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One year ago, on April 28, 2006, one of Malaysia's last independent journalists passed away at the age of 66, leaving behind an illustrious career which started in the mid-1960s.

My father MGG Pillai, was a man who stayed true to his craft until his demise. In today's Malaysia, a man of such convictions and passion for journalism, is well, put politely, not tolerated.

Under the previous administration of Dr Mahathir Mohamed, journalists were also expected to toe the line, and not ask too many questions, nor write analytic pieces. Newspaper editors were emasculated and kept in line.

Critical thought was slowly squeezed out of the public consciousness. My father was not allowed to write for any mainstream newspapers but that was no deterrence for a man who was determined to have his say about his beloved country.

Pillai's sharp pen also annoyed the Singapore authorities who barred him from entry into the little republic for many years. It is a measure of the man that he survived, nay, thrived under Malaysia's restrictive media controls since he became a freelance journalist in 1971.

I grew up seeing him at the typewriter, or with volumes of books which he devoured voraciously. My father never finished his legal studies, cut short by his father's death. In hindsight, journalism gained a son.

It was a critical time when a nation was looking to be relevant in the world, barely a decade after independence from colonial masters; dealing with an aggressive, larger neighbour, and brewing racial suspicions amongst the population.

An enigma

In those days before spin doctors and greasy relatives hungry for power, my father's insightful, investigative work about Malaysia allowed him to be acquainted with Bapa Merdeka Tuanku Abdul Rahman and successive Prime Ministers, as well as ministers and bureaucrats close to the seat of power.

Despite being a university drop-out, his tenacity, love for the written word and razor sharp mind, Pillai evolved into an expert of Malaysian and regional affairs, constantly writing for a host of foreign media titles throughout his life.

I would like to say that my love for books and writing was in large part, due to his influences, and while I freely admit that we have differences in opinions in some realms, he continues to have a massive impact on me.

To me the man never died as his ideals continue to be relevant in today's Malaysia.

My father was largely a strong silent type in private life, an almost exact opposite when he was wielding a pen or tapping on a keyboard.

That is the enigma that was MGG Pillai a giant in the world of Malaysian journalism.

Pioneer cyber-journalist

I think he liked what he saw in the world of cyber journalism which he pioneered, years before the likes of Malaysiakini and Malaysia-Today were established.

It reminded him of the dynamic media space in the 1960s and early 1970s, which, if it was left unmolested, would have contributed to a more mature, dynamic and critical society.

The shackles of race and communal politics could have in fact, been removed by now.

Sadly history has dictated otherwise but my father correctly predicted that the Internet could in the long-term, be the great equalizer, in regards to citizens being more involved and responsive to issues that affect us all.

Malaysia belongs to all of us and my father had made that point repeatedly in his 40-year career.

That a new generation of bloggers and Internet news sites continue to propagate his message, to the chagrin of the authorities, is a fitting tribute to the tenacious Pillai.

My father is gone but never forgotten.

Goodnight Acha, wherever you are.

SREEJIT PILLAI, an ex-journalist, is the eldest of MGG Pillai's two sons. Click here for MGG Pillai's final columns for Malaysiakini.

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