Malay origin of ‘May 13-as-coup-d’etat’ thesis

September 28, 2008 at 7:38 am Leave a comment

Contrary to the popular impression of those who have not read May 13 – Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969 and think that Dr. Kua Kia Soong is the first person who ‘ invented ‘ a new interpretation or perspective of the 1969 riots, the public origin of the thesis of ‘May 13’ as a coup d’etat can actually be traced to a well-known veteran Malay journalist Haji Subky Latiff who wrote in 1977 that:” 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 “. ( p. 3 )

What Dr. Kua Kia Soong has uniquely done is the discovery of a set of newly declassified British dossiers in London that he thinks confirms what Subky had already observed in 1977. Haji Subky Latiff, whom I personally know as a sifu-class of friend now writes for Harakah. Don’t tell me it was Haji Subky Latiff who actually wrote all those then confidential British diplomatic intelligence on the ‘May 13’ riots.
Of course, another friend of mine former professor Dr. Syed Husin Ali, who launched and critically reviewed Dr. Kua Kia Soong’s book last Sunday at the Kuala Lumpur-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, reportedly does not fully agree with the central thesis of the book.

From: Clare Street Blog

May 13 ‘not A Planned Coup’’,, 14 Oct 2007

by Bede HongPolitician Dr Syed Husin Ali has given a different perspective to Dr Kua Kia Soong’s new book, May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969.He disagreed on the root cause of the Kuala Lumpur race riots, which Dr Kua attributed to a conspiracy by the “ascendant Malay state capitalist class” to overthrow the government. “I beg to differ slightly with Kua on the nature and root of the May 13 incident. Kua seems to regard it as planned coup d’etat by state capitalists, presumably led by Razak to overthrow the feudal or aristocratic rule,” said Syed Husin, who is the deputy president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat.

The former Universiti Malaya sociology and anthropology professor said it was most likely a combination of events which Umno leaders took advantage to specifically oust Tunku Abdul Rahman from the premiership. “There was certainly a stroke or blow against Tunku which ultimately resulted in his removal from power. It was successful, but certainly not a sudden move.”

“To me it appeared that what Razak (former prime minister Tun Abdul Razak) and others did was to take advantage of the ethnic violence which took place, in order to carry out the coup against Tunku, whom they were already dissatisfied with, anyhow.”

“But I have little doubt that the people who precipitated the ethnic violence were Umno leaders who felt threatened they would lose power. But they could get mass Malay support because they managed to spin that if they lose power, it would mean that the Malays as a whole would lose power,” said the former president of Party Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia.

He was speaking to audiences in a packed hall at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall yesterday at a forum on the 1969 race riots. Also present was Dr Kua, researcher K Nagarajan and playwright Beth Yap.

Removal of an unpopular leader
Syed Husin said the capitalist class that Dr Kua referred to did not exist. “As Kua himself admitted [in his book] ‘at the end of the 1960s, Malay capital was negligible’. In other words the Malay capitalist class was perhaps not even in its infancy. The many state capitalist institutions that were formed mainly in the sixties did not succeed well, in fact some failed,” he said.

“I contend that they did not manage to create a crystalized state capitalist, what else a private capitalist class. So, was there really a Malay state capitalist class, which was planning to oust the federalistic of aristocratic leader? Or was this a manifestation an intra-class to wrest power?” he asked.

Syed Husin also disagreed with the suggestion that Tungku Abdul Rahman was perceived as more aristocratic and more “feudal”, therefore triggering Umno leaders to conspire against him. “Tunku and Razak have their roots strong in the traditional upper class structure; although granted that Tunku displayed more feudal characteristic than Razak . “There have been suggestions that many had also begun to dislike him because he was an Anglophile. But, on the other hand, in terms of policies and political orientations his former lieutenants were perhaps only a few degrees less Anglophile.”

He said what was clear “was that there was no overthrow of government.” “In fact the old government continued. Instead, it was essentially the removal of a leader who is no longer popular, because he was perceived to be too close and often conceding to Chinese capitalists,” he said.

An open inquiry
Earlier, Kua said he didn’t think his book “is the definitive book.” “We appeal to victims, their friends and families, servicemen, eyewitnesses, to come forward. We are asking for an open inquiry if not a Royal Commission,” he said. Kua is also a former DAP MP.

He was also detained under the Internal Security Act during the 1987 Ops Lallang. In his book, a result of a three-month research at the Public Records Office in London to study records and declassified documents – Kua suggested that the May 13 riots were by no means a spontaneous outburst of racial violence, as it has been portrayed to the Malaysian public.

“The (official) history of May 13 is full of nonsense, it doesn’t reveal anything. It pins the blame on the opposition party which was not true, they were not the responsible party,” Kua told malaysiakini in a recent interview. “My book shows the responsible party were those ascendent state capitalist class (in Umno), elements within that gave rise and implemented this plan. There was a plan based on the people who assembled at the (Selangor) menteri besar’s house. “There are correspondences and intelligence reports which showed that. Official history has to reveal that truth and not to pin the blame on everybody around who are not to be blamed,” the educationist and social activist stressed.

Kua maintained the May 13 incident was a coup d’etat against the Tunku by the then emergent Malay state capitalists – backed by the police and army – to seize control of the reign of power from the old aristocrats to implement the new Malay agenda.

Official figures said the May 13 riots claimed 196 lives, 180 were wounded by firearms and 259 by other weapons, 9,143 persons were arrested out of whom 5,561 were charged in court, 6,000 persons rendered homeless, at least 211 vehicles and 753 buildings were destroyed or damaged.



Entry filed under: Comment.

May 13, 1969 Revisited. An Old Soldier’s Perspective 13th May 1969

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