MGG Pillai: Gone but never forgotten

We will always remember MGG Pillai as a fearless journalist who was feared by many corrupt politicians and corporate tycoons. R.I.P. my friend!

Gone but never forgotten

Sreejit Pillai
Apr 30, 07 5:24pm
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.


6 Responses to “MGG Pillai: Gone but never forgotten”

  1. sampalee Says:

    Yes,MGG is indeed a great man and one all malaysian can be proud of.

  2. Libra Says:

    Malaysian main stream journalist have to bow their heads in shame just at the mention of MGG.
    None other will measure up to his level of integrity and tenacity. He really feared no one when defending TRUTH. A great man indeed.

  3. Sreejit Pillai Says:

    Thank you ronnie for publishing my tribute to my father on your site. I really appreciate it and all the kind words that people have for my father. He may have his flaws like all of us, but one thing that he had in abundance is integrity and honesty. And that is what I will aways take with me in the course of my life.

    Thank you all for your kind words. I have begun to write in cyberspace too. While I am not my father, this is my way of keeping his spirit alive.

    Warmest regards


  4. C++ Says:

    Dear Sir,

    For all these year, the respect from me is to MGG Pillai. On the early days of Sang Kancil … I join it, read the commentaries and understand the pledge…

    So sad that these good people (MGG Pillai) has gone whilst the open journalism is still can’t be break. Nevertheless, the path MGG Pillai lead will be followed by other “FREE” web journalist.

    Let the game begin…..

  5. MG Ounni Krishnan Pillai. Says:

    I miss some infomation about how MGG ripped off his brothers, being both a trustee and benificiary of his mothers will. No receipts, no will, money paid from hand to hand…..siphoning of money from the estate…..MGG never held a paying job since the end of the 70s.
    None of the brothers were given a copy of the will and we were asked to contact a lawyer.
    What makes this thief such a big man after this death? A few hundred thousand ringits are not accounted for… did his wife Jayasree have access to the estate account?

  6. Ounni Krishnan Pillai Says:

    MGG was never colour blind. On his way back from the US in 1977 he dropped by in Oslo for some conferance. I drove him and some journalists around Oslo. I had long hair and a beard and the first thing he told me was to cut my hair and shave or people will think I am one of those Pakistanis….
    In the family, MGG could never be trusted. Letters he was supposed to have posted were found in his car months later. About 2 kilos of gold is missing from his mothers estate, surely thats the reason why his brothers were not given a copy of the will.
    He was sacked from Bernama and then worked for the Malay Mail for a short while. After his glorified days at Nieman Foundation he never had a paying job, he stole the money to keep his family.

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