PETALING JAYA: Tributes have poured in for historian Khoo Kay Kim who died this morning, with many hailing the 82-year old for his efforts to promote unity in the country.
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in conveying his condolences to the family, described Khoo as “a great man and a great contributor to the development of Malaysian history”.
“He’s a historian and he’s been very fair to all races. He sticks to the truth. He speaks about Chinese, Malay, Indian … People always respect him.
“We have lost a very good thinker and historian,” he told reporters after chairing a PPBM Supreme Council meeting here.
Social critic Chandra Muzaffar said he was deeply saddened by the passing of Khoo who, he said, was a friend and fellow academic.
Chandra said Khoo was a historian with a truly Malaysian perspective.
“He was genuinely committed to the unity of the Malaysian people. He was a fine public intellectual,” he told FMT.
PKR president Anwar Ibrahim regards Khoo, who was his lecturer, as a renowned historian, who had a great influence on him.
“He was a good academic, very friendly and accessible. He strongly encouraged students to study history,” Anwar told reporters after chairing a parliamentary caucus on reform and governance.
He said Khoo had an understanding of history that was Malaysian-centric, back in a time when history was very much Euro-centric.
“He offered a more objective understanding of history. I knew him and his family. On behalf of this caucus, I wish to extend my condolences to his family,” he said.
Anwar said Khoo was also known for his community and welfare work.
Former prime minister Najib Razak said Khoo would be remembered for his contributions, especially as one of the key figures who helped draft the Rukun Negara, the five principles that charted Malaysia’s national philosophy in the wake of the 1969 riots.
“He also had a strong interest in football, with valuable insights on the development of our national team. He will be missed. May his soul rest in peace,” Najib said in a post on Facebook.
G25’s Mohd Sheriff Kassim said Khoo would be missed not only because he was an eminent historian but also because of his wisdom in commenting about national unity and racial harmony.
“The country will remember him as a great scholar and teacher,” he said.
Founding president of IDEAS Tunku Zain Al-‘Abidin recalled Khoo’s kindness and said the historian’s advice in the early formation of the think tank was vital.
Khoo served on the IDEAS advisory board from 2009 to 2013
Tunku Zain said Khoo’s knowledge, experience and sensibility enabled IDEAS to grow and establish itself within the public policy space.
“It was just one of his many contributions towards making Malaysia more democratic, more mature and more cognisant of its complex history.
“Malaysians of all generations and persuasions owe him a debt of gratitude for his decades of education, inspiration and even provocation,” he said in a statement.
Khoo, who is said to have died of lung failure at University Malaya Medical Centre, also wrote countless works in both English and Malay on Malaysian history.
He served for over 50 years in Universiti Malaya’s history department, counting many prominent Malaysians as his students.
Khoo, who leaves behind wife Rathi and three children – Eddin, Rubin and Mavin – was also an ardent football fan, often providing frank criticism of the national team’s performance.