Facts don’t lie
Sunday June 3, 2007 (SundayStar)
Heres another report debunking the declassified official reports of British Embassy personnel to the British Foreign Office that the incident was engineered by Umno members who were out to topple Tunku Abdul Rahman.
Point of View
With TUN HANIF OMAR
We must not allow ancient animosities and fears to prejudice our march towards common sense and a common nationhood.
DATUK Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, the Perlis Mufti, continues to be a refreshing exponent of an effort to return to an interpretation of Islam that is freer of certain “protective” biases and prejudices that had crept into it resulting from the need to confront the periodic assaults against the Islamic ummah, states and empires by anti-Islam forces.
He said (The Star, May 11) that it’s all right for Muslims to use the crockery and cutlery of their non-Muslim friends, presumably those that have been washed since they were last used to hold, poke and cut into non-halal food.
The plates, cups and cutlery, having been washed are no longer tainted and Muslims, he said, should not be so overly cautious of what is not obvious and impede their ability to strengthen their rapport with their non-Muslim friends.
The biases and prejudices arose out of a perceived need in the past to distance the ummah from the hostile non-Muslims, particularly Western crusaders and colonialists.
I remember how, even after the May 13, 1969 racial incident in Kuala Lumpur, a Muslim group, since branded deviant, had propagated a very restrictive interpretation of the halal doctrine so that Muslims would switch from patronising non-Muslim goods and food for those that they were selling.
At the same time, some Chinese groups propagated the boycott of Malay goods including batik shirts and durians.
Thank God, we had all come out of that post-1969 mutually destructive boycott syndrome to resume our march towards common sense and a common nationhood. We must not allow ancient animosities and fears to prejudice this march.
I was taken aback by the statement of Dr Kua Kia Soong at the launching of his new book on the May 13, 1969 incident based on the reports of British Embassy personnel to the British Foreign Office that the incident was engineered by Umno members who were out to topple Tunku Abdul Rahman. He asked for a commission to be set up to get to the truth. Shockingly he is alleged to have added that, unless this is done or unless the truth is out, there cannot be national unity, or something to that effect.
At 38 years old, I think this is too “ancient” an animosity to be allowed to hold national unity to ransom. Should the past be allowed to destroy our future? This is not to trivialise the incident, the deaths of about 189 people, mostly innocent, I believe, and the injuries to many more.
The figures can be obtained from the Tun Abdul Razak, Director of Operation’s, National Operations Council (NOC) Report, The May 13, 1969 Incidents.
The report also gave the more immediate reasons why and how the outbreak started and its consequences. Actually, the racial animosity had been building up seriously from as far back as 1964 as a result of racial politics – Chinese education issues, Chinese stateless-persons issue, land titles to new villagers, land for expansion of new villages, the Malaysian Malaysia concept where non-Malay leaders challenged the bumiputra status of the Malays. Of course, Malay politicians did not take all these lying down and the debates and public accusations and counter-accusations in Parliament, state assemblies and at the open-air public rallies of those days poisoned national unity.
Is the NOC Report accurate without touching on the plot to topple Tunku? To me it is. The unhappiness that some Umno members had with Tunku by 1969 was real but it did not feature as a cause of the May 13, 1969 incident.
The incident, however, sharpened the unhappiness of the Malays with Tunku and fuelled the movement to replace him with his deputy, Tun Abdul Razak.
As the coordinator of the Special Branch investigations into the incident, and having read all the statements from eye-witnesses which formed the basis of the NOC Report, I am convinced of its accuracy.
The statistics couldn’t be wrong because Tun Razak, appalled by the casualty figures reported in foreign broadcasts and newspapers, appointed a Chinese Minister, Khaw Kai Boh, former Director of the Singapore Special Branch to be in charge of collecting and accounting for the dead bodies. The police in turn appointed Chief Inspector Pang of the KL courts to be in charge of the burials of all the dead.
When the draft of the NOC Report prepared jointly by me, Encik (now Datuk) Hamzah Majid, then seconded to NOC from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Colonel (later General Tan Sri and Chief of the Armed Forces) Ghazali Che Mat, PSO Military on NOC Staff, was first presented to the Director of Operations and members of the NOC, Datuk (now Tan Sri) Hamzah Abu Samah, the new Minister of Information and a president of the sessions court before that, expressed his reluctance to accept it. “ I will not lend myself to a fabrication,” he said, because the draft exonerated Datuk Harun Idris. Tun Sambanthan supported him. The Minister of Home Affairs, Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman suggested, “Since Hamzah and Sambanthan are the Doubting Thomases, let’s make them joint-chairmen to go through all the evidence with Hanif and his boys, and come up with their findings.”
This was agreed to and the drafting team found ourselves closeted with these two members of NOC.
The outcome was that the draft came out unscathed and the Doubting Thomases declared that they were happy to accept the Report as it was. Then it was shown to Eric White & Associates for advice. They suggested that certain relative adjectives such as “very” be dropped. We had no quarrel with that. They suggested that perhaps the number of dead and injured could be jazzed up to bring it closer to foreign press speculations. This, we refused to accept. Facts are facts. If people wouldn’t believe them then it was just too bad.
Entry filed under: Facts on May 13.