Khir Johari

Tan Sri Mohamed Khir bin Johari (Jawi: محمد خير بن جوهري; 29 January 1923 – 19 November 2006)[1][2] was a Malaysian politician and the former Malaysian Minister of Education.

Mohamed Khir Johari
محمد خير جوهري
Minister of Education
In office
Preceded byAbdul Rahman Talib
Succeeded byAbdul Rahman Ya'kub
ConstituencyKedah Tengah
In office
Preceded byAbdul Razak Hussein
Succeeded byAbdul Rahman Talib
ConstituencyKedah Tengah
Minister of Agriculture and Co-operatives
In office
Preceded byAbdul Aziz Ishak
Succeeded byMohamed Ghazali Jawi
ConstituencyKedah Tengah
Minister of Commerce and Industry
In office
18 November 1959  9 October 1962
Preceded byIsmail Abdul Rahman
Succeeded byLim Swee Aun
ConstituencyKedah Tengah
Ambassador of Malaysia to the United States of America
In office
February 1972  March 1976
Preceded byOmar Yoke Lin Ong
Succeeded byZain Azraai Zainal Abidin
Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the United Nations
In office
Preceded bySardon Jubir
Succeeded byZaiton Ibrahim
Member of the Malaysian Parliament
for Kuala Muda
In office
4 November 1974  29 March 1982
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byDaim Zainuddin (UMNOBN)
Majority9,518 (1978)
Unopposed (1974)
Member of the Malaysian Parliament
for Kedah Tengah
(Parliament suspended 13 May 1969 – 20 February 1971)
In office
27 July 1955  31 July 1974
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Majority2,375 (1969)
10,680 (1964)
6,836 (1959)
29,646 (1955)
Personal details
Mohamed Khir bin Johari

(1923-01-29)29 January 1923
Alor Setar, Kedah, Unfederated Malay States, British Malaya (now Malaysia)
Died19 November 2006(2006-11-19) (aged 83)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Resting placeMakam Pahlawan, Masjid Negara, Kuala Lumpur
Political partyUnited Malays National Organisation (UMNO)
Other political
Barisan Nasional (BN)
  • Kalsom Abdul Rahman
  • Christine Lim
ChildrenZairil Khir Johari (son)
EducationSultan Abdul Hamid College
OccupationPolitician, diplomat

Born on 29 January 1923, in Alor Setar, Khir received formal education in the prestigious Sultan Abdul Hamid College (KSAH) in Kedah. Khir was a Member of Parliament from 1955 to 1982. He was involved in the Malaysian political scene from its inception and served in the Cabinet of Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak.

Upon his retirement he held positions in several organisations, most famously as President of the World Wide Fund for Nature of Malaysia (WWF).

Khir died of heart failure at 83 on 19 November 2006. He was accorded a state funeral and was buried in Makam Pahlawan near Masjid Negara, Kuala Lumpur.[3]

Early life and education

Mohamed Khir was born on 29 January 1923, in Alor Setar, Kedah. He received formal education in the Sultan Abdul Hamid College (KSAH) in Kedah. His desire to continue studying at Medical College, Raffles College in Singapore in 1940 was thwarted when the Second World War (PDII) broke out.

Early career

After the war, Khir Johari returned to his alma mater Sultan Abdul Hamid College as a teacher, where he taught English. During this time, he was politically active through his involvement with the Malay nationalist organisation SABERKAS (Sayang Akan Bangsa Ertinya Redha Korban Apa Segala).

After Tunku Abdul Rahman took over from Dato' Sir Onn Jaafar as president of UMNO, Khir was appointed as Secretary-General of UMNO and was tasked to oversee the first federal election in Malaya in 1955. After winning the constituency of Kedah Tengah, Khir was appointed into the Cabinet as Assistant Minister of Agriculture.

Government Service

Upon Independence, Khir was appointed into the first Cabinet of independent Malaya as the Minister of Education. He held on to this post until 1960, when he was transferred to the Ministry of Trade and Commerce.

In 1964, Khir was made Minister of Agriculture, replacing Abdul Aziz Ishak, who had been relieved of his position and later detained under the Internal Security Act.

In 1966, Khir returned to helm the Ministry of Education until 1969. Following the 13 May riots, Khir was appointed Minister of Trade and Industry as key Tunku allies were sidelined. This allowed the government to implement Malay nationalist policies in education, including the abolishment of English-medium education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.[4]

In February 1973, Khir was appointed the Malaysian Ambassador to the United States of America, and later concurrently the Permanent Representative to the United Nations. He served as a diplomat until 1976.

In 1978, Khir contested his last general election, and retired from active politics at the end of the term in 1982.

Civil Society

During and after his career in politics, Khir Johari was active in various civil society organisations, including as president of the Malaysian Institute of Directors, president of the World Wide Fund for Nature of Malaysia (WWF), president of the Malaysian Zoological Society, president of the Royal Commonwealth Society and president of the Royal Selangor Club among others.

Khir was also the Charter President of Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur and was later awarded the title of 'Bapa Kiwanis'.[5] He was also the founding chairman of the Malaysian Toray Science Foundation, as well as the Tunku Abdul Rahman Foundation.

Khir took an active interest in sports, serving as deputy president of the Olympic Council of Malaysia from 1982 to 2002. He was also famously the president of the Badminton Association of Malaysia from 1961 to 1985, during which the Malaysian team managed to win the prestigious Thomas Cup in 1967.

Khir was also the founding president of the Sepak Takraw Association of Malaysia, president of the Malaysian Body Building Federation and president of the Lawn Tennis Association of Malaysia.

Awards and honours

In appreciation of his services and contributions, Khir was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Law by the University of Malaya in 1968, an honorary Doctorate in Education and Science by the De La Salle College, Manila in 1967, the Senatorship by the Junior Chamber International in 1967, the 'Langkawi Award' – the highest tribute for an individual Malaysian for outstanding contributions in the field of environment in 1995 and the 'WWF Member of Honour' award by the World President of the WWF for outstanding service to the environment in 1999.

He was also the recipient of the Tokoh Sukan Award in 1998, International Olympic Council Merit Award in 1998 for the development of sports, the President's Award by the Malaysia American Society in 1999, the PATA Roll of Honor in 2001, the OCM Hall of Fame in 2002, the Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, the Tablet of Honor by the Kiwanis International Foundation in 2003, the United Nations Malaysia Award in 2004, and the first recipient of the Golden Years Award by the AUTORR Foundation in 2005.

He was bestowed the award of the Panglima Mangku Negara (P.M.N.) which carries the title of Tan Sri, the Seri Paduka Seri Setia Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah (D.H.M.S.) which carries the title of Dato' Paduka and the Dato' Paduka Mahkota Selangor (D.P.M.S.) in 1992.


Honours of Malaysia

Places named after him

  • Sekolah Kebangsaan Khir Johari, national primary schools in Sungai Petani, Kedah and in Perai, Penang
  • Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Khir Johari, a national secondary school in Sungai Petani, Kedah


  1. "Tan Sri Dato' Mohamed Khir Johari". National Archives of Malaysia. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  2. "Tan Sri Dato' Mohamed Khir Johari". National Archives of Malaysia. Retrieved 2 October 2018. (in Malay)
  3. SYED AZHAR AND IZATUN SHARI (20 November 2006). "Khir accorded state funeral". The Star. Archived from the original on 24 January 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  4. "Penang Monthly - Education – Ever the political victim". Archived from the original on 7 March 2018.
  5. "Home".
  6. "SEMAKAN PENERIMA DARJAH KEBESARAN, BINTANG DAN PINGAT". Prime Minister's Department (Malaysia). Archived from the original on 29 September 2018. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  7. "DPMS 1992". Retrieved 26 March 2022.
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