‘Tanda Putera’, trust and reconciliation — Kua Kia Soong
Sound views and proposals from Dr. Kua
June 06, 2013
JUNE 6 — “Tanda Putera” (TP), the film that was not considered fit for general release (in case there was a backlash from Chinese voters?) before the recent general election, is soon to be shown in a cinema near you. Obviously, as the official reasoning probably goes, after the “Chinese tsunami” Barisan Nasional (BN) couldn’t go any lower in terms of Chinese votes!
The government would be wise to ask: is it a step forward for Malaysians to gain access to the truth about the May 13 bloodshed and take us on the road to reconciliation as the prime minister had vowed soon after the recent general election? I think not. Does the film call for forgiveness, for generosity of spirit or does it allow old wounds to fester?
Of course, it is a film-maker’s right to make a film. It is her right to freedom of expression. But this film happens to be financed by the official Finas, i.e. with taxpayers’ money! It is amazing the gall and presumptuousness of Umno to use public resources to finance projects such as this and even institutions such as UiTM that are blatantly racially discriminatory.
Not surprisingly, the director of “TP” has fallen in with the “official” version that the May 13 incident was a “spontaneous outbreak” of violence between “the Malays” and “the Chinese” after “the Malays” were supposedly provoked by “the Chinese”. This conclusion is based on interviews with the director of “TP” in the online media. In this official rendition, the victory parade by the opposition parties in 1969 is often portrayed as having been conflated with an earlier demonstration by the Labour Party calling for a boycott of the 1969 general election because of the pre-election incarceration of practically all their leaders under the ISA.
The underlying justification for the pogrom is that the Chinese victims got what was coming to them through their “insensitivity” to “Malay feelings”. And since then, this fascist threat has been raised every time the non-Malays demand civil rights or openly support the opposition coalition. The recent warning about a “Malay backlash” to the so-called “Chinese tsunami” by a former Appeal Court judge is symptomatic of this fascist mode of thinking.
TRUTH # 1: Were these parades so provocative that they were the trigger for the pogrom?
From the declassified documents at the British Archives that I researched, they were not. The British were more likely to be pro-Alliance rather than pro-opposition since after all, the Alliance leaders were the local custodians of British interests in the post-independent Malaysia. But perhaps the director of “TP” or Umno has other more credible evidence from our local sources to prove my evidence wrong. Let a Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) investigate.
TRUTH # 2: Was May 13 in fact orchestrated by those elements within Umno to overthrow the Tunku and to serve their own agenda as the new ruling class of Malaysia?
This theory is by no means exclusive to me and recently more disaffected Umno leaders have come out to support this account. Again, a TRC can subpoena many of the actors, such as Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who are still alive today. Unfortunately, others such as the former Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Harun Idris and the former Home Minister Ghazali Shafie are no longer around but their families and other contemporaries may know the true story.
TRUTH # 3: How many and who were the victims of the May 13 pogrom?
We owe it to those who perished during the pogrom to at least register their unfortunate demise and grant some reparation to their loved ones. Is there any truth to the stories about mass graves in Sungai Buluh? There are other stories about corpses being tarred to conceal their ethnic identities. If these stories are true, their bodies should be exhumed and identified and the cause of death determined. These are facts that a Truth & Reconciliation Commission can uncover about events at that time through listening to testimonies from victims’ families and friends; doctors and nurses on duty in the hospitals; Red Cross staff who played an important role then; policemen and soldiers on duty; politicians and journalists who covered the event, and of course our ubiquitous Special Branch. Public institutions such as hospitals, the police and special branch should be made to open their files to the TRC.
May 13 Truth & Reconciliation Commission
If the prime minister is truly interested in reconciliation after the GE13 as he has pledged, releasing “TP” is unlikely to produce the desired effect. I will proffer an unreserved apology if I am proven wrong…
Compared to South Africa’s acrimonious and long saga of apartheid rule, Malaysia’s “May 13 Incident” will not incur the time and efforts that South Africa’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission went through.
South Africa’s TRC was established by the new South African government in 1995 to help bring about a reconciliation of its people by uncovering the truth about human rights violations that had occurred during the period of apartheid. Its emphasis was on getting to the truth and not on prosecuting individuals for past crimes. The commission was open to the public and allowed victims or their loved ones to tell their story. These documented accounts then became public record, which helps deter the possibility of any denial of the history.
The South African TRC was set up through the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, No. 34 of 1995 and hearings started in 1996. The mandate of the commission was to bear witness to, record and in some cases grant amnesty to the perpetrators of crimes relating to human rights violations, as well as reparation and rehabilitation. The TRC had a number of high profile members with moral authority; its chairperson was Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The South African TRC heard cases of some 20,000 people who had suffered gross human rights violations in the period between 1960 and their first democratic election.
Isn’t it time for a “May 13 TRC” to finally put to rest the ghost of May 13, to record our real history and to bring about meaningful reconciliation of our peoples once and for all?
The spontaneous response from ex-Special Branch and other retired personnel as well as victims’ family members at the launch of my book in 2007 demonstrates amply that there are many people from all angles yearning to have their stories told and heard. Can we deny these now ageing participants in the actual May 13 tragedy an opportunity to do so?
It is time Malaysians faced up to our real history and to understand that “if we do not confront the past, we will not be able to move into the future…”
* Dr Kua Kia Soong is Suaram adviser.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.
DAP seeks halt to ‘Interlok’ TV shoot, ‘Tanda Putera’ screening
By Boo Su-Lyn
June 06, 2013
Kulasegaran said ‘national unity and racial harmony must be placed above party interest’.KUALA LUMPUR, June 6 — The DAP urged Putrajaya today to ditch plans to turn the controversial novel “Interlok” into a television drama and to screen “Tanda Putera” in cinemas, amid heightened racial tension after Election 2013.
Indian group National Indian Rights Action Team (NIAT) was reported by news portal Free Malaysia Today yesterday as saying that state broadcaster Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) was planning to produce a television drama series based on “Interlok” in the near future.
“Is it true that the Interlok’s return is to teach the Chinese and Indians a lesson for not supporting BN (Barisan Nasional) in the just concluded general election?” said DAP national vice-chairman M. Kulasegaran in a statement.
“Let me warn the BN government that if it takes a position to punish the voters for not supporting BN in the general election, then there will definitely be a stronger Malaysian tsunami against BN in the next general election,” he added.
“Interlok”, which is part of the Form Five Bahasa Malaysia syllabus in government schools, raised the ire of Indian and Chinese groups in 2011 for using the word “pariah” and for depicting Chinese characters as greedy, opium-smoking lechers.
Then Human Resource Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam reportedly said in December 2011 that “Interlok” would be dropped from the Form Five syllabus in 2012.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, however, said in 2011 that the government would not remove the controversial book from the school syllabus.
Since BN won the May 5 general election with a reduced majority, several Umno politicians and the party’s mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia have repeatedly painted the election as a Chinese-vs-Malay vote, with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak calling it a “Chinese tsunami”.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng warned Umno last Tuesday that the ruling party would face a public backlash by allowing cinemas to screen the “Tanda Putera” “racist hate film”.
The RM4.8 million local film, directed by Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba, is supposed to be a factual retelling of events surrounding the May 13, 1969 racial riots that have long been cloaked in secrecy and which Putrajaya has finally allowed for general release.
Made in 2011 by Persona Pictures Sdn Bhd with funding from the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia, “Tanda Putera” is scheduled for an August 29 screening in local cinemas, just in time for National Day.
Kulasegaran stressed today that “national unity and racial harmony must be placed above party interest”.
“I call on the prime minister to accept the people’s verdict and do the right thing—cancel the Interlok’s return as well as stop the screening of ‘Tanda Putera’,” he said.
YOURSAY ‘The corrupt government would never want to set up a commission to uncover the truth behind May 13. It wants to hide the truth and perpetuate lies…’
Anonymous$&@?: If the film was made based on true facts and validated by historically documented papers, then no one would protest to it being screened.
This version that is shown is based on Umno’s bigotry, and its sole purpose is to distort the true facts that led to the May 13, 1969 riots.
The intent is to polarise and divide the Malays and Chinese so that Umno can perpetuate their hold on power.
Mercury135: Writer Kua Kia Soong, it’s an excellent idea to let a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) investigate the May 13 incident.
However, since the minority BN government has probably the most to lose by revealing the truth, they will not create a TRC. Can any suitable group of NGOs do it, perhaps under the auspices of the United Nations?
The new US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, wrote a Pulitzer prize-winning book, ‘The Problem from Hell’ about genocide in Bosnia, based on her experiences there as a journalist.
Also, there exist recently developed automated DNA techniques of identifying persons from bone fragments that have been used at other global sites where victims of atrocities had been interred.
A database of as many survivors as possible needs to be built up to help with identification.
Many Malaysians, including me, would like to help to identify not just the victims, but the possible planners of that infamous day.
If we don’t, one day, they will say it never happened. Perhaps the time is now – let’s get it done, please.
Odin: I agree with Mercury135 that the corrupt government would never want to set up a commission to uncover the truth behind May 13.
It wants to hide the truth and perpetuate lies instead and to make the pendatangs from Indonesia, or otherwise erroneously known as Malays, feel hatred for the Chinese.
CiViC: Looking at the way things are, BN seems to be executing a well-plotted plan to wipe out the Chinese from Malaysia before GE14.
From the very first comment of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s “Chinese Tsunami”, to Utusan Malaysia’s article ‘Apa Lagi Cina Mahu?’, to ‘Tanda Putera’ being screened in public cinemas, the production of the drama series on the controversial textbook ‘Interlok’, and the latest blog posting from former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad on the ‘Chinese racists’, all these do not seem to be coincidental at all.
Not even a little bit, but rather a plot to ignite hatred hoping for another May 13 with all the blame pinned on the Chinese again.
Ipohcrite: I think it is time someone independent, maybe Suaram, make a film to tell the truth about May 13, and Kua can be a big help in this.
As for raising the funds for this project, an appeal to the public can be made. I, for one, am willing to donate a hundred bucks to see the truth published, instead of the sewage filth that is being propagandised by ‘Tanda Putera’.
Trublumalaysian: Perhaps, the private sector with the help of the opposition which holds 53 percent of the votes should produce a film, detailing the actual truth and none other than Kua, Tamrin Abdul Ghafar, Lim Kit Siang and a host of other credible characters could be consultants to this film of eternal truth for Malaysians.
Anonyxyz: Whatever the truth may be, even with historical facts from the archives and hypothetically with those dead being brought back to life to tell the truth, we have to accept that a sizeable, significant and influential number of Malays have been systematically addicted to that ‘Tanda Putera’ version of the way things happened as the version they want to believe.
This brainwashing is what keeps those who walk in Umno corridors of power get richer and richer by the day.
Even the mad doctor’s screams that those post-GE13 ‘Black 505’ rallies are signs of the Chinese wanting to dominate the Malays.
With this strategy, Umno can never lose any election; they are destined to rule forever.
Stop Lynas!: Since May 13 involved certain high ranking persons, the truth can never be told. Under such circumstance, the film can only lie itself from start to end.
For a “preview” at above photo (from ‘Tanda Putera’), you can tell what the movie is going to be – hint: people carrying a portrait of chairman Mao. What a joke.
Harapanbaru: Thank you, Kua, for always serving so eloquently the cause of social justice, truth and democratic principles.
If you had happened to be born into a Malay family, Utusan Malaysia would have labelled you a “traitor to the race”.
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