Harun bin Idris: The Man Who Triggered May 13?
Dato’ Seri Harun bin Haji Idris (22 December 1925 – 19 October 2003) was a Malaysian politician. He wasborn in Selangor, Malaysia. He worked as a field officer with the publicity department until 1948, when he was appointed District Officer for Gemas and Tampin, in the Malay Administrative Service.
After a short spell as magistrate in Kuala Langat, Klang and Kuala Lumpur, Dato Seri Harun left for the United Kingdom to read law at Middle Temple, London and was called to the English Bar in the mid 50s. By 1957, he was a Sessions Court President, Registrar of Companies, Deputy Public Prosecutor in Selangor and the State Legal Adviser until 1964 when his civil career ended and his political career began.
In March 1964, having won the State Assembly seat for Morib, Selangor, Dato Seri Harun was elected to the Umno Supreme Council and served as Selangor Umno liaison chief from 1964 to 1976. From 1964 to 1976, Dato Seri Harun was appointed the eighth Chief Minister of Selangor, after Datuk Abu Bakar Baginda and he was the longest serving Chief Minister of Selangor, holding office for exactly 12 years, until his resignation in April 1976. From the early 1970s until 1976, Harun was the Head of Umno Youth and Supreme Council member. He was then expelled from UMNO and charged with corruption by the government, due to his abuse of state funds.
Harun’s career was marred by the May 13 racial riots, which had been triggered by a political rally held at his residence in the national capital of Kuala Lumpur. Harun, who was perceived as a proponent of ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy, although this exact phrase was not in use at the time), had seen UMNO suffer several losses in the Selangor State Assembly due to the 1969 general election. After the opposition held a victory rally, UMNO leaders called for a retaliatory rally to be held on May 13 to “teach the Chinese a lesson”. The discipline of party members soon broke down, and the rally turned into a riot which lasted two days and cost at least 180 lives.
Harun’s role in the riot is not exactly clear. Although the rally was to be held at his house (in which two innocent Chinesse bystanders were killed) and then parade around the town, it has been claimed by some — including a member of the opposition in the state assembly and Parliament at the time — that Harun was too pre-occupied with trying to form a new state government to have given much thought to the rally, although it is not denied that he approved it. There are also accusations that the Malays who gathered at his house were supplied with knives and machetes. After meeting in large numbers at Harun’s official residence in Jalan Raja Muda near Kampong Bahru, and hearing inflammatory speeches by Harun and other leaders, the Malay mobs prepared themselves by tying ribbon strips on their foreheads and set out to kill Chinese. The first hapless victims were two of them in a van opposite Harun’s house who were innocently watching the large gathering. Little did they know that they would be killed on the spot.
Harun’s political career did not stop after stepping down as Chief Minister. He served as Kuala Langat Umno Division Chief for 3 years until 1984. Dato Seri Harun also served as a council member of the Selangor Royal Council from 1994 until his demise. On November 15, 1986 he was called to the Malaysian Bar and thereafter returned to his old profession of law practice and became a senior partner of Harun Idris, Yeoh & Partners actively practising law until his demise.
Harun served as Semangat 46 Supreme Council member and Selangor Chief for a brief period from 1987 to 1990. In the year 2000, Dato Seri Harun rejoined Umno and was a member of the Umno SS7 Sri Dagang Branch, in the Subang Division of Selangor.
Dato Seri Harun died peacefully after a short illness on 19 October 2003 at the age of 78 and is survived by his wife Datin Seri Salmah Sulaiman, three sons, three daughters, 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
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