On Khoo Kay Kim and Utusan Malaysia

Eddin Khoo would like to clear the air around his father, Khoo Kay Kim and attempts to drag him into the ‘Apa Cina mahu?’ controversy.

I was in Kelantan on field work and so was not able to respond to all the controversy relating to my father and his statements which were published in Utusan Malaysia last Friday.  These were taken out of context — perverted and fabricated, in fact. There will be more on this in future posts since the outrage (rightfully so, as it was read prior to the clarification) has since taken a pernicious and very personal turn (and now in spite of a clarification having been published), and an element of reason needs to be injected amid all this vitriol.

The task of the historian is not an enviable one, especially in the context of a Malaysia with almost no sense of history, or rather, where any sense of history which exists is confined to the anecdotal and sentimental variety, e.g. “I am not a racist because I have non Malay/Malay friends”.

Suffice to say even as Khoo Kay Kim (KKK)’s words and context were twisted — he didn’t call the Chinese “racists”; didn’t even use that term, not on anyone — when he talked about how “communal interests still take precedence over national interest”.

Rightly or wrongly, that is position he has held firmly to for 50 years.

Having perverted this today, Utusan had, however, no problems expressing this ‘opinion’ last year:

“Prof Khoo Kay Kim agak nakal bila dia kata Ketuanan Melayu tak ada dalam perlembagaan. Kadang kadang kita terlalu besar-besarkan dia. Dia ini ada agenda halus.”

(“Prof Khoo Kay Kim was quite naughty when he said the concept of Malay Supremacy was not in the Constitution. We too often glorify him. He has a hidden agenda.”)

The point then, of course, is not to entertain the likes of Utusan in the first place.

That, no one can argue with, and following Friday’s debacle, I doubt KKK would argue with it.

But for all of you who have continued to take great satisfaction in spewing the vitriol, please continue with your smugness and sanctimoniousness, but it is time you get over the fact that your individual vote was only a small, albeit, I will admit, significant attempt at dragging this country back to some form of common sense and decency. Now perhaps you can refrain from offering your twee opinions on your blogs, Facebook and Twitter, and instead read and do some homework to realise the great distance we have still to go — perhaps by reading at least one of the many hundred essays that have been written by KKK on every single community and event in Malaysia’s history that have laid the scholarly foundations for us in that field.

Yes, my father was one of those individuals closely involved in the ‘national project’, including the conception of the Rukunegara, and he has always expressed consistent views from within that platform and purview of history. That may appear obsolete and anachronistic to some, but it is still a position to speak from.

And yes, he is a conservative, but even they have a place in our evolving democracy, don’t they? Or have we, in taking the smallest of steps in democratic practice by ‘throwing our vote’ transmuted into modest tyrants who believe those who don’t share our views have no right to speak?

And by the way, I do personally disagree with my father’s position most of the time, but that has always made for animated discussion and disagreement, and not vitriol, within the family setting which helps keep family life animated and lively.

If only our public life could be that way.


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Eddin Khoo is a poet, writer, translator, independent art curator and founder of cultural centre Pusaka which hopes to preserve Malay traditional arts.

Posted on 14 May 2013. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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3 Responses to On Khoo Kay Kim and Utusan Malaysia

  1. Education creates mental harmony and equality among individuals. People of different races and casts tend to give respect to others and create an environment of equality among each other.

  2. kopiteh

    eddin, if you so strongly think that utusan has so pervertly taken out of context, you should be hitting the place where this controversy started. Alternatively, you, as son who here seemed compelled to mob after your father's spill, should put this clarification article inside Utusan. Putting here in social media or blods only serve to address to those who are upset by your father's content. You are not addressing the root of the controversy. Have guts. Have patriotism. Put your words inside Utusan and put out the fire once and for all, so that you can correct the wrong seed that your father's words had sowed in the utusan's readers (that you know by heart consist largely of which race).

  3. Autcel

    Agreed. However at the same time, there is a very sad fact that persists in our national society. When we talk about our entertainment, it's not actual "Malaysian" entertainment, but rather, "Malaysian (insert language here)" entertainment and there are hardly any crossover between them regardless of whether they are producers or consumers. This is one big barrier that should be broken.