(20-21 November 2010)
The people of Malaysia can glean some important lessons from the struggles of Dr Sun Yat Sen which in the end successfully brought about a political change in China.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said the first lesson is “Failure is the mother of success”. He spoke of the tremendous struggles with nine failures starting with the first Canton uprising in 1895 before the revolution succeeded in dethroning the Qing dynasty in 1911. “For 15 years, he had to struggle against many odds, against many ugly faces of humans and many challenges.”
Describing the 1910 Penang Conference as a major turning point in Dr Sun’s political struggle and in the history of China, Asia if not the world, Dr Koh declared that it was achieved through the persistence and sacrifice of Dr Sun and his staunch supporters in China and Southeast Asia.
He said the 25-year period, from the untimely death of Dr Sun in 1925 till 1949, was a difficult period with civil war, anti-Japanese war and World War II, before the People’s Republic of China was established. There has also been tremendous upheaval since then, including the Cultural Revolution which saw many Chinese sacrifices and the Tiananmen tragedy, before China celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2009
“This is an example of how commitment, persistence and sacrifice can turn around history, but at the same time realising it’s not really just one person,” he stated, adding that it is a good time for us to refresh ourselves about history and how we can help our own country move forward.
He mentioned that the emergence of China as the second great economic power was through a torturous journey. “The road to democracy is always not easy. It took quite a while for things to be realised, although democracy is not fully realised in China. It shows how difficult the process of nation-building is for every country.”
Dr Koh stressed that there are “really no short-cuts” to building a nation. “Similarly in Malaysia, we go through a process. If we look at 1Malaysia, the emphasis is on people first. These lofty ideals should continue to guide us, but our feet must be on the ground. We can have lofty ideals, but if our feet are not on the ground, then we re-live history without really learning from it.”
Dr Koh was speaking at the opening of the one-day international symposium on “Dr Sun Yat Sen, Soong Ching Ling: Their Life and Legacy’ with special focus on the 1910 Penang Conference, at the main campus on Nov 21st, organised by WOU, Penang Heritage Trust and Sun Yat Sen Penang Base. He then signed the huge welcoming board to officially open the event.
Earlier WOU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Wong Tat Meng in his welcoming speech said that Dr Sun’s staunch followers were responsible for the founding of a number of very successful schools in Penang, such as the Chung Ling High School, of which Dr Koh is one of the more illustrious alumni, and the Penang Chinese Girls High School.
Some 14 renowned scholars and specialists shared their findings at the symposium to evaluate the lives and impact of Dr Sun and Soong not only from the Chinese perspective but in a wider and international angle.
The symposium was attended by about 150 delegates, mostly from China and Taiwan, Wawasan Education Foundation chairman Dato’ Seri Stephen Yeap and Hong Kong actress Fung Bo Bo.