Human Rights and the Law: Time for the truth on May 13
©The Sun (Used by permission) Thursday, 03 July 2008 12:44am
by Ong Lee Fong
AN article entitled “It need not remain a black day” which appeared in the Sunday Star (May 11) called for the establishment of a truth commission on May 13.
There should only be a rational acceptance of the events of May 13, 1969 upon full and frank disclosure of every detail of what had happened on that tragic day. We are living to remember and not to forget. The blood of the defenceless; the bitterness of the survivors are unforgettable.
Closure can be achieved, but history should not be distorted. The truth of what catalysed the incident must be properly and accurately presented and disseminated to all Malaysians and to the world at large. Most essentially, disclosure ought to be done for the memory of the victims of May 13.
The government should set Time for the truth on May 13 up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the May 13 riots to call for uncensored and definitive accounts from eye-witnesses of that fateful day.
Proper protection should be accorded to witnesses to ensure that they are not afraid to tell the truth or are pressured to stay silent. Time is not on our side.
The number of people who know of and can convey personal accounts of what transpired before and during that day is fast dwindling. Most Malaysians were not even alive when the incident occurred.
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission could debunk the various myths surrounding the tragedy and put on record definitively as to what caused the racial riots and what exactly happened. This day should not be totally wiped out from the records of our history, neither should it be improperly written.
The Japanese government’s narration and handling of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre has received worldwide condemnation. For the benefit of the next generation, history ought not to be fabricated but should be correctly recorded and narrated according to the personal accounts of eyewitnesses.
We should strive for an open and transparent government where citizens have the right to information and human rights are respected.
The government must have the courage to face the facts and reality of the events of May 13 so steps can then be taken to ensure that such events are never repeated. Malaysians are mature enough to evaluate and accept the truth, however bitter it may be, and not to blindly accept any version of the tragedy unsubstantiated by the facts and evidence.
It is only with full and frank disclosure and the courage to let the truth be known to the public can the government gain the respect and confidence of its citizens.
Despite the far-reaching implications, many among the younger generation or even the world are unaware of the tragedy. Hence, we need people to voice out and let the truth be told to increase public awareness of the tragedy and to educate the younger generation, regardless of race, religion, belief and ethnicity.
This will serve to enhance race relations, understanding and tolerance in Malaysia.
It will also serve as a warning to politicians so as not to arm themselves with the weapon of racial rhetoric in politics. We all must learn the right lessons from the tragedy. It is only when this is done that the wounds will be properly healed and the ghosts of May 13 will be laid to rest, once and for all.
Ong Lee Fong is a member of the Bar Council Human Rights Committee (www.malaysianbar.org.my/hrc). Complaints of rights violations may be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration of the committee. However, we make no assurance that all cases will adopted for action
The Star says… It need not remain a black day
©The Sunday Star (Used by permission) Sunday, 11 May 2008 01:39pm
ON Tuesday, it will be 39 years gone on the country’s most terrible tragedy and the biggest blot in its history.
A nation that had barely turned 12 was torn apart along ethnic lines when people succumbed to base human instinct.
It’s been a long time but there are still numerous lessons to be learned from this darkest episode of our history. We should also honestly ask if we have truly learned anything so far, except for treating it as a subject of taboo or censorship.
Instead of continuing to keep the events of May 13, 1969, in the deepest recesses of our memory, as we have done all this while, there must be a rational acceptance for a closure on the wretched chapter.
It is about time that we go through the needed process of sensibly and unemotionally getting to the truth of what really happened on that fateful day when lives, the number of which is still in dispute, were lost horrifically.
In this digital age when information on everything is available easily, we should not continue to believe what we think we know about May 13 through what was disclosed officially then.
Similarly, we should also not continue to believe what we learned about it through exaggerated accounts and blatant lies or through re-told prejudiced stories.
A few of the people who witnessed the tragedy are still alive but the majority of Malaysians are those who only know it as something that is too sensitive to discuss openly. Up to now, that is.
Instead of trying to hide or ignore the tragic event, we should perhaps get to the accuracy of what happened through a truth commission, accept it reasonably and mark the day positively instead of negatively.
Yes, May 13 could still become a momentous day in the history for a good reason. Perhaps we should denote it as a day to signify our collective decision to accept the truth and recognise the vital need for all races to always regard each other as brothers and sisters of the same nation.
A nation that has gone through such a tumultuous event should never be rife with deep mistrust or bitter rivalries between communities that have lived together for decades.
No one should harbour any fear of losing out to the other, for in this great journey that we have embarked on, we can’t go it alone.
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