One of my most favourite Malaysian Professor Emeritus Khoo Kay Kim was recently interviewed by the FreeMalaysiaToday team. I have read Prof Khoo's writing about sports and football in the now defunct All-Sports magazine I think way back in the mid 1970s, its such a joy reading his featured column on sports generally but football in particular. I did not realise that he was and still is a historian then. The good Professor are the few souls in Malaysia who understands and lived the Malay peribahasa "Dimana bumi dipijak disitu langit dijunjung".
Please read the FMT interviews here:
The Last Historian
“What has happened to today's generation? In my day, we were always told that any statements we made had to be logical and based on empirical evidence. These criteria apparently aren't necessary today.”
“Bloggers especially talk absolute rubbish! They think they are very clever and that they have the right to say anything they want. We're getting more people like this who don't talk sense anymore. It isn't possible to debate with them.”
“Don't talk about history unless you have done meticulous research. Otherwise, fact and fiction will merge like it is happening now.”
He also underlined the urgent need for history teachers to be specially trained to understand history beyond the realm of school textbooks.
“Hold special courses for them and rope in experienced teachers to run these courses,” he said. “And strive to get history teachers who are truly passionate about history. Those who teach for the sole purpose of exams are of no use.”
At this point, Khoo leaned forward, his eyes bright. The proposal by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to make history a compulsory pass subject in the SPM by 2014 has greatly heartened him.
“You don't know how I felt when he said that,” he said earnestly, pressing one hand to his chest. “For years I've been telling the government not to let history die. This move is so important.”
“I get very frightened when I hear young people talk today. They are so ignorant of the past. And this leads them to blame the innocent. Like politicians who insist that the British brought the Chinese into Malaysia and caused trouble.”
“But it was the Chinese tauke who brought in the Chinese. They don't even know that! And the non-Chinese have no idea that most Chinese in fact supported the national party and were anti-communists. This ignorance is what caused the racial riots of 1945.”
Khoo, who has lived through two racial riots, spoke of his fear for the country's future if it stayed on this path. He predicted that the next generation would wrestle with an identity crisis brought on by their growing inability to differentiate between nationality and ethnicity.
He categorically stated that when a person becomes a citizen of a particular country, his full loyalty should be directed towards that country. But Malaysians, he said, pledged their loyalty to their ethnicity instead.
“The first English school in this country was the Penang Free School. Many assumed it was called that because the students didn't have to pay school fees but actually it was because any child from any ethnicity was free to enrol there.”
Khoo observed that one fault of the British was the kindness they extended to the people of Malaya in granting them free rein to establish their position as citizens. This freedom eventually led to a strong Chinese influence which the British were unable to control.
It was just before the war, Khoo said, when the High Commissioner wrote to the colonial office suggesting that the time had come to anglicise the Chinese. But then the war erupted and the idea was abandoned.
In his real career, Khoo himself made history by being the first lecturer of his department to use Bahasa Malaysia as a medium of instruction in 1965. At the time, this was considered a historic achievement by a non-Malay academician.
But despite carving history and living through major historical events, many things still surprise him today. One of it is the younger generation's continuous obsession with change.
“In those days we said yes to change if it was for the better and not just for the sake of doing things differently,” he said. “But the younger generation believes that if something has worked well for a long time, then it can't be used any longer and needs to be changed. And we have no idea where we are headed.”
“People think history means appreciating the past for its own sake. But we study history in order to understand the present. History becomes meaningful when we observe society and its problems today, ask how we have become this way and search for answers in the past.”
“I am the last historian in the country,” he uttered. “And I couldn't influence anyone to be my successor. I have a very sad life.”
read the full interview here in the FMT.
Professor Khoo said he have a very sad life, on the contrary I think he has led a fantastic and full life as a model Malaysian citizen and an academician, whose writings and thoughts have shaped many minds. The nation is indebted to him for his treasure trove of knowledge in Malaysia's history, he even speaks more fluent Malay than the ordinary Malay, anyway 1000times better than our self proclaimed "Malaysian first Chinese Second" citizen Mr Lim Kit Siang.
The Professor is the few good wise men in Malaysia.