A special tribute from the United Nations to Khoo Khay Jin (1948-2011), a committed social scientist, thinker and public intellectual.
Khoo Khay Jin was a brilliant social scientist, a leading public intellectual and an out-of-the-box thinker.
He had great personal and intellectual integrity. He had very high standards and he lived by them. And although he had a fearsome intelligence, was articulate and wrote brilliantly, he was a very unassuming person who never sought any public limelight. He was a very humble and loveable person.
One of the best read scholars of his generation in Malaysia and a brilliant statistician, Khay Jin was a multi-talented person and was also one of those rare individuals who could speak with penetrating depth and convincing clarity on a broad range of subjects.
Having trained at Columbia University, New York, he spent a large part of his career (1975-1995) as a lecturer in Anthropology and Sociology in the School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang. However, much of Khay Jin’s best and most important work as an intellectual and social activist was accomplished outside the university.
Khay Jin was diagnosed with cancer of the gallbladder sometime in the middle of 2010, and underwent surgery and treatment at the Selayang Hospital, Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately, he succumbed to his illness on 22 December 2011. Malaysia today is a much poorer place without the insights of a leading intellectual luminary such as Khoo Khay Jin.
Apart from being the lead author of the UN-Government of Malaysia report: “The Millennium Development Goals at 2010”, from 2008 and until his passing, Khay Jin worked on a joint UNDP and Economic Planning Unit initiative to identify strategies to eradicate poverty and improve employment and equity restructuring in Sabah and Sarawak.
He was never an arm-chair critic confined to providing analytical input from behind a desk as he personally took part in a number of focus group discussions with communities across the two states to obtain and analyse data and input from various stakeholders including grassroots communities and to ensure their voices were heard and taken into consideration in national and state planning. His commitment towards providing a voice to these communities continues to be inspiring and noteworthy for all Malaysian development practitioners.
The United Nations would like to honour him for his lifetime contribution and achievements with this UN award.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
May we now call on the Deputy Foreign Minister to present the UN Award to Mr Khoo Khay Jin, which will be received by his son Mr Khoo Wu Chen.
Presented in conjunction with UN Day 2012, Wednesday, 24 October 2012, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
A tribute to Khoo Khay Jin by friends and colleagues was carried in Aliran Monthly, Vol 32 No 1.