Farewell, swashbuckler Bernard Khoo @ Zorro Unmasked


Another hero has gone to rest. The colourful, outspoken blogger Bernard Khoo succumbed to cancer today after a 21-month battle. He was 74.


For Bernard, blogging was about being engaged in a daring and romantic adventure with real bravado. He didn’t mince his words. He was a modern-day swashbuckler, blogging with a flourish, you half-expected a ‘Z’ to rip through the computer screen.

But he was not blogging for fun. He was trying to create a new Malaysia through his writings – one where boundaries of ethnicity and religion would be crossed when people think of themselves as real Malaysians. He was committed to the cause of justice, political change and reforms. His last blog post was on 19 January 2014, when he reproduced an Aliran e-newsletter message from Aliran honorary secretary Mustafa K Anuar on the Allah controversy.

A former teacher-turned-motivational master trainer (he unpretentiously described his career and educational background as working “from home, in kopi tiams and assorted watering holes of repute”), Bernard was not content to just clatter on a keyboard. He inspired Malaysians with his forthright courage. During the Perak power grab, when many cowered as hundreds of police ringed the Perak State Assembly, Bernard coolly strolled past the overwhelming police presence to register his protest at the front-lines – and was eventually arrested for his trouble. His calm, steely fearlessness in the face of raw power was something to behold.

Later that year, in November 2009, he was questioned by police for a possible offence under the Sedition Act over a couple of blog posts he had made. But he survived that.

When he came up to Penang and spent a couple of days at my place, I finally got to meet the real Bernard up close: a decent, courageous Malaysian who left a deep impression on me.

In his blog profile, Bernard said, “After doing the best I could for Patrina and Kevin I would want my grandsons Bernard, Ryan and Patrick and whoever Kevin fathers, to remember that their grandpa tried his best to make this a better world for them.” He more than did his fair share; he showed us we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

When on 24 September last year, he announced he had stopped smoking (“Today I gave Karen a birthday gift”), one of those who rejoiced was a familiar figure. “It’s a miracle and praise the Lord,” gushed the late Irene Fernandez in a Facebook comment.

Today, we can be sure they are both in a far better place, cheering us on after handing over the baton to us in the struggle to create a more just world.

Thanks to blog reader looes74 for the video link.

According to Haris Ibrahim’s blog:
The wake will be held at Parlour 1 at St Ignatius Church, No. 2, Jalan SS25/23 Taman Plaza, 47301 PJ, Saturday and Sunday between 1.00pm and 10.00pm. Wake prayers on both these days will take place at 8.00pm.

The funeral mass will be at 11.00am on Monday, 7 April, at the same church.

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Boh Tong
18 Aug 2014 11.29pm

Farewell my hero Zorro and may you RIP….a friend from Singapore

17 Apr 2014 10.11am

Well, we were already missing the man in his blog when he was fighting his personal battle. Now, we have to accept that we will miss him forever. But, we feel comforted knowing that he can now rest in peace after dedicating his life to family and to society. As a discipline master, he had no doubt great influence over his students. Many had benefited from his guidance. I have read a fitting tribute to the man at: http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/259492 . Naturally, there would be a few unrepentant delinquent students who would still hold a grudge against him even upon his… Read more »

The pea.
The pea.
13 Apr 2014 12.16am

I remember wandering into his blog daily back in 2008/2009 during the game of trying change. All good things come to an end. RIP.

Zorro Unmasked Follower
9 Apr 2014 8.29am

Dear Uncle Zorro, we shall miss you deeply.

7 Apr 2014 2.47pm

Sorry…any reason for the lone voice of dissension on Bernard in this comment section? A bit like spotting a UFO, unbelievable.

6 Apr 2014 6.48pm

i remember one incident where a number of people started to put the malaysian flag upside down on their blogs because of anger at the govt. then later on the authorities said it was an offence to do so but he did not wavered. he continued to have the flag upside down on his blog.

he was my inspiration to blogging!

6 Apr 2014 6.45am

He died unrepentant for what he did to many others who were not Chinese. Although he claimed (from the wrong side of the fence) to be championing causes of others and of national importance for the common man, there was no fanfare for the common man with Bernard. In any endevour, in any research in any writing about a person, situation or event it is necessary to discover both sides of the subject. Balance is what’s important. Whilst others may like sycophants adore and heap praise on the man in his passing as they did in his life, many more… Read more »

5 Apr 2014 8.57pm

Thank you, Anil. I know Bernard would appreciate your heartfelt tribute. The spirit of spiritual & intellectual warriorship both irene Fernandez & Benard Khoo embodied so fervently will undoubtedly be reseeded in the Malaysian psyche as a cataclysmic abhorrence of hypocrisy & deceit that will sweep away generations of toadying & lip-service paying. It will happen sooner than anyone expects – though never too soon!

radin kamal
radin kamal
5 Apr 2014 7.32pm

A REAL LOSS TO THE CAUSE OF ‘ABU’. We Malaysians are painfully going to MISS YOU ZORRO.A Real period of anguish just barely before we could recover over the untimely demise of yet another UNSUNG HERO – IRENE FERNANDEZ.


5 Apr 2014 12.03pm

RIP Uncle Bernard.

Hope there will be a new custodian or caretaker for the “Fart Chamber”; as not many social bloggers have the guts to take such responsibilities.

Don Anamalai
Don Anamalai
5 Apr 2014 10.42am

We are going to miss the no-holds-bar writings of Zorro in his blog.
He is a man fighting for justice.
I hope more bloggers will emulate his spirit.
His ‘students’ should keep the legacy of ‘Zorro Unmasked’ to write on his behalf.
RIP Uncle Bernard.

Pak Tim
Pak Tim
5 Apr 2014 10.27am

Rest in peace.

najib manaukau
5 Apr 2014 8.34am

Don’t despair my fellow Malaysians, let the passing of these unsung heroes be an inspiration for many to come forward and to fill the vacumn left behind by these heroes ! Even though millions of them have immigrated but surely there must be thousands more in Malaysia, just waiting for the right time. And the right time is now !

5 Apr 2014 7.00am

Many kopitiams will miss you, Bernard.
Take a ‘good rest’ till Kingdom comes when all good souls will be resurrected to continue with their works on a better earth. See you.

5 Apr 2014 6.43am

I salute Bernard Khoo. I regret I haven’t much in terms of interaction with him though we shared a few words and also our thoughts on our common love, scotch whisky. Vale and requiscat in pace Bernard

5 Apr 2014 12.01am

Goodbye Zorro! We lose another good person, two within a week is heartbreaking. Rest in peace!

4 Apr 2014 10.55pm

Farewell to Uncle Zorro / Mr. Bernard Khoo
Your upside down Malaysian flag will always remind many of us of the tremendous injustices done by the authorities.

4 Apr 2014 10.04pm

RIP my friend! We will miss you, your writings, wits et al!

4 Apr 2014 10.46pm
Reply to  Jong

Don’t forget the fart chamber. It’s one of the kind

4 Apr 2014 9.38pm

Sad, another good and courageous soul is gone…

Bernard, you can have a good rest now !!! The people shall miss you…

4 Apr 2014 7.44pm

One tribute song for Bernard Khoo……….

4 Apr 2014 7.41pm

Do include Lilian Chan on Bernard Khoo