May 13, 1969 – Malaysia

“MALAYSIA’S proud experiment in constructing a multiracial society exploded in the streets of Kuala Lumpur last week. Malay mobs, wearing white headbands signifying an alliance with death, and brandishing swords and daggers, surged into Chinese areas in the capital, burning, looting and killing. In retaliation, Chinese, sometimes aided by Indians, armed themselves with pistols and shotguns and struck at Malay kampongs (villages). Huge pillars of smoke rose skyward as houses, shops and autos burned.”

– Time Magazine, May ’69

Democracy is dead in this country. It died at the hands of the opposition parties who triggered off the events leading to this violence.”

– Far Eastern Economic Review, May ’69

“In the wake of bloody race riots that may have claimed 2,000 lives, Malaysia’s peoples have broken little bread together; they have probably broken any hope for multiracial harmony for many years to come.”

– Time Magazine, July ’69

“… the May 13 riots were not a spontaneous uprising but an orchestrated coup against Tunku by disaffected members of his own party …
unless ‘the truth is out’, there can be no real national unity …
May 13 is part of our history and is consistently trotted out by politicians who want to play the racial card, to show us what will happen if the privileges of the ruling class are threatened. We need to have a process of truth and reconciliation. This is what happened in South Africa after apartheid; it doesn’t bring back the dead, but it lets the healing process begin.

– Dr. Kua Kia Soong, author of “May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969” in The Star, May 2008

“We should stop sweeping it under the carpet. May 13 is a ghost that must be exorcised. As long as it remains a hidden, censored part of history then it hinders our maturing as a people and a nation, and will continue to haunt us.”

– Lim Kit Siang, Member of Parliament (Ipoh Timor), in The Star, May 2008

“This desire for closure is shared by others.”

– The Star, May 2008

50 years ago today, racial riots broke out in Malaysia. May 9th, a year ago, Malaysia peacefully transitioned to a new government through elections after 61-years of one-party rule. I believe Malaysia has broken-through, and that its people have learnt to put the past behind. The tyranny of the masses will continue to undermine nation-building anywhere, as long as education systems remain irrelevant or politicized, teachers be poorly-regarded/paid and are sourced from the leftovers of society, and media be controlled by the government – the last of these, of course, has of late, become irrelevant due to the connectivity conferred by the internet and smartphones.

Spring Green, Wisconsin, is a town of mostly white baby-boomers. It is more than heartening to hear from the mouths of these steady horses that many regret the old racist perspectives that they unknowingly embodied in the past – because nobody told them it was wrong – and makes intentional efforts to be inclusive, and indiscriminate in their treatment of others. Who said old dogs can’t learn new tricks?

“Decades from now, Malaysia’s 14th general elections will likely be remembered as a peaceful revolution, which altered the Southeast Asian nation’s history.”

– Al-Jazeera, May 2018

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s