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On Wednesday (Feb. 8) morning, former Singaporean newscaster Asri Sunawan, better known as Riz Sunawan, passed away.
He was 45 years old.
Following news of his death, tributes poured in from many prominent figures in Singapore's Malay community, most notably President Halimah Yacob and Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir.
President Halimah Yacob: "He will be fondly remembered"
In a Facebook post written in both English and Malay, Halimah offered her condolences to Riz's family, adding that Riz's passing is "a loss to the community".
"He will be fondly remembered for his efforts in championing the Malay language, as part of the Singapore Malay Language Council. He was also a strong advocate for persons with disabilities and helped to form the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDa)."
Halimah last met Riz in October 2022 when he visited the Istana as part of the MNDa.
Mufti Nazirudin: "He always thought of others"
Singapore's Mufti Nazirudin visited Riz's family at his residence after news of his passing.
Berita Harian shared photos of Nazirudin giving Riz's father a hug.
In a subsequent interview with Berita Harian, Nazirudin praised Riz's determination and positive attitude throughout his years battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Nazirudin said in Malay:
"He openly shared about his disease with the community and that teaches us the importance of doing good even when we're faced with hardship. He always thought of others who were going through the same thing.
That's what makes him special, he didn't only think of himself. He always thought about how he can contribute and do good for others. I think that's such an important lesson for us all. I hope we can all carry on his legacy by staying positive and doing good regardless of the circumstances we're in."
Nazirudin also posted a tribute on Instagram and said that it had been an "immense honour" for him to have known and worked with Riz.
Here's what he wrote in full:
Back in January 2020, we asked for prayers for our brother Riz who was going through the early stages of MND.
Yesterday, Riz left us to meet his Creator. For anyone who knew and met him, it is very difficult to come to terms with a world in which Riz is a memory.
But it is God his Creator, with His wisdom and power, that determines Riz's time with us, and the conditions and challenges of his life, as God does for all of us too.
We are thankful to you, O Allah, for lending us this extraordinary young man, who has immensely taught us kindness, adab, selflessness and resilience.
Everytime we visited him, Riz would ask for a prayer. Everytime, I will tell him "Riz, you are teaching us so much with your life."
Riz belongs to God, sent to touch us with lessons we should never forget, of gratitude, love, patience and steadfastness.
It has been an immense honour to have known and worked with you, Riz. You will always be alive in us through our determination to do greater good, to help others, and to spread kindness.
May Allah S.W.T. bless you and place you in the highest station of His ridha and rahmah.
Masagos: "His steadfastness, positivity and contributions remain an inspiration for all"
Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli also paid tribute to Riz in a Facebook post.
"Despite his debilitating disease, he was determined and continued to contribute to the community to the best of his abilities," Masagos said.
He added that Riz's steadfastness, positivity and contributions remain "an inspiration for all of us to continue our efforts in uplifting and giving back to the community and beyond".
Faishal Ibrahim: "We have long been inspired by his grit and tenacity"
Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim highlighted Riz's passion for the Malay language and community, having contributed significantly to Bulan Bahasa (Malay Language Month).
"Even while battling this chronic and debilitating illness in recent years, Riz persevered with determination and continued to contribute extensively to Bulan Bahasa and MBMS, albeit remotely.
His spirit remained extremely strong and we have long been inspired by his grit and tenacity. Riz may have lost his body to MND but he leaves a lasting legacy and an imprint in our hearts as a valiant fighter forever."
Rahayu Mahzam: "Riz will continue to be an inspiration to us all"
Senior Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Law Rahayu Mahzam shared that she had worked with Riz when they were both appointed Duta Bahasa (Language Ambassador) in 2010.
"Riz was a taIented young man... He never let his medical condition limit his ability to contribute - always committed, always attending meetings, always sharing ideas.
Riz also co-founded the first Motor Neurone Disease Association of Singapore (MNDa Singapore). Its vision is for every MND patient and caregiver to live their lives with dignity, care and hope.
I last met him at his book launch in December last year. His story of positivity, grit, strength and resilience is encapsulated in the book.
Riz will continue to be an inspiration to us all. We will miss him dearly."
Top images via Riz Sunawan/IG & Mufti Nazirudin/IG.
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