Dr Mahathir and fellow Malaysians mourn Prof Khoo Kay Kim’s passing

Tributes have been pouring in for Malaysia’s national historian.

The country's prominent historian, Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim passed away yesterday following a brief illness (Photo: Haris Hassan/The Edge)

Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim, who spent an inordinate amount of time shaping the nation’s history, knew that it takes more than traditional written sources to illuminate the past. “Education is not based on theories, it must be learnt by going out of the classroom,” he was once quoted as saying.

An instrumental figure in the formation of the Rukun Negara to foster national cohesion following the aftermath of the 1969 riots, Khoo was also the author of countless works in the English and Malay language, which have been main sources of reference for the history curriculum in Malaysia. The Perak-born historian was given the distinction of ‘Tokoh Akademik Negara ke-10’ in recognition of his litany of accomplishments in the academic world.

A writer of extraordinary energy, Khoo, who began his career at University of Malaya, had ventured what few historians dared — interpretating history as well as chronicling it in erudite detail. Even at 81, his voice was authoritative, dispensing historical knowledge as a guest lecturer or head of panels for academic forums around the country.

Students will continue to thumb through his books and writings in many years to come, but the lesson for us – for all Malaysians – lies in his unflinching sense of integrity and responsibility. To borrow the words of Eddin Khoo, Khoo's eldest son, who described his father, "He always emphasised the historical aspect in everything because if we have no memories, there will be no bright future."

All his noble work will not be stilled in death.


Prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad

Deputy prime minister Dr Wan Azizah Ismail

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim

Terima perkhabaran sayu bahawa tokoh sejarawan dan ahli akademik, Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim telah meninggal...

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Minister of Economic Affairs Mohamed Azmin Ali

Minister of Youth & Sports Syed Saddiq

Member of Parliament Lim Kit Siang


Women, Family and Community Development deputy minister Hannah Yeoh


"The child is the father of the man. Educate and groom the young person, and he will grow up to be the right kind of adult. If you wait until he becomes an adult, it is too late” - Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Datuk Dr Khoo l Kim. This is my humble tribute for the late Tan Sri Datuk Dr Khoo. Many will write about his contribution as an eminent historian in the days to come but allow me to share my observation of him through my eyes. During the last general elections, my friend Rubin Khoo @rubin_khoo showed up at the nomination centre to support me. Rubin was once a newscaster (my secret ambition to be one), now a lecturer and editor. I then asked if Rubin would be keen to speak at my political rally in TTDI. To my surprise, Rubin said yes!! On the night of the rally, when I arrived at the field I was pleased to see Rubin already there and all ready for his maiden speech. But what surprised me was seeing the faces of his mom and dad Puan Sri Rathi Khoo and Tan Sri Datuk Dr Khoo at the second row of chairs from the stage. They had come to support their son Rubin. That tells me everything I need to know about Tan Sri as a father. He had placed himself in a setting that was not immediately natural or comfortable for him as an academician but he needed to be there for his son. As a parent, I find that very admirable and that is how I will remember him - a devoted father. Two days ago, I managed to visit him in ICU and witnessed Puan Sri Rathi talking to him and kissing his hand before leaving the room. I told Rubin such devotion in a couple is not commonly seen today. Condolences to Puan Sri Rathi Khoo, Eddin, Rubin and Mavin for their loss. Malaysia will never be able to find another historian quite like him. (First photo captured by Norman Goh at TTDI rally and the subsequent photos by Mick Loke)

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Special advisor of Minister of Works Tian Chua


Associate publisher, lecturer, and second son of Professor Khoo Kay Kim, Rubin Khoo

Indian classical dancer and youngest son of Professor Khoo Kay Kim, Mavin Khoo

Students from Universiti Malaya


The late historian and academician will be buried at the Nirvana Memorial Park in Shah Alam on Saturday (June 1). Those who wish to pay respect can do so at Nirvana Memorial Centre in Sungai Besi from Thursday to Saturday morning.

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