History / Najib Razak / Racism

Who’s afraid of the past?

Back in May 2009, I wrote a series of articles regarding the tragic racial riots of 1969. Basically, it was to debunk the contents of Kua Kia Soong’s book which was entitled “Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969”.

I find the book very, very lopsided and bordering untruths. In fact, most of the contents relied heavily on the wrong assumptions made by foreign correspondents covering the incident.

Where assumptions and hypotheses become the basis for the book to postulate a presumptuous ‘truth’, many will believe the book is the cauldron of facts and concrete proofs when the fact of the matter is, it is far from it.

Hence, after dissecting his book, I have written those articles in order to give the public the true and fair view of the riots based on the books written by eyewitnesses. Some of the references I used were the same references that Kua Kia Soong had referred to in writing his book.

I am glad that the suggestion to remember 13th May as a unity day or harmony day has garnered some support from the mainstream media.

I believe the blogger Anas Zubedy mentioned it in 2009. He wanted Malaysians to recolour May 13th because he “would like to breathe new spirit into the date, to dilute and eventually erase the negative aspects and memories and replace them with positive meanings and values. I want our future generation to see this date with kind and loving recollections. We can always change things, if we so willed it.”

On the same breath, in one of the paragraphs in the series, I stated –

I propose National Harmony Day should be celebrated on May 13 every year to remind ourselves how blessed we are living in a land where moderation and acceptance are the keys to national success in whatever there is to come. We should learn that, when hatred and resentment towards each other is no longer existed, we can now look forward towards building the nation with so much rigour, trust and mountainous sense of pride in our history.

Our founding fathers and leaders of the past had painstakingly upheld their selfless deeds and worked hard in making our Malaysia a successful nation. The greatest achievement we had was to live in harmony in the face of so many malevolent foreign and domestic challenges. We should not dirty this greatest achievement just because of a certain racist and political agenda.

Like the wise words I learned from school – “A society which does not look back with pride upon its past can never look forward towards its future”.

RockyBru wrote an article in The Malay Mail yesterday which touches on the suggestion for such commemorative day. I believe the suggestion is not new. I am sure those that came before us had suggested to make the date a special date to remember, since we live in a multiracial society. It is vital we know our history and the way we interact with each other is very important.
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Taking The Fear Out OF May 13

“We should regard it as an event in the annals of history from which we can learn from… as a demarcation for us so that it will not recur.” — Prime Minister Najib Razak (“No need to commemorate May 13 riots”, NST, Nov 17, 2010).

SOMETIMES Najib Razak is just too decisive.

As in the case of whether we should or should not commemorate the day this nation went amok in the bloody racial riots of May 13, 1969, for example. The Prime Minister was too quick to rule it unnecessary to commemorate the day, as suggested by Zaini Hassan, the Utusan Malaysia deputy editor-in-chief.

He could have allowed the people to talk about the idea, at least.

Zaini’s idea, which he penned in his column Cuit, published by the Bahasa Malaysia daily, is that the government should declare May 13 a ‘National Unity Day’. The idea, as a colleague pointed out last night, may be a contentious one but not seditious.

And it is a timely one. Malaysians have become a strange people since Dr Mahathir Mohamad stepped down as Prime Minister after 22 years. Instead of counting our blessings, we are blaming each other for the disparities that remain in our society.

And instead of burying the one incident that nearly tore us apart more than 41 years ago, we are digging up each others’ closets for skeletons and using it to blame other people for our own present day shortcomings.

Some quarters have even resorted to rewriting history. In recent published books on the riots and sold openly in major bookstores, the stories about how the disturbance broke out are distorted beyond recognition, obviously so that some political parties who sponsored these publications will gain mileage.

This has driven others to come up with their own versions of what happened in the days leading to May 13, the factors that led to the bloodshed, the exact casualties, and the consequences of the racial riots.

Most of these clashes of opinions on May 13 are still taking place in the Malaysian blogosphere.

One of the more definitive blog postings on the issue is the May 13th 1969: The Correct View, a two-part series plus an “intermission” that promises (or threatens) more sequels by anonymous blogger Jebat Must Die (jebatmustdie.wordpress.com).

The three postings garnered nearly 400 heated comments. There is talk that these postings will be published in the form of a book in response to the book by Dr Kua Kia Soong entitled: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969.

JMD was concerned as readers of Kia Soong’s books would be driven to conclude that:

• Tun Abdul Razak masterminded the May 13 racial riots as a form of coup d’etat against Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman;
• Datuk Harun Idris led Umno Youth members to spontaneously launch an unprovoked attack against the Chinese people; and
• the racial riots were not the fault of the racist opposition or the subversive communist movement

And what would readers of JMD’s upcoming book be driven to conclude of the riots? Will the book be subject to multiple police reports as Zaini is being subjected to by several politicians who claim that the journalist’s article was seditious?

Yes, believe it or not, many of our politicians need to grow up and learn that making police reports against every little thing you don’t agree with is a reaction that is childish.

Personally, I am all for the idea of Malaysia having a Hari Muhibbah or Unity Day and I think it would be great if the nation commemorates May 13 by promoting racial unity and organising programmes that will bring us closer to one another.

At the very least, nobody can use this day to promote their narrow, political agenda anymore. Once it is made a Hari Muhibbah, no politician may use May 13 as a fear factor.

In the discussions on blogs that followed Zaini’s article, those who were not for the idea (without having to lodge any police report because they see the good intentions behind the suggestion) felt that Malaysia needed stronger fundamentals, such as a single-school system (an idea the government has also shot down, unfortunately).

One of Malaysia’s neighbors has done both – it integrated the Chinese, Malay and Tamil primary schools since the late 60s after its own brush with racial riots. It has also declared Unity Day to commemorate the worst day in its racial relations.

But did the single-school system and the Unity Day work for our neighbour? Maybe, but then again Malaysia has not had a serious racial problem in the last four decades, either.

The ones we encountered, such as the Kampung Medan issue and Hindraf’s ridiculous allegation of ethnic-cleansing in Malaysia, were few and far between.

We need to work on becoming a united people. We have witnessed how fragile racial unity can be, even in America and Europe where things are believed to be more equal.

If helping bury the May 13 spectre by declaring the day Hari Muhibbah, we should explore it.

At the end of the day, the government will be the one that has to decide whether or not it is necessary to commemorate the racial riots of May 13. And if government politicians in the end agree with their counterparts in the DAP and other Opposition parties that May 13 is not an issue, good for them.

But the people need to be allowed to discuss such issues. We are not always right, but let’s hear us out first.

AHIRUDIN ATTAN is group editorial adviser for The Malay Mail, Bernama TV and The Malaysian Reserve. He blogs at rockybru.com.my

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I would like to humbly point out that Rocky made a mistake when he said I had written only 3 articles. I had written 4 in total with over 600 comments received for all of them. That was a rush. One of the most interesting times I had since I started blogging. Thank you.

17 thoughts on “Who’s afraid of the past?

  1. Dear JMD,

    Welcome back!

    I read some where that there is such a commemorative day in Singapore. For once we should take a leave out of that country south of the border.

    “Malaysians have become a strange people since Dr Mahathir Mohamad stepped down as Prime Minister after 22 years” I couldnt agree with you more.

    Very warm greetings
    Freddie

    Like

  2. It does not matter if the government recognize or choose to ignore the importance of the May 13th incidents in 1969.What is important is the whole truth be told and we do not allow some twisted, chauvinist and irresponsible people to rewrite history to make those responsible for the debacles looks good now.You cannot change what happened the past. May 13 is not about who was responsible for what-it is more about the inability of certain people to contain their inner demons. These very peoples are now very afraid that May 13 will unmasked their devilish face and their unpalatable racist and chauvinist past to the younger voters who may not be aware of the serious implications of the incidents 41 yrs ago. Lets call a spade a spade.

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  3. Rocky says, “But the people need to be allowed to discuss such issues. We are not always right, but let’s hear us out first.”

    Yeah, whatever happens to Najib’s “Rakyat didahulukan” and “the days the government knows best are over.”

    Like

  4. Excellent piece, Sir.
    “Yes, believe it or not, many of our politicians need to grow up and learn that making police reports against every little thing you don’t agree with is a reaction that is childish”
    Like my Arab friends told me, Malaysians are a funny lot, Makan babi is a big thing but at the same time they condone riba, rasuah , minum arak etc.
    The public should also read article below by a principled centred man
    http://www.mmail.com.my/content/55108-story-behind-birth-our-constitution

    Yes, race has nothing to do with the mess we are in….it is the Leadership in crisis causing the breakdown in the system. It started with the Executive (PM and the clowns) , then Legislative (the MPs including oppositions bigots like the DAP ) , then Judiciary playboys and finally the Civil Service Chickens i.e KSN, IGP, AG, MACC.

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  5. Should May13 be yearly celebrated ?, by whom , and how ?. It could be pictured in my mind ,what will the celebration like where will be mostly attend by Malay like most celebration that organise by the goverment,except Hari Raya opened hause becouse got makan maa, of course there will be few figure that represent etenic group to make thing look colourful. What happened after that ?,thus we really get the intended messege acrose,if it’s really does to whom ?.

    May13 of course should be commemurate becouse it was an event which had happened,’though bitter to remembered but must not be fogettened’ resulting the reshapeing our political and socioeconomic landscape of our country which what brought us to this day.
    May13 is history , and is a very important history and lesson to be learned seriously not to be celebrated.

    Like

  6. Should May13 be yearly celebrated ?, by whom , and how ?. It could be pictured in my mind ,what will the celebration like where will be mostly attend by Malay like most celebration that organise by the goverment,except Hari Raya opened hause becouse got makan maa, of course there will be few figure that represent etenic group to make thing look colourful. What happened after that ?,thus we really get the intended messege acrose,if it’s really does to whom ?.

    May13 of course should be commemurate becouse it was an event which had happened,’though bitter to remembered but must not be fogettened’ resulting the reshapeing our political and socioeconomic landscape of our country which what brought us to this day.
    May13 is history , and is a very important history and lesson to be learned seriously not to be celebrated.

    1sekolah>bahasa>1Malaysia

    Like

  7. we were somehow indoctrinated to fear the truth. i believe the may 13 riots had blood on both race’s hands. to solve it, we must be brave enough to admit that both parties had a part to play. embrace it. forgive, maybe not forget it. then use it to learn and empower our selves. we need desperately to cleanse ourselves, and how to do it? by the actions we take now.

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  8. We should follow Singapore on this, celebrating the 13th May as one of important day for the country. At the same time, we should also follow another policy from Singapore which is ethnic housing quota. In Singapore, a Malay community can’t exist in big number in certain location due to this quota where they have to sell their home and relocate to places with lesser Malay. This is done to avoid same race centric population in a certain location and help integrate the minority (Malay) race with the majority (Chinese). If this is done in Malaysia, integration will increase. I think Seri Petaling, Cheras is a good place to start. The most important is that, there should not be a majority of minority in certain places because its will result to Chinese gethos like Sri Petaling and Cheras.

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  9. We should not be a copycat anyway for holidays and celebration, cause we are now 53 yrs old and still having ‘ masalah perkauman ‘
    WHY ??? the authority in power should implement no matter what the consequences to mix our children for good under one roof for one kindergarten/school/college/university.
    In case like this, will there be another 13th may riot ???

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  10. there is no such thing as harmony celebration day in singapore according to my singapore freind. i can imagine how the may 13 may be commemorated. instead of cows and goats being slaughtered in houses of worship nationwide, they now insist on sacrifici

    JMD : Yes, you can imagine indeed.

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  11. Dear JMB,

    My father was 20years old when this tragedy happend. He was a student in UM and he was at dato harun residence. Although it was long ago, but clearly my father remember it well as though it happend yesterday. Everytime he told the family his granchild what happend, I can see the tears in his eyes remembering that he held few of his dying friend in his arm .

    I was not born, but to hear all the stories to read what you have wrote. It really gave an impact on a person like me. We Malays have to stay united so that this thing will not happend anymore.

    -just a boy-

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  12. Salam JMD

    Like I said before..whats in their hearts are worst than what they say..
    These type of people are cruels..imagine if they are in power in this country..
    I would not even put them in the same gang as Hosni Mubarak…

    Like

  13. Our “greatest achievement” surely comes from contributions of the loyal malay, chinese and indian…and others of course. Not from those chauvinistic segments…

    Like

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