JOHOR BARU, May 3 — Every Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Johor Opposition Leader Liew Chin Tong recalls his friendship with lawyer and activist Datuk Khairul Anwar Rahmat that began eight years ago.

Liew said that his unique bond with Khairul Anwar started after he was barred from entering a Ramadan bazaar in Kluang around 2014, that triggered the infamous “surat mana surat” incident that pitted Umno against DAP.

He said Khairul Anwar, who was the then Kluang Umno division Youth chief and the party’s state deputy Youth chief, was instrumental in defusing the situation, as well as bridging the differences between both political parties at the time.

“I have visited Khairul Anwar every Hari Raya Aidilfitri since we got to know each other, except during the last two (Covid-19) pandemic years,” Liew said in a Facebook post today.

The Perling assemblyman was accompanied by Johor DAP vice-chief Sheikh Umar Bagharib Ali, Kluang MP Wong Shu Qi and Mengkibol assemblyman Chew Chong Sin during a visit to Khairul Anwar’s family home in Kampung Melayu in Kluang.

Khairul Anwar, who is also an activist, is now a practising lawyer. He has since left Umno and politics.

He is also known as the Malaysian Volunteer Lawyers Association (SukaGuam) chairman and organiser of the #Nothing2Hide forum that touched on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) issue in 2015.

After the widely publicised incident in 2014, Liew said Khairul Anwar contacted him to say that despite their political differences, they should treat each other with grace, dignity and civility.

“With the blessing of the then Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, he did the unimaginable.

“Khairul invited me to visit the Ramadan bazaar with him to distribute bubur lambuk together,” he said, adding that the “silaturrahim” (strengthening of relations) walk amazed many at the time.

Liew explained that back in 2014, Johor was an Umno-Barisan Nasional (BN) bastion and Opposition parties were seen as the enemy.

“Khairul Anwar’s courageous gesture and his belief that all members of Bangsa Johor can co-exist despite their political differences was ahead of his time.

“I am very glad to visit him again with my colleagues from Johor DAP.

“Malaysia, particularly Johor, needs more progressive leaders like Khairul Anwar to reach out to everyone, to build bridges, and to set a common agenda for all,” said Liew.