a government scholarship to study mass communications, which earned his admiration.
Lim, who was then Kota Melaka MP, said it was a chance meeting at The Star newspaper’s Melaka office that brought him and Betty together. They were introduced by Star correspondent M Veera Pandiyan when the DAP man visited to share a press statement.
“(Betty) was an intern with Utusan Malaysia but she came to my office almost every evening to find out what stories she might have missed,” Veera said.
“Betty was a good-looking girl and when I introduced her to Guan Eng, I could see he was smitten. After that, he came around every now and then to submit press statements, but it was more of an excuse to see her.”
Guan Eng said that a relationship with her raised the question of whether she would be able to take the pressure if he were ever to go to prison.
It was while in Kamunting that he asked Chew through one of his sisters if she was ready to continue after their circumstances changed with his detention. To his delight, Chew declared she would wait for him.
“That was when I knew she could take the pressure,” he said.
Guan Eng was released in 1989 and the couple tied the knot the same year. They have four children – three boys and a girl.