Personal Accounts and Reflections of What Happened in 1969
From Malaysiakini and Malaysia Today, courtesy of Malaysian Unplugged
Even at my age then, it was clear to me that larger forces were at work in this terrible incident.
My father spoke harshly of the soldiers too. When the FRU men were sent out, many of the areas they went to had earlier been visited by the soldiers and the residents (or what were left of them) tearfully told stories of how the soldiers joined the Malays in attacking them.
Friends I met years later in Malacca also told me that soldiers had fired into shophouses in Jalan Bunga Raya for no reason. I have heard lots of other anecdotes too. Many Malaysians would have been personally affected by this tragedy. Maybe this would a good time for them to come forward and share their recollections.
The publication of these truths is long overdue. I hope it will lead to the different races of this country becoming more aware of how they are being manipulated to keep a select group of people in power.
Allegations that the May 13, 1969 incident was planned by Umno are not new. The first time the Malaysian public heard about this was when Marina Yusof as a staunch member of the then Semangat 46 made the allegation openly, attracting wide media coverage. Of course, it was categorically denied by Umno leadership then.
Others remembered seeing ‘smoking guns’ such as the Tanjong Karang Silat Sri Gayong Association suddenly undertaking intensive special exercises a few weeks before the incident.
One particular Umno member went back to his home town in Kedah from Kuala Lumpur to search of his ‘serempang merah’ and subsequently was heard reciting the ‘ayat empat kerat’, the mantra of warriors after every prayer. The Kampong Baru mosque in Kuala Lumpur suddenly attracted bigger crowds then ever before even during mid-day prayers.
On another perspective, the Tunku was busy courting his second wife-to-be who was presented to members of the public as his personal assistant. This against background rumours that he had suddenly become obsessed with mahjong.
The Tunku was already clearly overstaying his welcome. His love for drinking and too frequent ‘ronggeng’ sessions and love for horses were eroding away Umno’s credibility among conservative Malays. On being interviewed by the Far Eastern Economic Review of what he thought of the proposal that adulterers be stoned to death, he replied that: ‘I fear that there would not be enough stones left to construct our roads’.
Some speculated that in order to contain the endemic rot within Umno, it was decided by the party’s inner circle that it was imperative to create a major incident as an excuse to clean, consolidate and restore Umno and thence the Malays to their rightful places. Hence, the sacrifice of the innocents on the streets of Kuala Lumpur at the first instance of provocation on the fateful day of May 13, 1969.
The fire of the incident was lit when a procession of lorries loaded with the members of the opposition parties celebrating their election victory passed by Kampong Baru boisterously demonstrating how they would ‘sweep’ Umno out of power with brooms. It all started somewhere near the official residence of the then mentri besar of Selangor which was then in Kampong Baru.
Dear Rustam Ali,Dr Kua’s conclusion is not quite right. Partly right perhaps. The Opposition took over Penang and Selangor was 50-50 …. to give just two examples.
No, I don’t believe it was planned but as far as I know and heard, it was this person who managed to spark off the incident. Perhaps I should say, planned this …. after Penang was wrested from the ruling party and Selangor was divided, 50% Opposition.
You were a member of the Socialist Party in MU so you must have heard or perhaps even a good friend of my brother …. the person who founded Speaker’s Corner. He graduated in 1968 and went abroad to further his education. He was championing the cause of a “Malaysian” Malaysia.
You will also know about Lim Mah Hui, Syed Husin Ali, a very close friend and colleague of my brother ( I have the highest regard for him ) and a few other lecturers mostly from the Dept. of Anthropology and Sociology who spoke out against the gov’t in Great Hall ( DTC ) and were arrested. Well, Mah Hui managed to to to Thailand after hiding in a good friend’s house. These were all academicians of high calibre.
The students who were active members of the Socialist Club were all caught except for H. Rais who also managed to go to Thailand, then to Australia then to Afghanistan and on to ( Belgium? ) and England.
Only one ‘active socialist’ student was not caught ( excluding Rais ), a bloke whose brother was a cop in the Special Branch at that time. I leave the rest to you to speculate and arrive at a conclusion. I believe you know and I also believe the rest of the Malays found out much later as to why and how he ‘escaped’.
A very sad day for the country.
Dato Harun’s ( you know his name ) son was a very close friend of my brother and family. A good person. I remember how with just one call late at night, he rushed over to my place to take my father to the clinic to treat his gash in his leg.
Some local gangsters came to our house to advise us to be ready with any weapon we could find, such as iron pipes. We were to signal any attack by beating pots and pans. That night I heard the security forces shouting at someone at the end of our block, asking him to “keluar.”
The next day I heard gunshots somewhere near a theater: someone with a gun was holed up in his room. He later shot himself, I think.
The Malays were also frightened: parents arrived at the urban school wanting to take their children back because of a rumor that the Chinese were going to attack their children. The HM was absent and I refused their request. So did my Chinese and Indian colleagues until the lessons were over and then, as promised, we escorted the children passed the mainly Chinese shops to the city bus station. For the first time I was scared my own people would do something stupid.
A few days later a Chinese bus driver was stabbed to death somewhere near Shah Alam. Some houses near Meru, some miles from Klang, were burned and looted.
Later, I heard my elder brother was in the KL theater that was sprayed by the army’s machine guns. I heard about a New Zealand nurse raped by some kampung hot heads – wondered if they were Harun’s people. Things quietened down when the troops were replaced by the Sarawak Rangers.
In the aftermath I told my largely kampung students that while the communities were attacking one another, their leaders were having durian parties. But stupid people, especially the town Chinese, were talking about boycotting the Malay durian sellers. I told the few Chinese students to realize that this was a struggle between politicians and they should not be used as pawns.
I witnessed the event with my own eyes.I was 11 years then.For 3 days in a row the Chinese provoked the Malays. They came to our kampung ( keramat )blaring horn on their lorries.There was big “penyapu” on the lorries , they shouted they chanted and behaved like hooligans.
And on the 12th Mei the Malays have had enough. And on the morning of 13th Mei , my father sharpend the parang as well as all the neioghbour.But still the Chinese wanted to celebrate on the maghrib but was blocked by police.
On the evening of 13th Mei Malays gathered at Balai Datuk Harun ( somewhere near present TH Selborn) I was 11 yrs and was still on the street witnessing the event.
Then someone shouted that Malays was attacked at Setapak , and the rest is history.
If anyone were to check on 13th Mei , please do check on the 10, 11 and 12 mei, and why the lorries with DAP Rockets were free to raom into Malay kampung doing a Kurang ajar.
They pushed Malays to the walls and expected flowers.
Whn the Malays retaliated they cannot accepted it.
Malays did not go to chinese villages to provoked ( any one there to challenge me on this) It was the chinese who showed no respect.
I was in class ( Form Six ) at a school in PJ, BBBS in Section 14. Totally oblivious of what was happening. This was then called FEC or Further Education School. Not one of us knew what was just about happening.After class, I walked with my sisters, as usual, to the bust depot, about a 10-minute walk. That was when things didn’t seem right. There were no buses there. But we, along with others, waited, not long though. Nightfall was approaching.
Then the first bus came …. And as far as I can remember, the only noise was the sound of the bus.
We saw the passengers in the bus …. All with blood, some on their faces. To this day I can still picture a Chinese woman, in her 40s I believe, in the bus, holding some kind of a cloth on her face. Her face was covered with blood and all of them were rushing out of the bus.
We still did not know what the heck was happening. Then the passengers told us … still not knowing it was a racial clash between the Malays and the Chinese.
All innocent people in vehicles coming from Bangsar to PJ ….. no chance for them …. As they were stopped by the Kampung Kerenchi mob. Some who knew just zoomed past. Others were all slaughtered. One pregnant woman was massacred. No one was spared by these angry mob.
Kampung Kerenchi was like 10 minutes away from the bus depot. I don’t know how that bus went past but windows were smashed and people in it were hurt . I guess the driver rammed through the mob, only way to get past.
You could not escape going through the Federal Highway without passing and facing the wrath of the inhabitants of Kampung Kerenchi.
It took us all quite a while to realize what exactly was happening. It was a horrible sight. My sisters were there and we had no transport …. The mob may arrive …. All kinds of thoughts raced across my mind. I told my sisters to wait in a hidden place while I ran …. non-stop ( about 4-5 miles ) back home to tell and ask my father to pick them up.
I will never forget that run. As I ran, I started looking everywhere, behind, sideways, in front, to see if there was a mob of any kind.
We didn’t have the luxury of owning a cell phone then.
I managed to reach home and my father drove immediately to the place with me, to pick up my sisters. I thank God all of us were safe.
I think it was a couple of days later when a Curfew was imposed. Shops closed. Then after a few days, the curfew was lifted for an hour for all to get provisions.
I was living in Jalan Gasing at that time. Imagine, curfew and some of us got together and sneaked to another friend’s place, across the road …. Just to play gin rummy! We went there commando style. Heard and saw an army truck ( with orders to shoot to kill ), ducked amongst the lalang and crept to the house and we did the same thing returning home!
What I wrote is a summary. What is more important is, I too, as everyone else do not know who started it all.
Subky Latif, now retired former PAS commissioner for KL, wrote an academic piece for the publication SEAsian Affairs published by the Institute of SEASIAn studies, Singapore in the late 70s. Subky was a journalist then and was very close to Razak and Harun, former MB of Selangor and one of the key figures of the May 13 riots.
Subky wrote that the riots were definitely a coup to topple Tunku Abdul Rahman who was seen by the Malay ultras (Mahathir was one of them) to have sold Malay rights to the Chinese.
Subky said the riots were planned quickly and purposefully though the identity of the real culprits could not be accurately ascertained.
But the riots achieved their main purpose of toppling the Tunku because after that he lost his power and Razak took over, first as NOC director then PM.
And with Razak at the helm, Mahathir who was sacked by Tunku rejoined UMNO, where his Malay Dilemma thesis soon became the key fundamentals of the NEP.
By the way, the name of the British observer was John Slimming. He was a retired British police officer from Hong Kong, was then in KL and he was right in the middle of the riots when it happened. He thus gave a critical bird’s eye view of the riots, giving graphic details as he saw then.
Slimming also said he checked and cross checked to have his observations verified. When his book was banned, he had read the NOC’s white paper on the riots published in the Straits Times a few months after the riots. The govt’s white paper put the entire blame of the riots on the opposition parties, particularly DAP and Gerakan, and absolved UMNO.
Entry filed under: Eyewitness.