Don’t let politicians co-opt May 13

June 12, 2013 at 2:49 am Leave a comment

First Published: 9:24pm, Jun 11, 2013
Last Updated: 7:40am, Jun 12, 2013

by Maria J Dass

History is being bastardised to shape and form the opinions of future generations but stories of how M’sians of all races rose above it all to help each other should be highlighted and used to strengthen the bond between the various races.

GROWING up, events of May 13, 1969 were omitted from our history books. Those from my generation may have only heard of it based on the experiences of older relatives and friends.

But in the midst of the horror stories, there have been many tales that highlighted how the various races stood up for their neighbours and protected them from “outsiders” out to create trouble in their neighbourhoods.

These are the incidents and stories which can be powerful tools in bringing the various communities in the country closer to achieving the government’s 1Malaysia goal.

But no, some have chosen to use the dark days of our past for the wrong reasons.

So instead of talking about how the people ended up being the losers in the sequence of events that led to the incident – not to mention how they rose above it all at the end –  at least one politician wants the movie “Tanda Putera” to be screened in secondary schools “to highlight the transgression against one community by another”.

(Tanda Putera is Datuk Shuhaimi Baba’s controversial take on the events leading up to, during and after May 13, 1969 which some quarters claim demonises the DAP and the Chinese community.)

I wonder what former Bandar Baharu Kulim MP Zulkifli Noordin, who lost his bid for the Shah Alam parliamentary seat in the recent general election, hopes to achieve. Does he expect these young impressionable teens to turn against one another – over an incident that happened more than 40 years ago?

“If they knew, they would surely arise against chauvinistic, racist and extremist groups that masquerade as champions of democracy, human rights and anti-corruption with the purpose of toppling the Malay-led BN,” says Zulkifli, the vice-president of Perkasa, a non-governmental organisation which prides itself as a champion of Malay rights.

Sounds quite hypocritical, doesn’t it?

Any ideas to educate school kids about May 13 should involve stories of all affected parties and from a balanced perspective.

If “Tanda Putera” has done anything for me, it has made me more curious about May 13. It has made me hungry for information on what happened on that fateful day. And no, I will not depend on one source of information – be it a movie, books and especially not press statements by politicians – to form my judgment.

To me as a journalist, the best sources have always been the first person accounts of people on the ground, those who had no choice and were caught in the middle.

By all means tell us about the atrocities committed and name the people who ignited the sentiments that led to the incident – but I want to hear it from both sides.

From what I know and hear so far, no one race is to be blamed and no one race suffered more than the other on May 13, 1969. Everyone lost out.

First person accounts will be able to corroborate this and every effort should be made to record these experiences so that it can be used to counter skewed versions that come along for whatever reason.

Enough of history being bastardised to shape and form the opinions of future generations; the truth should be told to allow us to learn from past experiences and not make the same mistakes again.

More than anything, stories of how Malaysians of all races rose above it all to help each other should be highlighted and used to strengthen the bond between the various races.

Let’s not focus and harp on matters that are bound to cause more division.

Maria J Dass is a freelance journalist who has covered issues that affect people and communities in the country for over 14 years. She hopes to do her part to put things in order for future generations in this country. This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not represent the view of

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