Obituary: Maidin Packer, a champion of Malay heritage and interracial harmony


COMRADE MOHAMAD Maidin Packer passed away on 24 June. He was 66 years old.   

Comrade Maidin served Singapore as the Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs (2001-06), Education (2001) and Environment (2003-04). He was also a longtime MP for Aljunied GRC (1991-96) and Marine Parade (1997-2006).  

A stalwart champion of Malay-Muslims, Comrade Maidin was steadfast in improving his community throughout his life and career. 

Supporting heritage and harmony 

Comrade Maidin had deep ties to the Malay-Muslim community. Prior to entering politics, Comrade Maidin was a journalist for Berita Harian for over a decade (1977-88), where he gave voice to the community’s issues and aspirations. He was a committee member for MENDAKI in its earliest days (1985-1987). His advocacy caught the attention of then-Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, who recruited Comrade Maidin into our Party to focus on Malay issues.   

Comrade Maidin delivered. As Prime Minister Lawrence Wong wrote, Comrade Maidin played a key role in rejuvenating Geylang Serai and laid the foundational plans for the neigbourhood’s upcoming Cultural Belt. 

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Source: National Archives of Singapore 

Comrade Maidin also supported setting up the Malay Heritage Centre in the Istana Kampong Glam. He knew that the Malay community prized having a development that would preserve their heritage, and inspire generations to come, in the historic Kampong Glam district. 

“The Government makes the right decision by choosing to conserve and upgrade this historical district,” he told Parliament in July 1999. “Kampong Glam deserves to be awarded that position and status. We should also find more ways to bring life and add colour to the district,” he added. 

Comrade Maidin had a clear and optimistic view on racial and religious harmony. In May 2002, in the face of increased prejudice against Muslims around the world after the 9/11 attacks, he reiterated his belief in the unity of Singaporeans.  

“I believe that all of us, the people of Singapore, from all races and religions, should take it as part of our national duty, to build and improve upon inter-racial and inter-religious relations,” said Mr Maidin. “We need to be able to see each other as part of the big Singapore family.” 

He pointed out that people could volunteer in their neighbourhoods or be part of the new Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles to develop this familial respect.  

Comrade Maidin’s joy for life and boundless optimism was also demonstrated years later in a Facebook post in 2017, where he observed a Chinese funeral and Malay wedding peacefully sharing the same space under a HDB block.  

“I was having lunch at the void deck of Blk 256 Pasir Ris when I saw a funeral procession passing by slowly.  Some wedding guests were standing along the side of the void deck to show respect. THIS IS SO SINGAPORE!” Comrade Maidin wrote. “CLEARLY, WE HAVE GROWN TO RESPECT EACH OTHER.”

Source: Maidin Packer / Facebook

Laying the foundation for other Malay-Muslim MPs 

From left: MP Zaqy Mohamad, Comrade Maidin and Minister Masagos Zulkifli

Many of our Malay-Muslim PAP MPs have fond memories of Comrade Maidin. 

 “In his recent years, as Chairman of Creative Malay Arts & Culture, he promoted and preserved the rich cultural heritage of the Malay people. His dedication and service have left a lasting impact on the community,” said Second Minister for Education and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, who was a longtime contemporary of Comrade Maidin in Parliament. 

“As a Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC, Mr Maidin was instrumental in ensuring that the upgrading of Geylang Serai proceeded smoothly but more importantly, he showed care and concern towards the needs of residents throughout the process,” said Minister for Social and Family Development and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli.   

“I am thankful for his mentorship and guidance, and the strong foundation he has built for us, generations of Malay/Muslim MPs and Political Office Holders after him,” continued Minister Masagos.  

Senior Minister of State for Defence and Manpower Zaqy Mohamad’s tribute to Comrade Maidin shows exactly how deep this foundation runs. 

“We mourn the loss of former Member of Parliament Hj Mohd Maidin Bin Packer Mohd, whom I had the privilege to understudy in the Kampung Ubi division prior to joining politics,” said SMS Zaqy. 

“Hj Maidin Packer had been a strong early influence as I started in community service, handling low-income households in Geylang Serai and subsequently managing the move from the old Geylang Serai market to its present form. I am also thankful for his guidance on politics when I was fielded in the 2006 General Elections,” added SMS Zaqy. 

Comrade Maidin’s funeral was held 25 June at his Tampines home. Zuhur prayers were offered for him the same date at Masjid Ba’alwie.