KUALA LUMPUR: The bloody May 13 racial riots of 1969 should show Malaysians the truth of the Malay proverb kalah jadi abu, menang jadi arang (the loser turns to ashes, the winner to charcoal) that there are no winners in racial conflicts, an academician said today.
Professor Teo Kok Seong of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said the tragedy should be a lesson for the people to recognise the importance of staying united in order to maintain peace and live in harmony.
It was also an important lesson to the government in ensuring country’s development.
“The May 13 tragedy is a true reminder of the Malay proverb kalah jadi abu, menang jadi arang (the loser turns to ashes, the winner to charcoal) because racial conflict will not do any good to any race in the country, except tarnishing the image of the country in the eyes of the world,” he told Bernama.
Teo, who is a principal research fellow at UKM’s Institute of Ethnic Studies, did not deny that racial harmony could once again be shaken by the global rise of ethnopopulism, an ideology that leads to a division of society into two groups based on race and religion, potentially disagreeing with each other.
Therefore, he said politics practised by any party should focus on improving racial unity in Peninsular Malaysia and on having better regional integration between the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak.
Assoc Prof Dr Ahmad Marthada Mohamed of Universiti Utara Malaysia called for all politicians to stop playing on racial sentiments and sensitive issues that could cause racial tension in the country.
He said in the effort to prevent racial riots from recurring, the government must also take stern and immediate action against those who raised racial sentiment and insulted a religion.
“In this era of technology, there are people who are keen on giving extreme comments on social media. If no action is taken against them, this will prompt others to do the same and such a provocative action is very dangerous to national harmony,” said Ahmad, who is dean of the College of Law, Government and International Studies.
The government should continue empowering the Malays and Bumiputera, especially those in the low-income group, and reducing the economic gap between races.