Society has changed, May 13 will not replay
WHEN Umno Wanita chief Datuk Seri Sharizat Abdul Jalil warned on Nov 28 that “May 13 (1969)” may recur if Umno becomes weak, many would recall the quasi-official explanation for the 1969 ethnic riot: Non-Malay or Chinese voters had abandoned the Alliance.
It is quasi-official because it has never been the official reason of the tragedy but in the eve of almost every post-1969 election — with the exception of 2004 — similar reminders have been heard.
In a month before the 2008 elections, MCA deputy minister Chew Mei Fun reminded the Chinese about the “1969 lesson”.
But what really happened in the 1969 elections? Who abandoned the Alliance (the predecessor of Barisan Nasional)?
Because voting has been — and still — is secret, we can never know the truth. But we can make educated guesses. Given the alignment between parties and ethnicity, we may deduce the voting pattern of the ethnic communities by looking at the vote shares of the parties they supported.
Since direct elections were not held in Sabah and Sarawak in 1964, and also the May 13 riot erupted when only the elections in the peninsula (West Malaysia) were completed, the comparison shall be focused on the peninsula.
While the Malayan Alliance was represented by the same parties — Umno, MCA and MIC — in 1964 and 1969, the opposition camp had witnessed significant evolution of parties.
In 1964, the opposition parties predominantly supported by the non-Malay voters were the Socialist Front (SF), United Democratic Party (UDP), People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and People’s Action Party (PAP).
By 1969, SF became defunct with its two main components having gone separate ways over the issue of language amongst others. The Chinese-dominant Labour Party decided to abandon the parliamentary path and boycotted the elections while the Malay-led Partai Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) continued to fight in only six constituencies.
UDP leader — Lim Chong Eu — had also built a new vehicle in Gerakan while PAP was succeeded by Democratic Action Party (DAP) after the expulsion of Singapore in 1965. Only PPP remained the same.
In contrast, the Malay opposition parties underwent smaller changes between 1964 and 1969. While Pan-Malaysia Islam Party (PAS) stayed on, Parti Negara went defunct soon after the demise of founder Datuk Onn Jaafar, while PRM reemerged as a Malay-based party in 1969.
The table below shows that contrary to the quasi-official explanation and popular belief, the non-Malays did not seem to have abandoned the Alliance in 1969 much more than they did in 1964.
Party vote shares in Peninsular Malaysia in the 1964 and 1969 elections
|Parties||1964 vote %||1969 vote %||1964-1969, change in vote %|
|= SF (1964) *||16.08%||–||16.08%|
|= PAP (1964) / DAP (1969)||2.05%||
|= UDP (1964) / Gerakan(1969)||4.29%||8.48%||+4.19%|
|= Parti Negara (1964)||0.36%||-0.36%|
|= PRM (1969) *||1.28%||1.28%|
* PRM was a member of SF in 1964, together with the Labour Party
The vote share of the non-Malay-based opposition parties remain the same at 26%. Their victory in 22 constituencies in 1969, a spike from six in 1964, was mainly due to their success in avoiding multi-corner contests.
In 1964, the non-Malay-based opposition parties were competing against each other in 31 out of 102 constituencies.
The real desertion of the Alliance in 1969 happened in the Malay constituencies. The Malay-based opposition parties increased by 10%, from 15% to 25%. Because their votes were more efficiently translated into seats in 1964, this brought only an increase of three seats, from nine to 12.
In this sense, Sharizat was right — Umno was weakened. Its vote share dropped by nearly five percentage points, from 38.62% to 33.98%. In sharp contrast, PAS’ vote share increased by 9%, from 14.64% to 23.74%.
The Umno:PAS vote share dropped from about 5:2 in 1964 to 3:2. Because of its disconnect from the masses, the aristocratic Umno would lose its claim to the sole representative of the Malays if this trend continued.
This means the non-Malays could enter a power-sharing deal with other Malay parties like PAS. They could accept the Malays’ political dominance without Umno.
Surely, some Umno-voting Malays would be upset, as Shahrizat said. But why should those PAS-voting Malays believe that their votes against Umno have weakened themselves?
Now, if the coming elections make some Umno supporters upset, will the blood-stained racial clash of May 13, 1969, recur?
The answer is no.
In 1969, PAS was not aiming to replace Umno and rule the country. They did not take the advantage to woo the distressed non-Malays. In fact, PAS joined Umno in BN in 1974 on the ground of communal unity, only to bitterly leave the coalition four years later.
In 2012 or 2013, May 13 will not replay because the Malaysian society has changed. If Chinese Malaysians are targeted in post-election riot, very likely they will be protected by their Malay friends, acquaintances and even strangers.
Many Chinese protesters who joined the Bersih 2.0 rally remember how their Malay counterparts asked them to flee the police first because “if there must be blood-shed, let it be the Malays’ blood, because we cannot afford another May 13”.
Last Sunday, when 20,000 Green Walkers marched through Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, which was a stone’s throw away from Kampung Baru where May 13 started, there was only a jovial and carnival mood, no fear, no hatred.
In fact, their leader Wong Tack was flanked by a Buddhist monk and a kopiah-wearing Malay elder Haji Ishak Surin when marching towards Dataran Merdeka. Ishak has been in the forefront of the protests to preserve Jalan Sultan (or China Town).
To those who care much about May 13, the poor spectre has been stepped on and it died on July 9 last year. And it was buried deeper by subsequent footsteps of citizens.
Dr Wong Chin Huat, political scientist, was former sociology lecturer at Monash University (Malaysia). He is currently attached to Penang Institute, a think tank linked to the Penang government.
Note: The Bersih 2.0 rally was a demonstration in Kuala Lumpur held on July 9, 2011 as a follow-up to the 2007 Bersih rally. The rally, organised by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) headed by former president of the Bar Council Ambiga Sreenevasan, was pushing the Election Commission of Malaysia to ensure free and fair elections in Malaysia.
Police report lodged against Shahrizat
An NGO feels that the Wanita Umno chief is threatening the non-Malay by saying a weak Umno would lead to the repeat of May 13 violence.
“Shahrizat’s statement was meant to threaten the non-Malays. She was trying to say if the non-Malays vote for the opposition and this results in a weak Umno, a race riot similar to the violence on May 13, 1969 will happen,” Tamilar Action Force head A Vethaamoorthy said.
Leading a group of 12 members to lodge the report at the Sentul police station today, he said Shahrizat should be charged with threatening the public and instigating racial divide.
Shahrizat raised the spectre of May 13 in her speech at the Wanita Umno annual general assembly on Wednesday.
She said that a weak Umno would spread uneasiness among the Malay and possibly spark a May 13 racial bloodshed.
“Do we want such a terrible situation repeated in our country? Of course, we do not,” she said.
“By giving this kind of statement, it shows how desperate Umno is,” Vethaamoorthy said.
He said the May 13 incident is already history, and the leaders of the country should now realise that the people have the right to choose who they want in the general election.
“It won’t help by making this kind of unnecessary remark,” he said.
Several Pakatan Rakyat MPs including M Kulasegaran and Khalid Samad have also criticised Shahrizat, calling her “shameless” while saying that Malaysians were now more united than in 1969.
Friday, December 7, 2012
Malays will be biggest losers of a May 13 repeat
As the countdown to the elections begins to take place in earnest, we are getting more and more calls from desperate and irresponsible politicians drawing attention to the possibility of a repetition of the infamous May 13 violence if the election results should go against the expectations of various political parties and interests.
The fact that these calls are directed towards the bumiputera component of our population, are expressed in the national language, and are widely carried in the Malay mass media and Internet world makes me suspicious of the intentions of these politicians who claim that they are simply doing Malaysians a favour by warning of the backlash should the election outcome not bring about a continuation of the present power structure.
To my mind, these politicians are not only applying crude pressure on the Malay electorate to vote for them, but they are also blatantly revealing their trump card – that violence, chaos and political instability will automatically erupt in the event that the opposition parties win the elections.
This blackmailing of our electorate as well as incitement of disruptive and hooligan elements in our society is totally unacceptable.
Various groups such as academicians and individual politicians from the opposition have spoken up against such fear mongering in the recent past.
However, not enough has been done by members of the business community and other professional organisations to speak out against these warnings and threats, although they will be the main losers should another May 13 episode takes place.
Much more needs to be done by key stakeholders to condemn the individuals and organisations making these threats as the risk of them becoming self-fulfilling prophesies increases by the day.
Sharizat’s not so veiled threat
The latest round of May 13 invocation took place at the Umno general assembly meeting held recently.
In that meeting, the Wanita chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil warned that the May 13 tragedy might be repeated should Umno became weak and not be able to overcome its challenges.
That this warning was not made obliquely but was served up as part of her written opening speech testifies to the way in which this kind of desperado thinking has become the mainstream in certain political circles.
What is more worrying is that both Najib Abdul Razak and Muhyiddin Yassin as Umno president and deputy president, and more importantly as the prime minister and deputy prime minister, failed to repudiate or rebuke Sharizat for fear mongering.
Instead the deputy prime minister attempted to defend the speech by explaining that chaos will be inevitable under Pakatan Rakyat rule.
Other Umno leaders, notably Umno vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein, have even gone so far as to dismiss the attention brought by Shahrizat’s May 13 statement as a case of “spinning” and to put the blame on a pro-opposition media and other opposition elements.
“Shahrizat has already told me that this will be another matter that will be used for spinning by certain quarters, just because it coincides with the general assembly”, the country’s minister in charge of internal security is reported to have responded in his dismissal of public concern when questioned about it.
Even if it is a case of overreaction by the media and a fearful public, it is hoped that Sharizat and her colleagues will not play with fire or pander to the psyche of insecurity found in Umno party members by constantly harping on the possible recurrence of 13 May and even worst, by condoning or justifying violent and catastrophic racial riots as they appear to be doing in the run up to the elections.
Aftershocks of electoral violence
Should there be bloodshed and violence arising from the next elections, it will not be non-Malays primarily who will lose out or be hurt by the collapse of the share market and the larger economy as we see a rush to exit the country by local and foreign businesses and investors.
It will be all Malaysians, especially those who are now enjoying the good life. The biggest losers will be the Malays.
Malays must bear in mind that in the 1969 incident while they may have had less to lose, today the situation is completely different.
There is Malay control of a major part of the commanding heights of our economy such as the banks, manufacturing, hi-tech industry, and the largest listed companies.
These gains, which have given birth to the creation of a sizable Malay middle and upper class, will be put to great risk should there be another May 13. They may even disappear as the economic aftershocks and loss of economic confidence spiral out of control.
Another May 13 is unthinkable and unforgivable except to those who are so blinded by ambition and their lust for power that they need to keep reminding themselves and their supporters of that horrific possibility.
However, should it happen, unlike in the first May 13 incident, it will be clear as to who are the instigators.
I trust this article will encourage more stakeholders, bankers, business leaders, academicians and leaders of all political parties to speak out and condemn those who are using the threat of another May 13 if there is a change of government.
The Malays must remember that even if Pakatan wins control of the government, there will be more Malay members of Parliament and the Malays are the biggest losers if there is another May 13 riots.
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