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May 13 was not a racial riot

September 2, 2013

FMT LETTER: From Stephen Ng, viae-mail

Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz said that it is “a historical fact that the riot was sparked by Chinese, (like the fact) that Nazis killed thousands of Jews during the Second World War”. I beg to differ.

When May 13 broke out, I was a young five-year-old boy living in a New Village. My father was away working either in Kelantan or Pahang. My sisters and I were the only ones who stayed with my mother in Jinjang Selatan. Although we were supposed to have moved to a new home in Taman Kepong, the family decided to stay put.

As a boy, I was listening in to every conversation that took place between my mother and other relatives and friends. There were horror stories of Malays killing the Chinese, and Chinese killing the Malays. But a phone conversation between my mother and my father never escaped my attention was that everything was peaceful in the East Coast.

My Father said that the Chinese and the Malays were having breakfast together. There was no riot in the East Coast. It was business as usual for them. Muthusamy, Ali and Ah Chong were still friends, when things went awry in Selangor. Why is that so, Nazri?

Racial Riot? No way!

My answer is simple: May 13 was NOT a racial riot. It was the work of a few politicians who capitalised on sentiments of the day.

Although there was obvious bad vibes between the races and perpetuated by politicians, citizens of the newly minted country, who had already learnt to accept each other, were beginning to enjoy being fellow Malaysians. In Kelantan and other parts of the country, or should I say, where PAS was in control, people were able to live more harmoniously since the day of Prophet Mohamed!

Who then caused May 13 riots? I only found the answer very much later when I started reading the book by Dr Kua Kia Soong: May 13, and made my own observations in the past six years.

Let me briefly share here. May 13 is the work of politicians who lost the 1969 Election. The Opposition had tied with the Alliance for control of the Selangor state legislature, a large setback in the polls for the Alliance. The big difference now is that Selangor is totally under Pakatan rule for the betterment of the people.

Several factors had created the tension. The then Menteri Besar of Selangor, Harun Idris was discontented with the results of the Election. At the same time, another camp was discontented with Tunku Abdul Rahman, the beloved Bapa Malaysia.

At that point in time, Dr Mahahtir Mohamed had been sacked after his book, “The Malay Dilemma”, was banned. Tunku had warned that Mahathir was a big troublemaker, and Umno would make a big mistake to take him back into its fold.

With his book, he was able to create a sense of insecurity amongst the Malays and later to control their minds. This was a necessity for a non-Malay, like Mahathir to later become the country’s leader. Knowing that his own kind is generally not accepted even amongst the Malays, till today, he would not admit that his lineage is traced back to Kerala in India.

Seizing the opportunity to force the Tunku to step down, Mahathir, Razak Hussein and Harun Idris were the main key players in Umno politics. To reach that state of Emergency, they had to lash it out on the economically stronger community – the Chinese, and in particular accusing the DAP as a provocateur. Why only the DAP and not the MCA, as both were also Chinese? MCA, in these days, is not even like MCA in those days when it was still popular with the New Villages.

It clearly shows this was not a racial riot, but the political manipulation by a few. In my opinion, everything was lumped into one big blame on the DAP because they won big. This is the same modus operandi used by Umno Baru till today, except that this time around, it is not only the DAP, but Pakatan taking over the State of Selangor.

As much as there were rascals in Umno during Tunku’s time, there were sure enough the communists and the gangsters who were trying to seize the opportunity of turning Malaysia into a communist country. One of my late uncles was taken in by the police not because he was a DAP activist but because he was young and the police took him and others for detention to keep them from causing problems.

Were the Chinese also represented by the Communists? Or, was every Chinese a Communist? The answer is, No! One of my uncles was, in fact, a Special Branch officer who was tracking down the communists, but he has since migrated to Australia for his own safety. Communism was never a race issue but an ideology prevalent in the people in those days.

Tanda Putera or New Village

So, whether it was Tanda Putera or New Village, Malaysians should realise that if we continue to buy into the political manipulation of a few, we would be heading for another disaster. This is what I want Nazri to learn, that in order to stay in power, politicians need to play on race or religious cards.

They should strengthen their positions as people well-respected by all races. I am glad that in our midst there are two good examples that I have seen – Nurul Izzah Anwar and Hannah Yeoh, two young ladies who have gained much credence over the years. May they lead Malaysia into a new era!


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