Martin Khor – Penang boy, global champion of sustainability


Martin’s passing is a huge loss for Penang and indeed the world. A St Xavier’s Institution alumnus, he studied at Cambridge University, played a leading role in Third World Network and rose to become a profound thinker, intellectual and champion of the global South.

I met him several times while attending forums and talks after his return to Penang in 2015, following a long stint at the South Centre in Geneva. I was struck by his simplicity and humility despite being such a prominent figure globally. And he never failed to give an encouraging word.

You wouldn’t guess he was a member of the UN secretary-general’s taskforce on environment and human settlements and vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights. The man had no airs.

If you had read any of his columns in the Star, you could not have failed to be impressed by his ability to dissect complex global agreements and expose how the big powers were trying to tilt them to their advantage in behind-the-scenes the negotiations. The art, which he mastered, was to present it in a way that ordinary people could understand.

Once back in Penang, he gave his full support to Penang Forum.

Check out the video tribute to Martin by Andrew Ng Yew Han (at the top) and Penang Forum’s tribute to him below.

Penang Forum is deeply saddened and distressed by the loss of Martin Khor.

We grieve with his family especially his partner and Penang Forum committee member Meenakshi Raman.

Martin’s passing has been marked by an outpouring of tributes to the man, nationally and internationally from Geneva to India – for his intellect, his dedication, his principles and his strength.

Many have expounded on Martin’s unshakeable beliefs and his ability to work through the intricacies of international policies and smart-talking politicians, to separate the wheat from the chaff and to offer clear-sight lines for our understanding. He championed many deserving causes especially on climate change and spoke out for those who did not have the ability to do so themselves.

In the last few years while he fought his illness, Martin still chose to give his full support and share his skills with Penang Forum. He shared planning meetings, analysed proposals and wrote strongly worded press articles about Penang’s mega projects and the environmental and economic pitfalls they present. He also used his highly placed contacts at federal level to review these projects.

Martin and Meena have been at the core of Penang Forum’s attempts to bring about a more sustainable future for Penang. We are truly grateful, and we will miss him terribly.

Penang Forum steering committee
3 April 2020

Go here for more tributes – by Aliran, Third World Network, Consumers Association of Penang and the chair of the St Xavier’s Institution board of governors.

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Bayi Yoda

St Xaviens alumni should name the newly out basketball courts after Mr Martin Khor in honour of his contribution.
May be Penang Forum can support this idea?

Bayi Yoda

Post Covid-19 MCO likely brings new economic era that changes consumer behaviourism to the extent that traditional business acitivities cannot sustain and disappear naturally with or wothout authorized enforxement. When there is the fear of contamination during q up for street food or at pasar malam, hawkers have no choice to adopt digital economy to deliver food privately to home door steps when consumers also become lazy to step out of home to avoid virus infection. The world progresses towards virtual realitiness ???? P.s if chendol not being served on the streets, can someone think of a creative way for… Read more »


COVID-19 slaps a stress test on the Malaysian economy

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government must balance relief for Malaysians’ financial pain against tackling the deeper weaknesses of the economy and the country’s fiscal position.

The Malaysian economy is a highly leveraged one, with the household debt-to-GDP ratio significantly high at 82.8% in June 2019, a figure surpassing that of high-income nations, including the US (75%) and Japan (58.2%).

Overall, Malaysia’s fiscal deficit is expected to widen to as much as 4.5 per cent of GDP in 2020 compared to 3.4 per cent in 2019.


RIP Mr Khor.

Sustainability or not, is this the end of capitalism?


Capitalism is the leading global religion. I doubt it will go away soon without causing more harm. It practically finances all of “democracy”. CAP, SAM, TWN, etc. are now short of funds. So big guns can now act more freely — for our benefit of course. The other “concerned” NGOs will continue to make vague noises. E.g. there was a report of a Tabung Haji project approved to clear 10,000 ha of Pahang forest — for oil palm of all things. Yet, Syed Akbar Ali (OSTB) claims the solution to reversing our sick economy is not just removing racial controls… Read more »


PAS has embraced capitalismthe, now that they are in government. Cut more trees for profit, ignore future flooding?

Perhaps it is one way to elevate the income status of the “Makcik Kiah” community, although in the short term they would get stimulus up to RM7,864 from Muhyiddin’s Batuan Prihatin?


Capitalism can’t be reformed, take over Amazon

Leaked memos written by Amazon officials reveal a plan to discredit workers who had been fired after protesting working conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.