Remembering May 13 1969

September 30, 2008 at 12:04 am Leave a comment

My, 2008-05-12

Thirty nine years ago, the country held its general election and the then Alliance government led by Tunku Abdul Rahman suffered it’s worst defeat.

UMNO then lost support of “some “ Malays, MCA lost the Chinese support and MIC lost the support of Indians. Three days later, the May 13 tragedy happened.

Fast forward to 2008. the BN suffered it’s worst polls defeat with UMNO,MCA, MIC losing the support of Malays ,Chinese, Indians respectively. And its been over 60 days since the 12th general election and
we are as peaceful as ever. Thank God. Praise be to the Almighty.

We have buried the ghosts of May 13 hopefully for good, despite racial politics are still being played by certain quarters in their desperate quest for power.

The younger generation do not even know what May 13 is all about. In a way this is good. But they need to learn from past mistakes of the older generation if they are not to experience the pains of the tragedy.

Hence they need to be told. But sadly those who know about the tragedy are still reluctant. After 39 years there are people who feel it’s still taboo to discuss the tragedy.

But the irony, five months after the blood bath (while racial sentiment was still running high ) the “ government” of the day or the National Operation Council as it was called then was brave enough to make public a report of the tragedy itself.

Said Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, then shouldering the burden as Director of Operations :

“ This report has been prepared with the full realization that important matters must no longer be swept under the carpet and the facts of May 13 should be made known to the public”.

The late Tun Razak went on to say :

“ It is intended after the publication of the Report to invite representatives of various groups in this country – political, religious, economic and others – to serve on a Consultative Council, where issues affecting our national unity will be discuss fully and frankly.

In this way it is hoped to reach an understanding and agreement on these national issues that would ensure the future peace, security and unity of our country and that the May 13 tragedy would not recur ” .

Now 39 years there signs of us “opening up’. More are forthcoming in discussing the tragedy with the sole intention of making sure it will never be allowed to happen again just like the wish of the late Tun Razak.

More books are published and easily available in local story. Even the Tunku “ May 13 Before and After’ is back in the market nearly 40 years after it was first penned by the first Prime Minister .

Last year, the book by Suaram’s Dr Kua Kia Soong hit the stores by storm. Entitled simply MAY !3 , it claims to be the “declassified documents on the Malaysian riots of 1969”.

And it can be seen as a book which is “disputing “ the official report of the tragedy issued on October 9 1969.I’ll leave it at that.
I was a 14 year old boy living in Kuala Lumpur’s Kampung Baru when clashes broke out between Malays and Chinese that tragic evening.

And Kampung Baru, a predominant Malay area was considered the “hot bed” of the May 13 tragedy. Hence there were many “things ‘ which I saw and heard.


Abang Hashim, my brother-in-law, who walked miles from his home in Taman Ibu kota Gombak looking for his wife, ( my sister Kak Maya) who had not returned home that dreadful evening .

And he walked all the way to Setapak, passing by groups of angry Chinese youths sharpening parangs and knives. Praise be to Allah he wasn’t set upon. Failing to find his wife under such chaotic and dangerous situation he had no choice but to return home, waited and prayed for her safety.

Kak Maya was returning home from the Telecoms headquarters in Jalan Gereja where she worked when the bus she was in was attacked in Setapak town.

The bus driver abandoned the vehicle. His passengers ran helter skelter. A very frightened Kak Maya froze. One of the attackers ,a Malay youth, parang in hand went up the bus, saw my frightened sister and seeing she too was a Malay took her out of the bus.

By that time a troop of FRU was at the scene. Rounds of tear gas were fired. The youth still parang in hand took my sister to the back roads of Setapak town .

Moments later he “disappeared”. But not before showing my sister the way to the Setapak police station, asking her to take shelter there. That she did. With hundreds of people caught by the disturbances which had broken out earlier.

Later that night, the police sent my sister home to the arms of her loving husband.

I remember also my cousin, Osman, who was working as a driver to a Chinese towkay in Chow Kit.

As soon as trouble erupted the towkay told Osman to hide in the ceiling of his office. Moments later a group of Chinese armed youths came looking for the towkay’s Malay driver.

They were told by the Chinese towkay his Malay driver had run away much earlier. The youths left. Osman was smuggled out days later.

I choose to remember Pak Cik Rahim , my Kampung Baru neighbor. When clashes began that evening there were two Chinese contractors in Pak Cik Rahim’s house. They were doing some renovation to the house that day.

With an anti-Chinese mob outside his home, Pak Cik Rahim hid the two Chinese in his house. The two were also smuggled out of Kampung Baru days later with the help of Armed Forces personnel.

Like Osman’s Chinese towkay, Pak Cik Rahim risked being labeled “traitors to their own race .”

And I remember the many Muhibbah parties organized by the 5th battalion Royal Malay Regiment for the Malay and Chinese communities at the Kampung Baru – Chow kit ‘border’.

Surely you agree there are lessons to be learned from all that.

Even in times of trouble and unhappiness, there’s passion and love.

 (By MOHSIN ABDULLAH, Editor in Chief ntv7 News and Current Affairs and a blogger


Entry filed under: Eyewitness.

13th May 1969 Facts don’t lie

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