Friday, September 18, 2009

A Heartfelt Tribute to Teoh Beng Hock

Beng Hock looked serious at times but was a cheerful, optimistic young man.

18 Sep 09 : 8.00AM | The Nut Graph

Text & Photos by Teo Nie Ching

THERE are some people whom we have known for a long time yet it feels like we only met them yesterday. And then there are some people that we only just met, yet it feels like we have known them for a long time. My friendship with Teoh Beng Hock fell into the second category.

I got to know Beng Hock during the March 2008 general election. To be honest, the first impression he gave me was that he was rather cool and unfriendly. But that impression was soon overtaken by his support and convictions.

I was still a newbie in politics then despite being a DAP candidate for the Serdang parliamentary seat. At that time, I was unfamiliar with the problems Kajang and Serdang residents faced. Beng Hock, who was an experienced reporter, immediately recognised my problem. He pulled me aside during one ceramah and gave me a run down on every problem in my constituency, as quickly as he could during the time we had. It was then that I realised that the tall and thin reporter may have looked unfriendly, but the flame for justice burned bright and deep in him.

A lighthearted moment with his DAP colleagues.

Hard work, low salary

When I met Beng Hock again after the general election, he had already become political secretary to Ean Yong Hian Wah, the Seri Kembangan assemblyperson from the DAP. We would meet up often after that.

We always discussed political and constituency-related issues. Sometimes, we could quickly think up of solutions for these issues but at other times, we were unable to because of various limitations. Then Beng Hock would tell me, "Nie Ching, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) must take over the federal government. State government's power is too limited. Only with the federal government power in hand can we come up with radical changes."

A political assistant's work is normally tiring. These assistants usually have long working hours, including during the weekends. When we were organising an event or activity, Beng Hock regularly had to work overtime until 3am or 4am at the service centre.

But despite these long hours, an assistant's salary is not high. We used to ask him all the time when he would marry his girlfriend. His joking rejoinder would always be: "First, you tell my boss to raise my salary. The salary working for the state government is so low, how to get married?"

Teoh Beng Hock and Teo Nie Ching: one for the album


Despite the low salary, and his family's protest and their advice to him to change profession, he remained steadfast and chose to stay on with the DAP. Part of this, I know, was because as a journalist, he witnessed many injustices and unreasonable incidents which caused him much anger.

In fact, he chose to join the DAP and to become Hian Wah's assistant because of the frustrations he faced as a journalist such as the limitations on the freedom of information. He used to tell me that his biggest ambition as a political aide was to cleanse Serdang of the Barisan Nasional's influence and make it a safe seat for the DAP, placed under the PR's governance. It was that vision that made him willing to endure the long hours to continue serving the people.

This was who Beng Hock was — a responsible young man full of ambitions.

[Read the whole story here.]

Teo Nie Ching is the DAP Member of Parliament for Serdang. A part of this essay, which has been translated into English, first appeared in China Press online.