Exactly 40 years ago a great tragedy occurred in Kuala Lumpur where many people were killed or injured. This tragedy came to be known as the May 13, 1969 incident. Today the very mention of May 13 still bring shudders and strike fear in the hearts of many Malaysians.
Generally, the subject of May 13 is a social taboo in Malaysia, at least in public discourse. It is the tacit understanding of reasonable citizens that the topic is too sensitive for public discussion, especially among mixed company thus perpetuating the fears and myths.
It is with this unhealthy closeting of truths that a blogger decided to create a blog which aims to bring out ‘TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION’ and a proper closure to the tragic incident. After all reconciliation always starts with the TRUTH.
This initiators of this blog believes that every Malaysian particularly those born post-May 13, 1969 should be given every opportunity to learn the truth about the tragic May 13 incident. As a visitor to Malaysiakini commented,
“How are we to achieve excellence if we do not allow the freedom to probe and research? Without this freedom to probe and research, we will always be a mediocre nation and a mediocre people. “
The South Africans under their first ANC government thought so. Once the native Africans came to power after a bloody and protracted struggle, they did not persecute their white minority population as Robert Mugabe did in Zimbabwe. Instead, the first ANC government established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, confronted their ugly past face to face, and wrestled their infamous national demon to the ground. ” – Sim Kwang Yang in “Unmasking the Hornets”, Malaysiakini
The initiators of this blog invites all Malaysians to confront their ugly past face to face, and wrestled their infamous national demon to the ground. And nothing short of an national inquiry and the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission could this past demon be overcome.
This blog also invites any eyewitness accounts of the May 13 incident to come forward and published their stories here for future generations to know. Its time for the tragedy to be demystified.
NO MORE SECRECY. NO MORE CENSORSHIP.
LET THE TRUTH BE TOLD.
- However, we are not free yet. We are not free from the baggage of racial mistrust, religious dogmatism and intellectual corruption.We sell our souls for position as we attempt to sell our country’s future for instant gratification. We have been and continue to be smothered by what seems constant scandals and racial, political and religious grandstanding.
The latest issue being the new movie funded by the government called ‘Tanda Putra’. A pretty mediocre to bad attempt at portraying the period surrounding the racial riots of May 13th 1969. Tun Dr. Ismail would not have been pleased.
Suhaimi Baba was given RM4.8 million grant to produce and shoot the movie and yet she had committed such an stupid and IDIOTIC mistake? Should the government request for a return of the grant?
BY IDA LIMSEPTEMBER 13, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 13 — The producer of controversial film “Tanda Putera” today apologised to DAP’s Lim Kit Siang over a photograph with a caption accusing him of urinating at the flagpole of a Selangor Mentri Besar’s house on May 13, 1969, the day of the racial riots.
Pesona Pictures said the photograph, which depicts Lim as being manhandled with the controversial note, was posted on its Facebook page earlier last year due to an oversight.
It clarified that there was no truth in the caption which said “Lim Kit Siang had urinated at the foot of the flagpole bearing the Selangor flag at the then Selangor MB Harun Idris’ house”.
“We, Messrs Pesona Pictures Sdn Bhd, unreservedly apologise to Mr Lim Kit Siang for the embarrassment caused by the aforementioned publication which is devoid of truth,” Pesona said in a letter posted today on the official Facebook page of Tanda Putera.
Pesona denied that the company had intentionally published the photograph and the caption, explaining that it had originated from a blog link in a subscriber’s comment on the Facebook page.
“The photograph and its accompanying caption made its way onto our official Facebook account Tanda Putera via a subscriber’s comment attaching a link to another blog. One of the administrators of our Facebook account opened the link provided and found the impugned photograph and its caption. Innocently believing the same to be in some manner relevant to the movie Tanda Putera, he proceeded to copy and save them onto the Facebook’s photo album.
Creating animosity between races by sensationalizing FALSEHOODS!
The Malay Mail Online
September 11, 2013
SEPT 11 — You would think I set fire to the flag and declared my allegiance to North Korea, judging from the vitriol I got for my “Tanda Putera” review.
Someone even said that I shouldn’t have been so hard on the film since it was “a local film.”
So if it is a local film, I shouldn’t expect it to have a coherent script?
So if it is a local film, I shouldn’t hope the actors are more than decorative furnishings that speak?
So if it is a local film, I should fully expect it to be bad and be pleasantly surprised if it does not suck
If a film is about any of our historical leaders, painting them in a beatific light then I have to like it before even watching it?
I swear we live in a nation populated by brainwashed sheep. Where when you point out the wolves, the sheep will bite you in retaliation.
My hate for “Tanda Putera” was also, supposedly, a sign of my “not getting laid enough.” It is bad enough that is a hateful, sexist remark but the person who said it was a woman.
I may not agree with what many people say about many things (or even about me) but opinions are what they are, opinions.
But it is not an “opinion” to say that a person’s opinion of something is directly correlated to what goes on in the bedroom.
So are you saying that the decisions of noted celibates like the Pope, the Dalai Lama and other religious figures are motivated by their lacking a sex life?
Dear Malaysians: you can have 20 orgasms a day and still find “Tanda Putera” lacking.
The Tanda Putar owners on facebook at long last has admitted their guilt on the maliciously twisted spin on LKS’s ‘urination’ scene. Was there a mala fide and insidious intention (niat jahat) on the part of the director and film maker to manipulate the story to fire up racial sentiments which may cause strife and chaos??? If they can manipulate the ‘urination’ lie, then one can conclude that the whole movie was nothing but a LIE!!.
Film Director shamelessly and maliciously manipulated scene which could cause unnecessary tension.
BY JOSEPH SIPALAN SEPTEMBER 12, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 — A former senior police intelligence officer panned today the urination scene in controversial film “Tanda Putera” as a complete fabrication, while also denying that the communists had engineered the deadly May 13 riots in 1969.
Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng, who was an officer with the police Special Branch at the time of the riots, clarified that the communists had little interest in sowing division along racial lines as the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) was “essentially a non-racial party”.
“I can also confirm with you, as I was on duty at the time, that the urination incident never happened,” he told The Malay Mail Online, referring to a scene of an ethnic Chinese man urinating on a flagpole at the then-Selangor Mentri Besar’s residence as depicted in the local film directed by horror maestro Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba.
Yuen criticised Shuhaimi for including the scene in the film, saying that it was something that should have been researched properly to avoid sparking unnecessary tension.
“The director should have called me. It was during my time. This is a very specific incident and it should have been researched properly… now it is only causing so much confusion and this is not good for the country,” he said.
The Malay Mail Online
September 6, 2013
SEPT 6 — The polemical Tanda Putera was screened a few days ago to mixed reviews. I dislike reading reviews before experiencing the said movie/book/concert myself as it conditions my mind to see things according to the reviewer.
However, since Tanda Putera didn’t make it to any cinemas in London and probably won’t ever, I read and listened to reviews to get a glimpse of all the fuss.
What piques my interest about this film is the brouhaha surrounding it. Some people are angered at the RM4.5 million grant it received. Some are angered at how it masquerades itself as a historical film when some parts are purely fictional. Some are just angry.
At the heart of the controversy there is actually a contest: a contestation of the truth as to what really occurred on that fateful day of May 13, 1969, the contextual considerations that triggered the violence and the subsequent events that unfolded after that day.
Most people are unsure and uncertain about this black spot in our history. Materials on this topic are insufficient.
Since the truth is unclear, people start to formulate their own versions of the truth. I can’t blame them; the truth is after all elusive and relative. The truth is liable to be subjected to various interpretations and manipulations to suit the ears of the hearer and wishes of the maker.
Films such as Tanda Putera are controversial because it is perceived as being intellectually dishonest by telling only one side of the story. The huge subsidy demonstrates the government’s power in the production of a certain historical narrative.
Books such as Kua Kia Soong’s May 13 and the Tunku’s 13 May: Before and After tells the author’s own version of what happened – not actually what happened.
These are not the authoritative truth. A single and authoritative truth must come from an independent institution comprised of a collective of individuals who have scrutinised and weighed every piece of evidence presented. This ensures credibility.
A lack of closure
Post-May 13, our leaders tried their best to restore order and security. They were very deliberative and cautious in their actions. Emergency was declared and the National Operations Council was established. The priority was lives.
This was a sagacious course of action. The result speaks for itself.
The only problem is, no mechanisms were established to investigate what really happened on that day.
When a nation endures a traumatic event in its history, it can choose to inquire or be silent about it. The choice is between fact-finding, like in trials and truth commissions or a national amnesia, where nothing happens.
Malaysia chose the latter, employing silence as a means to construct our history.
The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established not only to decide on amnesties and listen to the stories of victims. It was formed to unearth facts and create a single authoritative truth. The truth was not only discovered, it was also constructed.
A single authoritative truth was needed so that it can be embedded within the collective memories of South Africans. The process has to be credible enough that people are unable to deny the truth.
While we’ve heard of many Holocaust denials in public, until today there’s hardly a case of a public “Apartheid denial.” People cannot deny Apartheid because the hard evidence points to Apartheid’s existence and the evils it caused. You’ll look ridiculous if you deny that Apartheid and violence never happened.
The TRC exposed that conflict was not solely caused by the Apartheid machinery. There were innumerable black on black violence with “necklacing” being a favourite execution method. Moreover, violence was also instigated by the resistance movement which resulted in the loss of lives among whites as well.
The TRC’s findings managed to rectify grassroots stereotypes that the Apartheid state was the sole offender. It showed that the conflict cannot be simply reduced to “whites versus blacks.” It’s more complex than that as many other factors needed to be taken into account.
The same applies to May 13, 1969.
On August 27 this year, Lim Kit Siang called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the events surrounding May 13, 1969. I think this proposal should be given heavy consideration.
Without a single authoritative truth, conspiracy theories and hearsay will continue to be proliferated. Anecdotal stories of one’s uncle in a cinema or one’s aunt in a bus in KL will reign as the truth.
People tend to believe what favours their preconceived notions. It feels comfortable and gives them a sense of security as it is compatible with their existing beliefs. They’ll remain in their own echo chambers, selecting news and opinions on May 13 which fits their own emotions. This is called confirmation bias.
In anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s Silencing the Past: Power and Production of History, he interrogates how Haitians try to forget about this little known but important freedom fighter called Sans Souci – by pushing him into the shadows of history. Locals didn’t want to mention him. They were in denial mode. One of the reasons was obvious; people did not want to believe that a Congolese slave (Bossales) was a leader for Haiti’s independence unlike the dominant and more polished Creoles.
I understand that inquiring into May 13 would open up old wounds. Stories of horror would be recounted and agonising memories will be prodded by an inquisitive public. Nevertheless, the victims and the nation require some form of substantial closure.
Bite the bullet we must, in order to hammer the final nail into May 13’s coffin.
Keeping silent on May 13 but periodically invoking it as a bogeyman to scare the masses is disingenuous. We tacitly proclaim a national amnesia by being silent as to the causes of May 13, 1969 but when it suits our convenience, we point to the disaster itself – all for personal interests.
A prerequisite for Malaysia to mature is by reconciling with our past. It is imperative that we are clear as to what caused the riots. When there is clarity as to the causes, we can prevent it from occurring again.
It’s high time we set the historical record straight.
Sep 2, 2013
What happened on May 13, 1969 was terrible, not just for every Malaysian, but also for the armed forces and the police. If the country is to move on and start the healing process, then the May 13 demons must be exorcised, once and for all; but first, the truth must be freed.
The National Operations Council (NOC) which was created in the aftermath of the disturbances by Najib Abdul Razak’s father, sought to return the country to normality, by restoring law and order, as well as re-establishing trust between the races. Its scope was limited and it did not seek to provide a definitive account of the tragedy.
If Najib is sincere in wanting reconciliation, one of the first things he should do is to hold an inquiry into the May 13 riots. Investigators will be hampered by Umno Baru’s unwritten rule, which is that anyone who disagrees with them is either Chinese or communist.
Sceptical Malaysians will accuse Umno Baru of refusing to learn or discover the root causes of the May 13 riots. Critics will worry about the cost and length of time for this inquiry. Many witnesses, victims, politicians, armed forces personnel, hospital staff or news correspondents, will have died. Memories of those who remain will have dulled with age.