May 13 a class war, says Mahathir (Malaysiakini)

June 17, 2010 at 10:53 pm 3 comments

Former premier Mahathir Mohamad today claimed that the May 13 racial riots which took place in 1969 was a “class war” between the rich and the poor. NONEIn his one-hour keynote address at the Melayu Bangkit rally in Kuala Terengganu this morning, Mahathir recounted the reason why he thinks May 13 and similar popular uprisings in other countries have taken place. “Those uprisings are caused by the development of socialist ideas and the communist thought which led to the disenfranchised poor rising to attack the rich. A class war caused by the huge gap between the rich and the poor which killed millions… And these people are from the same race,” he said. He explained that the problem is compounded in Malaysia as the divide between the haves and have-nots is made worse by the fact that both sides often come from different races. This disparity of wealth, he said, is something the nation needs to address and correct lest events like May 13 is repeated. However, Mahathir stressed that the non-Malays who have been graciously granted citizenship must understand that the Malays rose (in 1969) because they were losing out economically. The Malays, he said, do not want to take what belongs to non-Malays but just want their fair share. Mahathir also admitted that he believes that Malays will not perform in a pure meritocracy system, thus must be protected by the system to ensure that they – as “historical masters of the land” – are not left behind. “I am not racist, I have also done a lot to help other races,” he claimed, decrying those who label him as such. He added that he is highlighting the issue because it needs to be addressed for the good of the nation and not because of any racist undertones. ‘Malays in crisis’ Mahathir then warned that the Malays are now in a stage of “crisis” and they would follow the same fate like their kind in Singapore, a minority group which is not protected by the government, if they don’t act now. “If we don’t act rationally, one day we will be like the Malays in Singapore. A people that are truly powerless. So they have to bow down to another race,” said the former premier. NONEHe further lamented the fate of the Malays, saying their political support has been fragmented between Umno and Malay-based opposition parties. He said this was a dangerous precedent which weakened the Malays further, putting them at risk of losing their place in their own land. Former premier Mahathir Mohamad today claimed that the May 13 racial riots which took place in 1969 was a “class war” between the rich and the poor.

NONEIn his one-hour keynote address at the Melayu Bangkit rally in Kuala Terengganu this morning, Mahathir recounted the reason why he thinks May 13 and similar popular uprisings in other countries have taken place.

“Those uprisings are caused by the development of socialist ideas and the communist thought which led to the disenfranchised poor rising to attack the rich. A class war caused by the huge gap between the rich and the poor which killed millions… And these people are from the same race,” he said.

He explained that the problem is compounded in Malaysia as the divide between the haves and have-nots is made worse by the fact that both sides often come from different races.

This disparity of wealth, he said, is something the nation needs to address and correct lest events like May 13 is repeated.

However, Mahathir stressed that the non-Malays who have been graciously granted citizenship must understand that the Malays rose (in 1969) because they were losing out economically.

The Malays, he said, do not want to take what belongs to non-Malays but just want their fair share.

Mahathir also admitted that he believes that Malays will not perform in a pure meritocracy system, thus must be protected by the system to ensure that they – as “historical masters of the land” – are not left behind.

“I am not racist, I have also done a lot to help other races,” he claimed, decrying those who label him as such.

He added that he is highlighting the issue because it needs to be addressed for the good of the nation and not because of any racist undertones.

‘Malays in crisis’

Mahathir then warned that the Malays are now in a stage of “crisis” and they would follow the same fate like their kind in Singapore, a minority group which is not protected by the government, if they don’t act now.

“If we don’t act rationally, one day we will be like the Malays in Singapore. A people that are truly powerless. So they have to bow down to another race,” said the former premier.

NONEHe further lamented the fate of the Malays, saying their political support has been fragmented between Umno and Malay-based opposition parties.

He said this was a dangerous precedent which weakened the Malays further, putting them at risk of losing their place in their own land.

Mahathir also said that cancellation of the May 13 rally was due to the short-sightedness of some parties who feared that the gathering of Malays on the date of racial riots in 1969 may provoke insurrection.

He explained that the date was chosen by coincidence and without ulterior motives.

Mahathir added that people need to be reminded of events in history “if we are to learn from it”.

“Learn from history or we are doomed to repeat it,” said Mahathir, quoting the popular adage.

Irony abounds at ‘Bangkit’ rally

By most counts the ‘Melayu Bangkit’ gathering in Kuala Terengganu yesterday turned out to be a damp squib.

The rest of the country had eyed its approach with wariness, ever since the event was ballyhooed by its boosters as a barometer of supposedly rising Malay discontent with the way things are.

NONEIts initial date of staging – on May 13 – despite its promoters’ disclaimers, was chosen to tie the gathering to an infamous antecedent: the May 13, 1969 racial riots that are lodged in the collective memory as a trauma that must never recur.

In the event, in its actual staging and in what was said at the gathering, the rally turned out to be more amusing than worrisome.

Not least because of what its stellar attendee – former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad – suggested as the cause of the event that was evoked when the rally was first mooted and its initial date set.

Mahathir said that the May 13 riots were an example of class conflict between the rich, mainly non-Malays, and the poor, mostly Malays, of Malaysia of the pre-1969 era.

He held that, historically, conflicts like May 13 would occur given stark disparities in wealth between the haves and the have-nots in society.

NONEThere was considerable irony in that at about the same time Mahathir was holding forth in Kuala Terengganu on the causes of the May 13 riots, economist Dr Jomo Sundram was airing his views on the 10th Malaysia Plan to Pakatan Rakyat MPs in a briefing room in Parliament.

Jomo offered an opinion on the target of 30 percent equity to be acquired by the bumiputera community that was set by the Plan. He predicted it was unattainable.

The well-known economist held that there was no incentive for bumiputeras to hold on to shares allocated to them because of a trend fostered by Mahathir when he was PM (1981-2003).

Jomo claimed that it was Mahathir who allowed shares reserved for bumis to be monopolised by a rich coterie who went on to sell the same when offered a good price.

Thus, opined Jomo, bumiputera equity in the Malaysian economy stagnated at around 18 percent to 22 percent – figures of bumi holdings at the time when Mahathir became PM – for some three decades because of government coddling of a plutocratic few.

Dr M’s monopolistic capitalism

In other words, Mahathir who had a socialist explanation for the causal factors behind May 13, had promoted monopolistic capitalism as remedy, a strain that devours the very class it seeks to raise.

Words not matching up to deeds and vice-versa are nothing surprising coming from the political set.

But in Mahathir’s case, he is not so much concerned to present valid arguments than to offer a subversive perspective in which differences between true and false, valid and invalid, fallacious and factual, real and imaginary, would melt or any rate lose their previous significance.

The fact, given the record of what he has said and done, that he is still regarded as an oracle of sorts is testimony of a more insidious disparity in our society, the disparity between those who can say anything at all and get away with it and those who can’t.

//

TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for close on four decades. He likes the occupation because it puts him in contact with the eminent without being under the necessity to admire them.

Race hatred a factor in ‘May 13’

by HELEN ANG (Malaysiakini)

This photograph (below, right) of the PAS muktamar last weekend shows Malay men stepping on the Star of David. Now how would you feel if it were the cross or crescent? The event organizer deliberately etched the religious symbol of Judaism on the floor so that those present could not avoid trampling on it.

Two weeks ago at an anti-Israel protest, the demonstrators chanted ‘Allahu akhbar’ and ‘Khaibar ya Yahud’ (the Arabian Jews were subjugated when Khaibar was conquered), marching from NONEKampung Baru. Sidenote: Prime real estate slated for development, Kg Baru will remain “100 percent bumiputera” as its landowners strongly object to non-Malays investing in this area located in the heart of KL.

Another popular rally cry by the Malays is ‘Yahudi laknatullah’ or accursed Jews. Then there was that brilliant idea of a nationwide ‘Teach children to hate Israel’ campaign in schools, mooted by Hishamuddin Hussein back when he was education minister.

If you read Malay media and Malay blogosphere, you’d be acquainted with the fevered pitch of race hate exhibited against Jews.

Yet even in English, media coverage is lopsidedly anti-Israel. On June 7 alone, The Star online carried nine articles that made it proudly deserving of the tagline ‘The Palestinian People’s Paper’. A day earlier on June 6, it published not one, not two but three! opinion-editorials excoriating the Jewish state – I wrote about that piece of top brass initiative in my CPI article ‘Umno heroes and Star spear Israel’.

The frenzy of race hate in cyberspace is patent each time the Israeli-Palestinian conflict flares up and Malaysian blogs start bashing Israel. “MM, most of the time, you only posted international news about Gaza and Palestinians here, very few others. I bet your whole world spin around that tiny land?” one reader calling himself ‘Joseph’ wrote in Marina Mahathir’s blog last Dec 30, directing his comment at her.

However the hatred manifested is not confined to anti-Jewish sentiments. In some of the Malay-ultra blogs, expressions of hate are targeted at Chinese and Indians. The common denominator of these blogs is that they all have Che Det (Mahathir Mohamad’s blog) on their blogroll.

‘Mahathiracism’ speech

The May 13 death toll was predominantly Chinese, hacked to pieces. Malays were the aggressors armed with parangs.

It is a monumental task to untangle distortion about the massacre because the ketuanan melayu hegemony tightly controls official storylines permitted public airing. However, through studying the coverage of Gaza as a present-day comparison, we can get an inkling of the one-sidedness on what content the Malaysian public is encouraged or allowed access to.

It is fair to assume that a lot of information has been obscured, withheld or doctored, be it about Israel, Palestine or May 13.

NONEIn such a vacuum and hedging on our absence of knowledge, Mahathir Mohamad (left) in his ‘Gertak’ speech attempted to turn the Malays into May 13 victims – instead of the perpetrators that they were – by calling the bloodletting a “class war”.

It is not to say that the economics of class struggle as well as the politics of divide-and-rule did not play a part in precipitating the outbreak of racial violence.

What I’m saying is Mahathir’s motives are suspect since he has never been a socialist icon like Ahmad Boestamam, Pak Sako and the like. His posturing now as a champion of the working class rings hollow, especially when Umno was led by the elites just as its Alliance partner MCA had the reputation as a towkay party.

A major factor for the mass killings to have happened – really, it takes the utmost extremism for a man, or a mob to beat a victim till he bleeds to death – is that the Chinese were nothing short of hated by the Kg Baru amoks.

And lately, loathing again has been fanned after the opposition made great strides in the 2008 general election, similar to May 13 occurring after opposition gains in the 1969 GE.

This suspicion of minorities is egged on by stereotyping. Mahathir wrote in 1970’s ‘Malay Dilemma’: “The Jews, for example, are not merely hook-nosed but understand money instinctively. … And the Chinese are not just almond-eyed people, but are also inherently good businessmen.”

His keynote address in Terengganu on Monday is a facsimile of the Dilemma screed. After 40 years, Mahathir is still repeating his sly insinuation that Chinese, as a race and collective, were filthy rich in the 1960s.

While the above is disingenuous, it becomes quite dangerous for him to be trotting out accusations that Chinese today are still robbing the riches of Tanah Melayu. The gist of Mahathir’s continual agitprop bodes ill for peace and stability, particularly if Malaysia were to go bankrupt in a few years and prompting social unrest.

‘Gertak’ is to intimidate

The ketuanan melayu demagoguery conveniently ignores the fact that prior to 1969, British suppression of the communist insurgency saw 1.2 million Chinese resettled in more than 500 New Villages which were little more than shantytowns fenced behind barbed wire.

How could those one million-plus Chinese villagers in the peninsula – out of a population totalling only 10.5 million in 1969 including Sabah and Sarawak – be considered prosperous in such huge numbers as to provoke the ‘rich Chinese-poor Malay’ class war that Mahathir invokes?

Lest it be forgotten, the Chinese came to this land as coolies. The dictionary does not define ‘coolie’ as millionaire. A great number of the community remained the underclass eking out a meagre living.

But even before the ex-premier’s devotees turned up at the stadium for their dose of vintage ‘Mahathiracism’, the Gertak gathering already started from a lie. Its organizer Razali Idris claimed he chose the acronym Gertak meaning ‘bridge’ [sic] for his group Gerakan Kebangkitan Rakyat because it “embodied all that they stood for”, i.e. “to connect” the races and foster harmony.

Oi! Jangan nak tipu lah. In the Terengganu dialect, bridge is ‘getok’. The pronunciation of ‘getok’ is quite distinguishable from ‘gertak’. And Gertak itself was a mono-racial rally scheduled for May 13 – a date picked by Mahathir himself.

The intent to intimidate was clear from the outset, and framing the event as ‘Malay uprising’ does not leave room for doubt. The identical ‘Melayu bangkit’ battlecry was a front-page banner headline not too long ago in Utusan Malaysia, and unmistakably to incite.

Everyone bumi except Chinese

At the Gertak occasion also, Mahathir as head of the Perdana Global Peace Foundation was presented the proceeds from the Fly2Gaza drive, totalling more than RM120,000. Interesting isn’t it, that the Malay supremacist showboating just had to tie in with the Malaysian Muslims’ pet cause?

NONEThe Kuala Terengganu (KT) venue of Gertak (right) may have something to do with the lukewarm response the event received.

Terengganu is 95 percent Malay in population. There were no May 13 tensions there or in its East Coast cousin Kelantan which has a similar demographic. May 13 happened not in the Malay heartland but in Kuala Lumpur where the populace was racially half-half.

By the same token, the Kg Medan racial clash would not have happened in KT or Kota Bharu because the minorities there are not significant enough to be a threat or to cause friction. This could be the reason why Mahathir when in Terengganu (that has only 2.6% Chinese) failed to draw the crowd the organisers wanted.

Adding to that, the Gertak gathering was held in the morning of a working day during World Cup season – which football fans have waited four years for. The turnout might be a different story another time, another place though … say, in Kg Baru.

The institutional basis of this country that makes it almost a point of honour to discriminate against Chinese and Indians rests on racism, period.

Make no bones about this selectivity in discrimination as Malaysians of Siamese and Portuguese descent are inexplicably categorized bumiputera, although Article 153 of the federal constitution denotes the ‘special position’ as referring to Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak.

‘Bumiputera’ is a coined word facilitating the suppression of Chinese and Indians. I’m just surprised that some women rights sub-committee from political groups like Kimma (comprising wannabe princes and princesses of the soil) has not yet campaigned for the use of ‘bumiputeri’.

Umno heroes and Star spear Israel

//

HELEN ANG used to be a journalist. In future, she would like to be a practising cartoonist. But for the present, she is in the NGO circles and settling down to more serious writing and reading of social issues.

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May 13 threat: a cheap political gimmick (Hornbill Unleashed) Soi Lek to DPM: Move with the times, drop May 13 talk

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