Bury ghost of May 13 once and for all

September 26, 2008 at 3:09 pm 1 comment

I AM shocked and saddened that some politicians are still making threatening reference to the May 13 racial riots of 1969.

One seasoned politician was on national TV Channel 101 on March 15 making reference to the May 13 racial riots, saying that if the Opposition parties continue to fan communal sentiments, another May 13 will happen, adding with a raised index finger “Dan jangan salahkan kami” (Then don’t blame us.)

By all means take the Opposition parties to task, take legal action against them, but please spare us the threat of another dreadful May 13.

For one, it is a well-flogged threat used by some politicians for their own agenda, and two, it does not work anymore.

All it does is that it raises painful memories of the black chapter in our history of our otherwise harmonious relations between all races.

On that fateful day, I was a young officer serving in the army. I witnessed first-hand the carnage as it unfolded.

People were attacked because they were of the wrong race, at the wrong place at the wrong time. Everyone suffered.

It is thus my fervent hope that our new revamped government will pass specific laws making it an offence to raise threats of another May 13 racial riots.

No one should be allowed to hijack peace and stability in our country. After 39 years, it is time to bury deep the ghost of May 13 once for all, so that it never raises its ugly head again.

Lt. Kol (R) Mohd Idris bin Hassan,
Kuala Lumpur.

In response to the call of Lt. Kol (R) Mohd Idris bin Hassan to “bury the ghost of May 13”, fellow citizen Daniel K.C. Lim also wrote to the editor of The Star suggesting that it should be made “an offence to threaten people with a ‘repeat’ of that black chapter in our history”.

Bury the ghost of May 13

YES, I also feel that Malaysia and we Malaysians should bury the “ghost of May 13 once and for all” (The Star, March 27) and make it an offence to threaten people with a ‘repeat’ of that black chapter in our history.

But I also think we deserve, would appreciate and ought first to publish a full and frank account and post-mortem on the May 13 events, – scrupulously based on the facts and corroborated reports, especially now while we still have access to living memory and the testimony of living witnesses.

Only then will we actually know with full confidence what it is that we are choosing to bury – if it is at all possible to effectively bury a “ghost”.

The results of the recent 12th general election seem to indicate that we have only now, after these past 39 years, made an important and mature step in history towards a better future for our country.

For example, there now seems to be a new and increased capacity to ask the right questions and to discuss openly on matters which for many years have been all but taboo and labelled as “too sensitive” to mention.

If we are to learn, as a nation, from the history of our mistakes then we should not simply aim to bury or forget them, but rather ensure that all the facts are properly recorded and open for review by anyone and everyone, so that every ounce of wisdom may be drawn from the past for our country’s benefit from now on and in the future.

For some, the personal memories of May 13, 1969 may be indelible and all too fresh. But for many others, although it may have been before they were born, “May 13” is perhaps something they have grown up simply knowing of as basic or distant.

But therein lies a problem. For some of the things we learn in life may be based on nothing more than misinformation, blind prejudice or malicious gossip which would not stand up to any reasonable or fair examination.

The law minister in the Prime Minister’s Department is currently suggesting that the Government should apologise to the former Lord President, Tun Salleh, for injustices perpetrated 20 years ago and which have since then been a constant reference in explaining the perceived decline and poor reputation of our judiciary.

I was tempted to write here that it is never too late to apologise; but that would not be true for those others involved who have not lived to see this possible dawn of a healthy new era in Malaysia. For them and for the rest of us, we can only say “better late than never!”

Unlike Lt. Kol (R) Mohd Idris Hassan, I was not in the country on May 13, 1969. I have no personal memories of the events and have nothing that I would regard as a ready, reliable and comprehensive source for reference on what actually transpired, on who did what and why and how.

Stories from friends or relatives who were adults 39 years ago usually involve some emotions and tend to raise more relevant questions than they provide facts about or explanations of the big picture.

On the other hand, my son, who is 20, believes that what children are being officially taught in schools about “May 13” is generally not regarded by many in their generation as the truth or perhaps not very truthful.

Instilling future generations with the suspicion that our official history has been white-washed is not a good basis for resolving anything once and for all.

So rather than trying to decipher the truth from the official version, if one exists, or from listening to unofficial or underground versions, or simply putting every rumour on hold until living memories fade away and are replaced by mere myths and legends, why not have the events of May 13, 1969 properly and definitively recorded and reviewed?

Reconciliation must start first with the truth; only then will we be able to lay matters well to rest once and for all.

Kuala Lumpur.


Entry filed under: Comment.


1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. cyril gabriel  |  October 24, 2011 at 2:23 am

    I like to share my peace. I was a (rather) young Police Inspector on 13th May 1969 in Singapore. There was a (somewhat) spillover in Singapore or at least it looked that way to many. I personally witnessed that horror that goes when human life gets wasted because ” all Hell has broken aloose “. The point is not so much who is at fault ( on hinsight ) but the greater point is that revenge must NEVER become the point to make.


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