We were all losers on May 13 – The Edge
Dec 17, 2012
Michael Chang and Teh Jit Siang were “direct” victims of the May 13 tragedy, having endured the frightening nightmare together with their families. They also lost property to mobs which had gone berserk that evening 43 years ago.
To me, both have the locus standi to talk about May 13. Their take on the subject does matter.
Both strongly believe what happened was “pre-planned”, citing how weapons were made “easily available” to the mobs. And Chang “most definitely agrees” May 13 was about politics.
“Substantially about Umno’s internal politics at that time, (it was) geared to toppling prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman by impatient and overly ambitious Umno leaders, using Chinese economic strength and (the Alliance’s) defeat at the May 10 general election as convenient justifications. The scale of violence which ensued was a case of plans gone wrong,” he said.
As for resurrecting the “ghost” of May 13 for political mileage, Chang had this to say: “Senior politicians from Umno have not failed to regularly raise the spectre of May 13 disturbances during Umno AGMs. I think theirs is a struggle for their personal survival from being prosecuted, than it is a struggle for Malay rights, which were never eroded nor even threatened with erosion.”
And to Chang, the “potential” for May 13 Ver 2.0 to happen is getting “more and more distant as time passes”.
He added: “In my view, it will happen again only if corrupt leaders become so desperate (that they are willing) to sacrifice the safety of the country to escape punishment for all the mega scandals and corruption they have benefited from.”
Harsh words. Angry even.
But the anger is not aimed at the Malays. Both Chang and Lim say they do not “despise” or “hate Malays” despite the bitter experiences they went through during May 13. This I can personally vouch for.
“Our Malay friends came and protected us when the trouble started. It was not Malays in general that caused trouble. Only a section,” said Teh.
Chang’s sister Ng Moi pointed out that “it was our Malay neighbours who came and warned my father of an imminent attack by the mob”.
Her father and another sister then fled to take refuge at Chin Woo Stadium which was used as a relief centre. That “warning” saved their lives.
To Chang, when May 13 happened he was just on the threshold of “gaining emotional and mental maturity”.
“So I was too young to fully comprehend the reasons for May 13 yet at the same time, not too young to see and remember visually the signs of hardship, destruction of property and losses to livelihood. I saw also people’s insecurity, the fears of aftershocks to the main quake of May 13. Thankfully there were no real aftershocks.”
He said pre and post-1969, he had the opportunity to attend “a great school” — St John’s Institution — subsequently to work in various places where “we had Malay colleagues at all levels and ranks” and “I personally have not seen any individual Malay colleague who had given me reason to hate”.
Now all he has is hope: “That more Malays will see non-Malays not as threats but as brothers and vice versa.”
Not too long ago Umno politician and MP for Jerlun Datuk Mukriz Mahathir was reported to have said in Parliament that May 13 “was a blessing in disguise“ in an obvious reference to the “birth” of the New Economic Policy after the disturbances.
Many had expressed “sadness” that a bloodbath could be “likened” to a “blessing”.
Equally sad is that Malays have been constantly told they were the “winners” of the May 13 fight. The reality is we — Malays and Chinese — were all losers that day in 1969.
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on Dec 17, 2012
27 December 2012 | last updated at 12:33AM
‘No basis to claims Umno behind May 13 riots’
KUALA LUMPUR: Umno leaders yesterday warned those making allegations linking the party to the May 13 incident in 1969.
Wanita Umno information chief Datuk Hamidah Osman said the accusations were baseless because Malays and Chinese were equally affected by the riots.
An article that appeared in The Edge on Dec 17 stated that: “Umno’s internal politics at that time was geared to toppling prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman by impatient and overly ambitious Umno leaders, using Chinese economic strength and the defeat of the then Alliance at the May 10 general election as convenient justifications. The scale of violence which ensued was a case of plans gone wrong.”
It quoted two men, who claimed to be “direct” victims.
“On what basis was this statement made?” she asked.
She said it was wrong for them and others to claim that Umno had been trying to remind everyone the May 13 incident would repeat itself.
“It is never our intention. We do not want such an incident to ever occur again and will work towards keeping the peace we share now.”
Umno supreme council member Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah rubbished the claims.
“I reject the notion that Umno was behind it. Using fear to gain political mileage is just outdated and irresponsible. Umno will not resort to such a tactic.”
|Wednesday, 26 December 2012 16:58|
KUALA LUMPUR: Edge Financial Daily has been urged to retract its article related on the May 13 tragedy, in which it was claimed that the incident was triggered by Umno’s plans to topple the late Prime Minister Tuanku Abdul Rahman Putra.
Umno Youth has condemned the accusations and described the article as “an act of provocation.”
The party’s youth wing chief, chief Khairy Jamaluddin said, the article, which was based on accusations and sentiment, was intentionally aired as a means to provoke a reaction towards the Malay party.
He said the bloody tragedy was a ‘black mark’ on the country’s history, and needs to serve as a lesson not only to Umno but also all Malaysians.
“In history, it is already written what happened in this tragedy; everyone also knows who was responsible for it.
“The act of blaming Umno is unacceptable. Not only does it not make sense, it also far off the mark from the truth,” he told Utusan Malaysia.
He was commenting on an article published in the Edge Financial Daily, written by Mohsin Abdullah on Dec 17, which stated that the May 13, 1969 tragedy was planned by Umno to topple the leadership of Prime Minister Tuanku Abdul Rahman Putra.
Khairy explained, anyone who wished to publish an article on sensitive issues such as the May 13 tragedy should instead refer to historical facts first, and not form a partisan conclusion.
He said, any assessment or accusation of such nature should be examined first with full responsibility to avoid confusing the public. Khairy said, historical facts clearly showed that the tragedy was triggered after a provocation-riddled parade by Opposition supporters, following a huge win in that year’s general election.
“Umno strongly condemns the accusations and see it as an act of provocation. We urge that the article be retracted as soon as possible.”
The May 13 truth: Time to declassify documents
If Umno is really interested in the truth, surely the simplest solution is to declassify our own files, especially those kept by the Special Branch, says Kua Kia Soong.
The call by the Umno Youth leader for The Edge to retract their story about “May 13” is laughable when National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) is just about to release their much trumpeted film ‘Tanda Putera’ which is aimed at reinforcing Umno’s version of the incident.
The director of the film has said as much, that the film is aimed at contradicting the thesis of my 2007 title that the racial violence was a veiled coup detat by the emergent state capitalists in Umno against the aristocrats under Tunku Abdul Rahman.
The continued postponement of the film’s release is as perplexing as the continued postponement of the appeal by the two men sentenced for the murder of the Mongolian lass, Altantuya.
Is the government apprehensive about the negative reaction many Malaysians will have toward the film? Has the Special Branch already submitted their intelligence to the government, warning them that this tired old official version of May 13 would only serve to enhance anti-Umno voting behaviour?
The continued postponement for the release of this film is a smack in the face of the film director who appears to have little, if any, artistic freedom in the project at all and who at the same time, seems content to be a compliant accomplice in this historical cover-up.
Open the SB files
Much has been made by non-academic Umno hacks that my 2007 title relied on declassified documents from (foreign) British sources, as if researchers are incapable of separating the facts from fiction.
Malaysian historians, whether they are the official apologists or the more radical, know that the British were more inclined toward supporting Umno and the Alliance than the communists or the opposition as part of the neo-colonialist solution at Independence.
In fact, in the book I pointed out the hypocrisy of the British in justifying an arms deal for the Home Guard when the outside world was condemning the racial violence and the partiality of the Malaysian security forces.
Still, these documents reveal the innermost thoughts of the British officials and their own intelligence. They are the equivalent of the Wikileaks that have been made available to us to read today.
But let’s talk about the elephant in the room – our own classified documents on the May 13 racial violence of 1969.
If Umno is really interested in the truth, surely the simplest solution is to declassify our own files, especially those kept by the Special Branch.
I still remember the cocky boast made by my Special Branch Interrogation Officers when I was detained under the ISA in 1987, that their archives at Bukit Aman are better than any university library in the country. I can believe them.
So is the government interested in what really happened in May 1969: who started the violence; who were the “hidden hands” alluded to in Said Zahari’s immortal poem on the incident; how many casualties were there really?
Or are they more interested in their status quo and peddling the same old story that we no longer believe in?
Malaysians should give their votes only to candidates who are committed to the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act and the repeal of the Official Secrets Act.
Truth and reconciliation
Our country cannot trundle along in this way, relying on Biro Tatanegara-type methods to portray history.
We can no longer allow this dark episode in our history to be used as a political threat to frighten the people every time the status quo feels challenged. In order for this issue to be laid to rest, all the relevant facts need to be made visible and the dead named and honoured through the convening of a Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC). As with the South African TRC,
“… a truth & reconciliation commission is a necessary exercise to enable (us) to come to terms with (our) past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation.”
Apart from the testimonies of all the people affected by the May 13 violence and their families, the May 13 TRC needs to be given access to all the classified documents in the country, especially those in the reportedly excellent Special Branch library and those in the possession of the Cabinet.
Only then will we be able to lay to rest the ghosts of May 13 and finally become a society at peace with itself.
Kua Kia Soong, a former ISA detainee, human rights movement Suaram’s advisor.
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