Thursday, April 24, 2014
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A gulf of 44 years separates us from 13 May 1969

Koon Yew Yin

513As the countdown to the general election begins in earnest, we are getting more and more calls from desperate and irresponsible politicians drawing attention to the possibility of a repeat 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 academicians and 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 organizations to speak out against these warnings and threats although they will be the main losers should another May 13 episode take place.

Much more needs to be done by key stakeholders to condemn the individuals and organizations making the threats as the risk of these threats becoming self-fulfilling prophesies increases by the day.

Shahrizat’s not-so-veiled threat

The latest invocation of May 13 took place at the Umno general assembly held recently. In that meeting, the Wanita Umno 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 opening speech text 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 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 its vice-president Hishamuddin 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 said in his dismissal of public concern when questioned about it.

Even if it is a case of over-reaction by the media and a fearful public, it is hoped that Shahrizat 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.

Malays must bear in mind that while in 1969 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, etc. and the largest listed companies. These gains which have given birth to the creation of a sizeable Malay middle and upper class will be put at 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 Rakyat wins control of the government, there will be more Malay Members of Parliament than from any other races.

The Malays will be the biggest losers if there is another May 13 riot.


Everyone will have something to lose

Steve Oh

The fires of May 13, 1969 still burn in the mind of older Malaysians who lived through the racial riots that swept through the major cities of the peninsula.

I was a teenager then and the sight of my father quickly putting on his shoes to go out to our middle-class and predominantly Chinese neighbourhood to call for the menfolk to come out and defend their homes if the Malays attacked us was hard to reconcile with the 'happy-go-lucky' life we were enjoying.

We could hear the drums beating in the distance where there was a Malay kampung. And for his efforts my father came back fuming that an old Chinese woman had scolded him for being a ‘busybody’. It turned out she was also a distant relative.

A month before Penang had seen a curfew when a policeman was killed after a politically linked incident. Tension was high. But not all of us were bent on spilling racial blood.

We made sure that the Malay teacher and his mother who lived in our street was safe. I checked with my Malay friend and his family who lived in an adjoining suburb (which was predominantly Chinese) that they were safe. We took care of one another and there was no incident in all the neighborhoods around us – Chinese protecting Malays and Malays protecting Chinese.

Not everyone, in fact few Malaysians considered in total, were infected with the madness.

Ours was a clique of friends from both sexes – some from school, and others from outside, who were drawn from all the races. Malay boys had Chinese girlfriends and Chinese boys had Malay girlfriends and so on. It was a time when we could have fun together without the scourge of religious separatism. It was the time of innocence uncorrupted by the poison of the politicians.

Some of those friendships have lasted to the present.

There is no racial madness except that which is taught and caught, and the politicians have much to answer.

Years later we learned that it was all a ploy to rid Tunku Abdul Rahman of his leadership and that the racial riots were the plot of shameless politicians as Dr Kua Kia Soong explains in his book, May 13, Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969.

Besides the bits and pieces I heard from friends and those who were eyewitnesses, I like most of my friends in Penang, were sheltered from any real violence. The real bloodletting was in Kuala Lumpur.

Who knows the final number of casualties but as usual the official figures that I won’t even bother checking would be understated. That many had died from gunshot wounds left questions unanswered.

One real-life account was given by my university mate overseas. He was in a cinema in Kuala Lumpur and suddenly he was roused from his seat in the dark cinema by loud shouting and banging on the doors. When he saw that people were being attacked with parang, he quickly got out and escaped.

It was the darkest time in Malaysian history.

So many innocent lives were lost and Kuala Lumpur in certain Chinese-dominated areas was like a war zone. The ghosts of May 13 still haunt those who lost loved ones and property.

Therefore why would anyone today remind us of a bloody day in the country’s history and make cheap political capital out of the innocent blood of their fellow Malaysians?

What unscrupulous politician would stoop so low as to draw his or her own race into a scheme that would leave no one any benefit but many homes with nothing but suffering and sorrow?

I agree with CPI columnist Koon Yew Yin that Malays will be the biggest losers of a May 13 repeat because they now have so much more to lose but it is not even right to say who will lose more when the truth is everyone will have something to lose.

The nation will lose most from the bloody minds and hands of those traitors.

Umno Wanita chief Sharizat Abdul Jalil deserves our condemnation for even raising May 13 let alone scaremongering and relating the bloody day to an Umno political defeat.

What a shameless and despicable display of desperate and unconscionable politics that should be deplored by every conscionable Malaysian.

It goes without saying that the country will be plunged into the abyss of a failed state and recovery will be hard and painful should the race riots recur. And this time nothing will be hidden from the world.

We will see images that were not possible when the state-controlled media had a news blackout and modern digital media technology did not exist.

You can be sure that if anything like May 13 happens again, the international community will see what takes place and no one will be able to stop mobile phones sending images all over the world and anything that happens being recorded by someone somewhere.

And there will be sufficient evidence to charge those responsible for the cowardly and cold-blooded murder.

Those who play with the fire of May 13 are shameless and gutless, and the reason they do it is to drag their race and others into their dirty political war, one in which they face certain defeat.

Fortunately today is not the era of May 13 though some specimens from that dark era still survive in power but not for long because they and their monstrous ideas will be rejected by every responsible Malaysian who wants peace and prosperity, not bloodshed.

Some politicians are just that callous and poor losers and the sooner we see the backs of them the better it will be for every Malaysian.


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