Remembering an Encounter 50 years ago

POSTED BY Shuen Lim ON 25 November 2019

By YS Chan

In 1969, I was a service advisor in Tan Chong and Sons Motor Co Sdn Bhd. Back in the days when the workshop was just a large shed behind its head office cum showroom at Jalan Ipoh in Kuala Lumpur. Back before its relocation the newly completed Tan Chong assembly plant in Segambut.

In my first year there, I came to know a particular customer, a sprightly 32-year-old young man who caught my attention with his Nissan Cedric. The four-cylinder 2-litre engine car was incredibly silent and steady when idling. One had to step on the accelerator to know the engine was running. The tachometer had not introduced yet as was the 60s. He was Mr Lee Kim Sai or Tan Sri Lee Kim Sai in later years when his political career took off.

One could tell, he was passionate about his Nissan Cedric from the way he maintained it. Once he shared with me that Tan Chong imported 100 Nissan Cedrics with registration plates from BL 1 to BL 100 to commemorate the formation of Malaysia in 1963. i.e. Malaysia Day as we now know it. Unsurprisingly, the Nissan Cedric he drove was one of these historic cars

Five years later, in 1974, he won the Rawang state seat on an MCA ticket and retained it in the 1978 election. Subsequently, he was elected a member of parliament in the 1982 general election. And again in 1986 and 1990. He was appointed Minister of Labour in 1986, Minister of Housing and Local Government in 1989, and Minister of Health from 1990 until 1995.

Kim Sai in Hokkien means Golden Lion. While the late Karpal Singh of DAP was known as the Tiger of Jelutong, the late Tan Sri Lee Kim Sai was the Lion from MCA. I will remember him as an outspoken man on several sensitive issues in 1986 and the man who drove one of the historic Nissan Cedric.