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.
Story and photo: S.T. Rajagopal.
During the May 13 riots in 1969, there was tension in Sentul, just like in other areas but there was not a single incident as the various races lived in harmony.
However, we were worried of outsiders entering our area and creating problems. To ensure everyone is safe,the residents banded together and took various precautions.
In my village, Kampung MBS, there was one Malay man, a LLN worker, who lived in fear although we assured him he was very safe.
Seeing him restless, the villagers decided to get him out of Sentul to a safer area. He wanted to go to Segambut in Kuala Lumpur.
To go to Segambut, the villagers had to pass many non-Malay areas and this worried them.
Finally, the villagers decided to dress him up like an Indian women.
The ladies in the village dressed him up beautifully in colourful saree with one end of the saree over his head. Of course they applied make up on his face. Since he had dark complexion, he resembled an Indian lady.
Some villagers took him out of Sentul and he reached his relatives house in Segambut safely.
After the curfew ended and the situation returned to normal, he decided to stay in Segambut permanently. I visited him in the early 70s. He was a happy man.
Thanks to the villagers who bravely “smuggled” the man out of Sentul.
There were many such cases in many parts of Kuala Lumpur where many helped to shelter one another. God Bless them all.
UKM pioneers mechanism to measure ethnic harmony, predict potential conflict BY SHERIDAN MAHAVERA Published: 14 March 2015
Can ethnic harmony be measured?
A Malaysian university believes it has found a way to do so, and from a pilot run of its new mechanism, has found that perception of ethnic tensions in the media are largely manufactured by politicians and extremists, since the ordinary Malaysian has little problem in everyday relations with people of different races.
The Institute of Inter-ethnic Studies (Kita) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) found this to be the case in the course of developing a mechanism, which uses the survey method, to measure inter-ethnic harmonies in local communities.
Called Kita-Mesra, it can be used as an “early warning system” to detect potential hotspots where conflicts can flare up, said its principal inventor Dr Anis Yusal Yusoff, a principal fellow with Kita.
“Year in year out the quality of ethnic relations is a subject of contention. So we have come out with a scientific, objective way to measure it,” Anis Yusal told The Malaysian Insider in a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur.
To date, 20 parliamentary constituencies have been assessed by Kita-Mesra since 2010. The pilot was completed last year and the data tabulated for submission to the government.
Anis Yusal said Kita hoped that the mechanism can be eventually handed to the government and be put to use to measure ethnic relations in an unbiased and objective manner throughout the country.
The 20 constituencies were part of a pilot programme, in which Kita staff interviewed 300 residents in each area. Each of Malaysia’s 13 states and three federal territories were covered, and both rural and urban areas were included.
Explaining the mechanism, Anis Yusal said Kita-Mesra has three components which when used together, can take the social temperature of a given community through interviews with residents.
The first component measures quality of life and asks participants whether they were satisfied with their area’s schools, health care services, public amenities and their income.
These indicators are the same used by the government’s Economic Planning Unit to measure quality of life, said Anis Yusal.
Then, participants are asked for their opinions on a host of political, economic and social topics.
“We believe that there is a strong correlation between quality of life and ethnic relations,” said Anis Yusal, explaining why there is a strong emphasis on looking at “bread and butter” issues in the survey.
It is only in the survey’s third component that residents are asked on their ties with members of different ethnic and religious groups.
“We ask about how they get along with their neighbours, how long has it been since they’ve had a meal with someone of a different race or religion. These are some of the questions.”
Generally, Anis Yusal said, the Kita-Mesra interviews with residents found that ordinary Malaysians get along well with each other despite perceptions to the contrary in social media.
“They have no problems working and getting along with each other. There is still very strong social cohesion among us.
“Its only their political masters who are fanning the flames,” said Anis Yusal.– March 14, 2015.
What’s the best question to ask about May 13?
When you hear “May 13,” do you first think of the events which happened then? Or do you think of what caused the events? Or do you think of how Malaysia has changed since that day 45 years ago?
The British government declassifies documents after 30 years. In 1999 documents from 1969 were declassified.
Dr Kua Kia Soong, a sociologist, reviewed the documents to discover what new light they might shed on the events of May 13, an incident which was never the subject of a public inquiry.
I’ve just read his Suaram-published 2007 book, “May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969.” The 151 page book includes 167 end-notes.
Kua sifted through British diplomatic and military records. These included references to reports by diplomats of other nations, e.g. Australia, New Zealand, China, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore. He also scoured the reports of foreign correspondents, especially those in the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER).
Kua found that the documents support what Subky Latiff, a journalist then, wrote in 1977:
“The May 13 Incident did not occur spontaneously. It was planned quickly and purposely. The identity of the planners of the incident cannot be stated with accuracy. But whatever it was that happened, the May 13 Incident was a form of coup d’etat directed against Tunku Abdul Rahman. The Tunku’s power in fact ended from then onwards. Although he continued to be Prime Minister and President of UMNO, he was no more than a figurehead.” (Page 3)
So, what was May 13, according to foreign sources?
“May 13” occurred nationwide over several days as a response to the Umno-dominated Alliance losing its two-thirds majority in the 1969 elections, as predicted.
During May 13 thousands were killed, injured, arrested; made homeless; much property was destroyed. Ten to fifteen percent of the victims were ethnic Malays.
On May 11 and 12 the opposition celebrated their victory. On May 13 Umno was denied police permission to hold a “retaliatory march.” Violence erupted.
There are many reports that the armed forces and the police favoured ethnic Malays. The reality of official racial bias was weighed by the governments of Britain, Australia and New Zealand when they pondered how to respond to requests by the Malaysian government to buy arms from them. Australia and NZ refused. Britain reluctantly agreed.
Who caused the May 13 Incident?
Kua says the root cause was the fear of “rich Malay farmers and state capitalists” that the loss of the Umno-dominated Alliance’s two-thirds majority spelt loss of opportunities for them:
“From the 1960s, there was clearly a struggle within the Malay ruling class, between the ‘Old Guard’ aristocratic class who were content with their economic interests in private capital of the non-Malay and foreign capitalists (even if this only meant sitting on the boards of directorship) and landed interests, and those elements who wanted to expand state capital still further in order to create a strictly-Malay state capitalist class.” (Page 26)
Umno gained the most from May 13.
The incident provided an excuse to suspend the Constitution, to neutralize Tunku and to introduce Emergency rule. The result was an environment in which privileges for Malays could be easily asserted and propagated.
What happened after May 13?
On 15 May an Emergency was declared.
A National Operations Council (NOC) was formed. Tun Razak was in charge, both of the civil and military administrations. Lee Kuan Yew called Razak “an evil genius.”
All state legislatures were suspended. State Operations Councils (SOC) were formed to govern the States; except in Penang, Malays held the vast majority of SOC positions.
The movements of foreign journalists were restricted. Censorship was enforced.
The whole of the Federation was declared a security area, subject to the Internal Security Act. Thousands were detained; the opposition was disabled.
Elections in Sarawak were deferred: it was popularly believed that if the elections had been allowed, the opposition would have won. Under the Emergency the NOC ruled from KL.
Tun Tan Siew Sin was relieved of his position as Minister of Finance. Tun Razak took over. The Rukun Negara was promulgated.
The NOC called elections only after it was sure the Alliance could regain a two-thirds majority in Parliament:
“With the reconvening of Parliament on 20 February 1971, the Constitutional (Amendment) Act was passed. Under this legislation, certain issues – “which might arouse racial emotions in respect of the National Language, i.e. Malay, the special position of the Malays and other native bumiputra, citizenship rights and the sovereignty of the Malay rulers” – were declared to be ‘sensitive’ and it became an offence to raise these questions in public.” (Page 127).
Now the principle of equality enshrined in Article 8 of our Constitution is ignored. The special position of the Malays enshrined in Article 153 is elevated. Umno elites accumulate wealth. Umno mobs are condoned.
Is “who gained?” the best question to ask about May 13?
Friday, May 23, 2014
Are we brewing another May 13, 1969 in Malaysia?
by Azly Rahman
This is serious, if you ask me about the latest events concerning Umno and DAP: those revolving around name-calling, storming of the Penang state legislature and the latest, on the threat to burn down the headquarters of the DAP.
Is this a prelude to something bigger as we approach the 14th general election? Irrationality will rule and will be rationalised. Is the climax to a potentially explosive racial conflict going to be built up and the two parties involved in a showdown? Go back to the prelude to May 13, 1969, if we wish to process the brewing of mass violence.
I hope we are all sane enough to diffuse these kinds of situation and quickly make peace and for all to be patient, to exercise restrain, and to not provoke those who are irrational. We will make it as Malaysians. We have come a long way through our hard work in building bridges and to continue to call ourselves Malaysians.
But crises will be manufactured and we will never know the truth of any conflict that will bring chaos to the country.
Let us use whatever medium of peace-making and peace-building at our disposal to make peace with ourselves and with others.
After watching the video of the Umno Youth protest in front of the DAP headquarters, I sensed that the worse is yet to come and we may never be able to stop violence or to stop those out to wage war – unless we wage peace, beginning at this very moment.
For the Malay Muslims in the video, the character of the Prophet Muhammad is the best to show Malaysians what peace looks like. Go back to that and not let anger consume the natural, peaceful self in you.
You will feel better if you search within you and let Prophet Muhammad be the guide in you. I suggest you invoke the salawat and the istighfar that should help in times of anger and irrationalism.
To my friend and parliamentarian Ong Kian Ming, I say this: you did an admirable job of being calm and composed. I pray for your safety and those of others faced with a similar situation that you may continue to serve the community well.
Many of us know that this does not have to do entirely with race – it is about human nature, materialism, militarism and racism, as the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr has said in many of his speeches during the American Civil Rights movement.
My message to all Malaysians
Let us leave all these nonsense behind and resolve thing amicably, no matter what race and religious group you belong to. This is a beautiful country with beautiful people who ought to work together beautifully.
I hate to have my memories go back to that day in 1969, when, as a very young child, what I heard daily was men in red headbands in Muar, Johor with parang, kerambit, keris, daggers and all kinds of weapons, were heading for Kampong Baru, Kuala Lumpur, meeting at the residence of the then menteri besar Harun Idris.
I could even feel the “heat” of May 13 in my kampung in Johor Baru, with the people talking about “sembelih” (slaughtering). As a child, those moments had left a bloody history in me. We have a lot to do and we do not have time to undo the more than 40 years of peace we have built.
And the young people of today need to know this. The future is yours. You need not emulate the stupidity of your elders, especially when it concerns behaving as if there is not enough home-training on anger management in public.
I, for one, do not wish to read about another May 13 in the newspapers, or even through online portals these days.
My saddest moment that day was when my Maths teacher, whom I love and respect dearly and who adored me for my hard work and who had all praises for me since day one. On that day, after May 13, 1969, all of a sudden, after checking my class work for the day, she threw my exercise book right across the room and out of the door, for a reason I can now understand. I was devastated for weeks.
Bless your soul, Ms Chan!
Peace, salam, salamat, shaloom are terms we must hold as a mantra these days. But how must we understand ourselves, politically, these days?
A mirror we hold up today
My stunted growth in understanding Malaysian politics is even greater these days, reading how much we have progressed backwards and how true P Ramlee, the great Malaysian social-philosopher and humanist, said about politics being a “circus” (sarkas) when illiteracy rules and rationalism is shunned against.
We have not seen fresh new ideas embraced by all parties, at least once in a while in a collaborative manner. We have only seen more and more hidden, and even physical violence, manifesting.
Political change needs social imagination and critical sensibility founded upon a very strong ethical system drawn and designed as a national philosophy; a transcultural system inspired by the strength and universality of all religious and non-religious philosophies – not just based on Islam that has its limitations and cultural biases, albeit insisted upon and imposed onto many as a complete and all-encompassing, all-hegemonising political, social and existential philosophy.
Islamic philosophy as conceived by Malay Muslims of the political enclave, especially, will still not be a comprehensive idea as long as its proponents are still ill-prepared to even explore the meaning of “western liberal philosophy”.
Besides, with the global image of Islam, as Salafic or Wahabbic or Talibanic or even Boko-Haramic, who would these days pay attention to the idea of a beautiful and peaceful and just Islam fit for all of humankind?
We need to understand the excesses of the demands made by major factions contending for power and control in order to come to a middle ground and a peaceful solution to resolving conflicts.
We need to, once and for all, analyse these and make structural and foundational changes to our system and its institutions in order to bring society into some kind of order.
May 13 seems to be brewing. But we now have the means let it simmer and cool. We are, first and foremost, Malaysians building a better Malaysia for all Malaysians.
I hope Umno and DAP will agree.
MAY 13 ― It was 45 years ago today when a chapter in Malaysia’s history was smeared with blood of the May 13th 1969 tragedy.
There’s obviously nothing celebratory about this unfortunate date, but draw some lessons we must from this chilling incident especially if we don’t want to see a catastrophic recurrence and a consequent erosion of democratic space.
The authorities identified the socio-economic disparity between ethnic groups as a major cause of the riots ― and to redress this imbalance, the government then formulated the New Economic Policy. Other analysts have suggested that opportunistic political manoeuvring after the Alliance’s setback in the 1969 general election may have inspired or contributed to the communal violence.
It is also generally felt that ethnic relations and harmony cannot be taken for granted. In this regard, interethnic dialogue is crucial in the noble endeavour to promote mutual understanding, trust and respect, especially at a historical juncture when suspicion and distrust was rife, and emotions ran high.
There is a high value to sitting down together at a table, amicably exchanging views, seeking clarifications and reaching a consensus or compromise ― that is, after leaving as much baggage and emotions as possible at the door prior to the conversation.
One can hardly overemphasise the political utility of civilised conversations. It is indeed of a paramount importance that Malaysians of various ethnic backgrounds develop the knack for having discussions pertaining to issues that are of national significance and also emotive in nature, such as ethnicity and religion.
Admittedly, such conversations may not necessarily be conducted without a hitch. There are sure to be hiccups and drawbacks, but these shouldn’t deter us ― in our long journey to collective harmony and progress ― from making such bridge-building initiatives as the one spearheaded by PAS MP for Parit Buntar and its National Unity Committee chairman, Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa.
Holding Muhibbah-type durian parties of yore or exposing to university students via its ethnic relations studies the various cultural costumes and musical instruments of each ethnic community, for instance, may have their merits to a limited degree. But we also need to have sophisticated conversations about some tough questions, such as ethnic discrimination in the civil service as well as the private sector; government scholarships; and religious bigotry.
But more than that, engaging in conversations helps to broaden the parameters for freedom of expression, and also legitimate dissent. A widened democratic space is certainly crucial for minorities, ethnic, cultural and political, so that they don’t find themselves being trampled by the tyranny of the majority in a democratic country where every stakeholder has a right to claim ownership.
It also goes a long way towards helping to cultivate a strong tradition of intellectual discourse that is sorely needed in our society, which is often riddled with slander, poison pen culture, book bans, film censorship and sex videos. Seen from this perspective, flashing the keris, or wriggling your tired bum, is really blasé.
However, if public expressions in recent days and months are of any significance, certain quarters in Malaysian society appear to have the inability, or refusal, to learn something useful from this dark blot in our collective memory. If anything, they have been strident and rabid in their public articulations particularly pertaining to Islam and hudud to the extent of threatening to tear the very fabric of this multiethnic society.
While it is vital that freedom of expression is promoted and defended, it doesn’t help to have right-wing groups such as the Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia, or Isma, abusing this freedom, mouthing hate-speech in the name of Islam and Malay supremacy. Demonising “the Other”, namely the ethnic Chinese in Malaysia, as “intruders”, “trespassers” and an historical “mistake” clearly is not the recipe for interethnic understanding and trust, apart from committing factual errors on the part of Isma.
For, you just don’t do that to your fellow citizens, your fellow human beings, your neighbours ― even if they’re not Muslim. On the contrary, it’s all the more incumbent upon Muslims, particularly those who are properly guided by Islamic teachings, to treat those outside of their faith with a sense of compassion, justice and respect. They don’t call Islam a religion of peace for nothing, do they?
Besides, there are other issues of the day that also deserve our rapt attention ― and action ― such as the rising cost of living, the impending GST, the endemic corruption, lack of government accountability, gerrymandering and the continuous slide in the ranking of local universities. In fact, Malaysians of various ethnic groups could unite around these issues that affect their lives in one way or another. That is why the brouhaha arising from Isma and their ilk is perceived by some as a devious attempt to deflect the attention of Malaysians away from the issues mentioned above.
Indeed, flirting with such emotive issues of race and religion can be explosive if it eventually manages to stoke the fire of ethnic sentiments of others on both sides of the ethnic divide. On balance, some of the criticisms against rabid statements, such as Isma’s, were ethnically scathing as well.
As intimated above, such hate speech only gives freedom of speech a bad name, especially in Malaysia where freedom of expression and of the press is often frowned upon by the powers-that-be.
The law enforcement agencies have already warned Malaysians not to touch on, at least publicly, issues regarding race and religion. Such a stand of the authorities has the effect of blurring the line between hate speech and racial incitement on one hand and legitimate and civilised articulation of race and religion on the other.
Furthermore, the conflation of the two ends of the communication spectrum may lead to further erosion of freedom of expression in the public domain. The spectre of ethnic tension, if not violent conflict, in the horizon may well serve as a convenient excuse for the powers-that-be to further constrict the democratic space that is available at the moment, be it online media or elsewhere.
It is in this context that public opinion could possibly be swayed to acquiesce to further restriction of public expression all in the name of national security. In fact, over the years this has been virtually the standard operating procedure for the powers-that-be to put fear on the general populace and subsequently to clamp down on criticisms and dissent.
Also at stake is the vital platform for voices of moderation that have a role to play in the promotion of a democratic society that celebrates the rich diversity and difference that we have in the realms of culture and politics. It is important that this group of people has better access to avenues for intellectual discourse. For, this bulwark against bigotry and extremism is the possible hope for the growth of intellectual tradition, deepening of democracy, and the overall progress of the Malaysian society.
To ignore lessons from our collective history is to do so at our own peril.
*Dr Mustafa K Anuar is a Fellow with the Penang Institute.
The Malay Mail Online
SHAH ALAM, May 9 — The spate of hate speeches aimed at driving a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims appear to be unravelling nation-building efforts made since May 13, 1969, and suggests not much has changed since that watershed 45 years ago, civil society leaders and opposition lawmakers have said on the eve of the anniversary of the country’s worst race riots next Tuesday.
Although 45 years have passed since the May 13 riots, racial tensions continue to simmer beneath the surface of a robust economy, they said at a small public forum here last night.
According to them, the recent spate of racially venomous remarks and actions point to a dangerous future for Malaysia and must be tackled by the authorities which have mostly stayed silent.
“It can be said that there is evil in the air. Venom, poison, baggage of hate based on language,” DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang told the forum.
“Never has it been this serious, I think. Where are we heading? We have lost our direction on nation building.”
The Gelang Patah MP pointed out the recent inflammatory statement made by Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), which accused the Chinese of being intruders into Malay land, and had been brought by British colonialists to oppress Malays.
“Nothing I can see that shows anything new between 1969 and 2014. We see remarks, actions and nuances that depict it as if we want to return to racial tensions, by invoking ancient history,” said PAS’ Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa.
Mujahid, who claimed he was raised with the May 13 incident as a bogeyman, claimed that sentiments against the Chinese and Indians have stayed the same among some Malays, where the two ethnic groups are still considered as immigrants.
“These are jarring voices, whose ears are deaf, whose eyes are blind… who do not know the direction of our future,” the Parit Buntar MP added, referring to Isma.
The forum last night, organised by Shah Alam PAS, saw Lim relating his times during the racial riots, which he only experienced through news as he was away in Kota Kinabalu at that time.
Joining him was veteran journalist Subky Abdul Latiff, who experienced first hand the riots as he was residing in Kampung Baru at that time.
In the forum, Lim urged the public to “save the country” adding that his opposition pact Pakatan Rakyat must step up if the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional fails to do so.
He also repeated his calls for a truth and reconciliation body to conduct an independent probe on the incident, similar to the one in South Africa after the abolition of apartheid.
“Do we want the incident to repeat itself? If it does, I worry of the intervention from foreign powers,” added Subky, who started his career in Malay broadsheet Utusan Melayu before joining PAS.
January 24, 2014
Will we ever be rid of the spectre of May 13? The riots and killings associated with that date happened 45 years ago, when many of us had not even been born. And yet the ghosts from that tragic time have kept coming back to haunt us, most noticeably when Umno’s interests are threatened. They haunted us during the run-up to the last general election, when popular sentiment seemed to favour the opposition. And they were back again recently, when some people felt slighted by criticism directed at the Prime Minister, who is Umno’s president.
The disturbing thing about the banner displayed during the Jan 18 Umno protest in Penang is that it was a direct threat of bloodshed against non-Malays—and over an issue that had nothing to do with race. And no significant figure from Putrajaya immediately condemned it as a threat to national security. That is even more disturbing. Will the world pity us or laugh at us if this country is brought to ruin over a vegetable?
In recent years, there have been several calls for a royal inquiry aimed at discovering the truth behind May 13. The government has ignored these calls. But neither have political activists or the blogging public given the idea much support, perhaps because of disappointment with the conduct and findings of past inquiries into other matters of public interest.
Those inquiries came about after much public pressure, but the trouble was the commissioners who conducted them were appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister, who cannot be expected to be impartial since he also heads a political party with vested interests in the issues inquired into.
It wouldn’t take much argument to convince anyone—at least anyone worried that we are coming close to another bloody episode of our history—that an inquiry into the causes and aftermath of May 13 is more worthy of a royal commission of inquiry than the issue of whether a lawyer corruptly influenced judicial decisions. But for the inquiry to be credible and effective in establishing the authoritative truth,civil society must be involved in the appointment of the people conducting it.
It’s time to let the ghosts of May 13 rest.