Tan Chee Koon, one-time Mr Opposition, remained Tan Chee Koon until his retirement in 1978. He was made a Tan Sri in 1980.
The late Lion of Jelutong, Karpal Singh, remained as Karpal until his demise. So did P Patto and Fan Yew Teng, to name a few.
Lim Kit Siang is still Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng, despite reaching lofty heights as Penang chief minister and now finance minister, is still LGE to the people.
Lee Lam Thye, the former DAP parliamentarian who walked around Bukit Bintang with his trusty old Olivetti typewriter listening to the rakyat was awarded honourifics only after he retired in 1990, culminating with the Tan Sri award in 2002.
These were all grassroot leaders who understood the concept of being a people’s person. Chee Koon, Karpal, Patto and Fan were politicians who started with humble beginnings and went out the same way. They were, and remained, just one of us, not to be segregated by status in life. The fact that thousands turned up for their final journeys bears testimony to this.
There are many others who served this nation well without any recognition.
Most may not even be around but their legacy still lingers. To such people, titles and honourifics meant nothing – from the educators to the doctors who served in rural areas, from the soldiers and the police to our freedom fighters who lost their lives while serving this nation, from the volunteers in various societies to the sportsmen and women who brought honour to this country.
Theirs was a simple goal in life: serving to the best of their ability. They delivered when it mattered most. The six firemen who recently lost their lives may soon be forgotten but no single politician or Datuk would have ventured to do what they did. It was “service above all” at its best.
On Sunday, Lim Guan Eng issued a warning to DAP politicians who recently received Datukships from Sabah and Melaka. While two DAP leaders have apologised for receiving the titles, Tey Kok Kiew of Melaka makes no apologies for his.
All of them are where they are today because they stood on a DAP ticket in GE14. Had it not been for this, they would be no different from the man on the street. If DAP were to drop them in the next general election, they would be no more then a has-been. Just ask Hee Yit Foong from Perak.
And before you get carried away with your new-found status as Datuks, remember what Michelle Homme once said: “The worth of a man is not in the amount of power or money he attains in a lifetime. The worth of a man is in the priceless moments he creates during his lifetime.”
To Tey Kok Kiew, Wong Fort Pin, Stephen Wong, Frankie Poon and Jimmy Wong of DAP, this one is for you.
Clement Stanley is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.