MGG Pillai was a kindred spirit for any journalist in Malaysia, whether local or foreign, who believes that our calling is to report without fear or favour and that, to quote the 19th century American journalist Finlay Peter Dunne; "The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."
MGG was a lion amongst Malaysian correspondents. I won't say that he was without his quirks, nor would I claim that everything he wrote was entirely right. There were times when I fancy he misread the shadows from the 'wayang kulit' of Malaysian politics. But he was fearless, he was true to himself and his convictions and he did his damndest to bring the facts, as he saw them, to his readers.
He became, through his work, a living link to just about every actor of note in Malaysian public life since the country won its independence some 49 years ago. He would wistfully recall chatting with the Tunku at his official residence, sitting at dinner with Abdul Razak or Hussein Onn, or tussling with Mahathir Mohamad.
I last saw MGG a month or so ago. We sat together over dinner and he told me about his unfinished memoirs and shared some of the gems that would have made them glitter. Had he lived to finish them they would surely have been required reading for any student, not just of Malaysian history, but of the region's history over the last 50 years because MGG was there to witness much of it not least as a Reuters reporter during the Vietnam war.
His death leaves us all the poorer, his friends, among whom I'd like to count myself, immeasurably sadder and young Malaysian journalists with one less redoubtable role model. His baton now passes to those braver spirits in the media who could pay the man no greater tribute than to try to fill his great shoes by making sure that none in power can both fail the people and count on a sound night's sleep.
Rest in peace, MGG.
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