A group of us friends watched Tanda Putera just now and are somewhat happy with the movie. Minus a few bloopers eg., seeing something out of place – a mercedes car from the 90’s shown in a scene supposedly during the 70’s, or police outriders with bikes from the 80’s etc., the movie itself was commendable.
These bloopers are negligible and did not really alter the essence of what the movie is trying to deliver. Even Hollywood films are not immune to bloopers.
Tanda Putera basically is just a story of Tun Abd Razak and Tun Dr. Ismail in events just prior to the racial riots of May 13, 1969 up to their respective passing. Tun Dr. Ismail in 1973 and Tun Abdul Razak in 1976.
We had fun trying to look for who’s who in a movie which is filled with famous personalities of our rich history. We can see Tun Saadon Zubir, Tan Sri Ghazalie Shafie, the young Tun Haniff Omar, the dashing Tun Tan Siew Sin, Dr Mahathir in his 40’s, and even a younger version of Tun Hussein Onn.
We are not going to discuss the story line of this movie; however this article will try to depict a few scenes which are worth notifying and cross reference it to the real incident that had happened during those times.
First off, the killing of an Umno worker by few chinese members of the Labour Party (one of the opposition parties at that point of time). It was shown in the first few minutes of the movie:
Shuhaimi Baba did a good job in depicting this incident as it sets the mood of the movie. Although this murder wasn’t the first inter-communal killing, it is sufficient to establish point of reference. Inter-communal killings and riots have been happening in Malaysia since the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.
Racial riots of 13th May, 1969 wasn’t exactly the first nor was it the last.
Next was the death of a chinese Labour Party worker by the police.
Six days before the 1969 elections, 3 police constables came across a group of youths from the Labour Party painting anti-election slogans on the road. When challenged by the police, they attacked using iron rods and hurling firewood and stones. They put up such a fight that the police had to open fire in self defense. One of the youth was wounded and died later in the hospital.
The opposition took advantage of the youth’s death and wanted to organise a large funeral procession on the polling day itself!
Anyway, the police together with the permission from the Home Ministry however, gave the permit for the procession to be held on the 9th instead.
Tanda Putera captured this moment briefly with just a few dozens extras being used to populate a funeral procession. However, the real incident was much more sinister.
Back in 1969, 14,000 chinese marched for eight miles around Kuala Lumpur.
The sight of the jeering hooligans marching slowly around the city for that many miles must have been an agonising experience to bear for the Malays living within the city.
They chanted Maoist slogans, sang ‘The East is Red’, and displayed portraits of Mao Tse-tung and the Red flag. The procession passed through the heart of Kuala Lumpur and tied up traffic in almost every major street in the city and provoked Malay bystanders with shouts of ‘Malai si!’ (Death to the Malays) and ‘Hutang darah bayar darah’ (Blood debt will be repaid with blood).
And all this was just a day before election day. As the result, the election on 10th May 1969 was an extremely highly-charged affair.
Then Tanda Putera showed the events after the election results were announced. After which, the Gerakan Party as well as DAP party members hold victory parades all over Kuala Lumpur on 11th and 12th of May, 1969.
The account of what happened can be read below. Note that Tanda Putera DOWNPLAYED the real happenings probably due to the nature of the demonstration can be deemed too offensive for the current day audience. Please read and comprehend the situation at that time.
Next was the fact that Datuk Harun Idris climbed on top of a bus to calm the rowdy crowd already seething with anger over the victory parades illustrated above.
The background story of what had happened can be summed up by what Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad had said 4 years ago:
The tragic and vicious incident need not have happened had Tun Razak’s message to Dato’ Harun Idris, the menteri besar of Selangor, reached him 30-minutes earlier or had Tan Sri David Tan Chee Khoon and Tun Lim Chong Eu spoken to Tun Razak 30 minutes earlier relaying their decision not to cooperate with DAP to form the state government of Selangor nor worked together in Perak and elsewhere. I was beside Tun Razak when he took the calls from them late past tea time on the fateful evening of 13 May. I recall clearly what Tun Razak told Harun “…the good news is you will continue to run Selangor. Chee Khoon and Chong Eu had just spoken to me that they want status quo preserved. So tell the people gathering at your house to disperse.” Harun thanked Tun and asked him to convey his gratitude to the two statesmen. Between five-to-ten minutes after that Harun rang Tun Razak to say that it was too late. As he was persuading them to disperse news reached the crowd that clashes had begun in Chow Kit Road and surroundings and beyond.
Tun Razak asked Harun to calm the gathering and urged him, in strong terms, to attempt his best to stop the clashes from escalating. The rest, as they say, is history. Though Harun and I were not on good political terms I must be fair. I think he did try, but by then, to no avail.
Again, you have to watch Tanda Putera to understand this incident in a more visualised manner.
What really happened though can best be described by the chilling hour-by-hour report by witnesses as stated below:
What was missing in the movie was Tun Dr. Ismail’s famous ‘Democracy is Dead’ speech on national television. That was a pivotal moment which could have driven the point on what repercussions of racial riots could be. Would have loved to hear that speech.
A glaring bit of inconsistency appears when Tanda Putera tried to slot in the then Dr. Mahathir’s letter and his subsequent sacking from Umno just a few days after the riot.
This is erroneous. Fact is, Dr. Mahathir wrote the letter to Tunku Abdul Rahman more than a month after the May 13th riot (17th June 1969) and was sacked in the middle of July. From the book “Surat Dari Dr Mahathir” by Zainuddin Maidin, it was stated:
Keruncingan hubungan Dr Mahathir dengan Tunku Abdul Rahman terus memperhebatkan lagi gelora politik tanahair terutama dalam kalangan orang Melayu selepas peritistiwa 13 Mei. Tunku menganggap surat Dr Mahathir kepadanya yang tersebar luas di seluruh tanahair sebagai memusnahkan seluruh pengorbanannya terhadap negara dan bangsa sejak 17 tahun lalu.
Ini mendorong Tunku memberikan kata dua kepada Umno. Pilih “saya atau Dr Mahathir”.
Apabila Timbalan Presiden Umno, Tun Abdul Razak menyampaikan kata dua ini kepada mesyuarat Majlis Kerja Tertinggi (MKT) Umno di Sri Taman pada 12 Julai 1969, Harun Idris berkata,
“Tun (Razak), kalau begitu, buat apa panggil mensyuarat ini, buang sahajalah Mahathir”.
Pandangan beliau disokong kuat oleh Ketua Kaum Ibu Umno, Tan Sri Fatimah Hashim dan juga Pengerusi Pemuda Umno Negeri Kedah, Syed Nahar Shahabudin.
Tun Abdul Razak seterusnya memberitahu bahawa Dr Mahathir sebagai ahli MKT telah melanggar tatatertib parti kerana membuat kenyataan kepada umum tentang perkara yang sangat penting mengenai parti.
If the DAP and their fans who never watched this movie are saying that this movie is fictional, then the scene where Dr Mahathir got sacked a few days after the racial riot, is indeed that piece of fiction.
The rest of the movie, including DAP members wrecking havoc and provoking the malays in Kuala Lumpur, are exactly shown as it had happened more than 44 years ago. Therefore, we could not fathom why would Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng are so against this movie.
Overall the movie itself, for its historical value, is good.
There were good acting skills being presented. Special mention has to be given to one Linda Hashim who played Tun Dr. Ismail’s wife. Her portrayal as Toh Puan Neno was realistic and showed true emotions demanded by such role. A friend actually cried as she cried over the death of her husband.
People should watch this movie if they are too lazy to read books of our nation’s history. It is a good effort. For far too long we as Malaysians were fed with history movies about ‘Zaman Jepun’ or Hang Tuah related movies.
Thank you Tanda Putera.
Any effort to exonerate DAP or the opposition of that time has been countered and quashed in the article which can be read HERE.