Friday, February 01, 2008

The passing of Adlan Benan Omar

This is an unusual post in that it is an obituary. I heard from one of our readers that Adlan Benan Omar, someone whom I've blogged about here, recently passed away. I read of his passing with a heavy heart and I want to share a little about my few encounters with him and how his ideas and idealism can inform us in regards to the future of education in Malaysia.

Although the media has not picked up on his sad passing, he has not been ignored on the blogosphere. I google his name and found 87 posts related to his passing. Read this short Rushdie-like allegory on Hang Tuah written by Adlan here. You can read about how my friend Akhram describes Benan as an 'a**hole whom you'd like'. You can read a poem written by Benan to his MCKK friend, Noni Kapet. And the list goes on.

I first met Benan while I was studying at the LSE, way back in 1997. He made an instant impression on me - with his physical stature, his cute smile, his rapier wit, his oratory brilliance and his knowledge of all things great and small. He read History in Cambridge and it was rumored that he had memorized the Malaysian constitution by the time he was 14 (or thereabouts). A product of MCKK, he was an intellectual giant among his peers (figuratively and perhaps literally as well).

I later heard that he had joined Keadilan and was their Youth Treasurer at one point in time. I later met him again in 2001 when I went to Washington DC to attend a conference. It was here that I heard him spar (verbally that is) with the likes of Khairy Jamaluddin and Lim Guan Eng.

The last time I met him was with a friend about a year or so ago. He was already pretty sick by that time and he was losing his sight. We had a good chat about the latest political situation in Malaysia.

I felt really sad when I heard (thanks Weng Keung) about his passing because I would have loved to tap his brain and his thoughts on politics, education and the gamut of social issues. (I would have enjoyed his many sideswipes at the various politicians and their pet schemes too)

How would Benan have wanted to change the education system in Malaysia if given the opportunity? I think he would have wanted to have an education system which encouraged students to think critically and challenge the conventional wisdom. I think he would have wanted an education system where students of all races would have been able to interact and share ideas and differences in an environment of openness and mutual respect. I think he would have wanted to see an education system where the qualities of a student are acknowledged rather than his or her race.

Malaysia has lost a good man. Others have lost a friend and a 'brother'. I count it as my honor to have crossed paths with him even if I didn't get to know him as well as I wanted to. Kudos to you Benan for being you.


imeja said...

Agreed...great man. What a loss. I've also written a short obituary in memory of him on my blog.

Anonymous said...

btw, did anyone read about Royal Holloway UoL coming to Malaysia?

Anonymous said...

Hi! This may sound abrupt, but does anyone know the cause of Ben's death?

Anonymous said...

I knew Adlan in Standard 1 all the way to Standard 6, when we were studying in Sultan Alam Shah School in PJ. We later caught up a year or two later when he was in Bukit Bintang Boys' School, PJ.

Truth is, he was very politically aware even in primary school! Given a chance he would rattle of the Malaysian Constitution in fluent Bahasa Baku. We were all pretty tickled by this act. He was a fat chubby cute kid in the very best sense. He was a lovable character. It was known that he wanted to be PM! It was not that it was an ego was more like a little boy's dream. Some boys wanted to be fighter pilots, but Adlan always wanted to be PM!

I am an Indian, but I never felt racially segregated when I was in primary school. All of us had the best time. We were all very close, and cried the day we parted ways to go to secondary education.

I never saw most of my Malay friends after that. Adlan was a good person. Rest in peace Adlan.