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Who wants another 13 May?

I DIDN’T live through the racial clashes of 13 May 1969. I was born a year after. And yet, throughout my childhood and into my adulthood, just mentioning “13 May” evoked whispered warnings and an unnameable fear.

In the aftermath of 13 May: A few days later, at the corner of Jalan Yap Ah Shak and Hale Road in Kuala Lumpur (Pic by Hassan Muthalib)

What is it about 13 May that gives rise to fear and suspicion that fellow Malaysians might re-enact the violence of 42 years ago? As citizens and a nation, what have we been told – and continue to be told – that makes us believe that it will take little for hatred of another race to explode into bloodshed and mayhem at any moment?

For certain, those who experienced or witnessed the violence of the clashes, and many who lived to tell the tale today, have reason to associate 13 May with a dark period in our nation’s history. That the racial clashes, arising in part from suspicion and fear of another race, caused untold deaths, injuries and damage, is undeniable.

However, beyond that singular story of racial hatred and distrust – primarily between Malay and Chinese Malaysians – are other narratives, many of which have not found their way into our collective understanding of why 13 May happened. What are these narratives, and what do they tell us about 13 May and about today’s politicians?

What the Chinese did

From 11 to 13 May 2011 in Penang and on 14 May in Kuala Lumpur, Five Arts Centre and Pocketsize Productions staged a workshop presentation of stories of 13 May 1969. The presentation was titled I was 13 at the time. On the day it happened…

In my research to curate the different narratives about the incident for the reading, one thing above all surprised me. Chinese Malaysians, it was reported, were clearly responsible for the rising racial tensions that exploded on the streets of Kuala Lumpur in the evening of 13 May 1969. What did the Chinese Malaysians do?

The results of the 10 May 1969 general election showed that Chinese and Indian Malaysian voters had deserted the ruling Alliance, rejecting the MCA and MIC in favour of the opposition DAP and Gerakan (which later joined the Alliance, then known as the Barisan Nasional or BN, in 1973). This left the Umno-led Selangor government in a precarious position.

(From right) Foo May Lyn, Lucille Dass and Shah Zainal during the workshop performance

(From right) Foo May Lyn, Lucille Dass and Shah Zainal during the workshop performance by Five Arts Centre and Pocketsize Productions

In Goh Cheng Teik’s The May Thirteenth Incident and Democracy in Malaysia (1971), he writes: “Realising that the Umno branch in Selangor was in a precarious situation, bands of youthful sympathisers from the DAP and Gerakan headed towards Dato Harun (Idris)’s house in Jalan Raja Muda and rudely invited him to quit this state residence since he was allegedly no longer Menteri Besar. At processions held to celebrate individual Opposition successes, youthful Chinese and Indian supporters booed and jeered at Malays they encountered or at Malay houses they passed … Some of these were: ‘Kapal layar bochor!’; ‘Melayu sudah jatoh!’; ‘Melayu sekarang ta’ada kuasa lagi!’; ‘Kuala Lumpur sekarang China punya!’; ‘Melayu boleh balek kampong!’”

William C Parker, Jr, as quoted by John G Butcher in May 13: A Review of Some Controversies in Accounts of the Riots, writes that there were “repeated instances of physical harassment and of threats and insults directed at Malays by non-Malay demonstrators in Kuala Lumpur on May 11th, 12th and 13th. These included threats of killing and serious bodily harm. Insults included ethnic slurs and obscenities, and also instances of indecent exposure … ”

These insults and threats only succeeded in angering Umno members and supporters in Selangor, and added fuel to the pre-existing suspicion and fear some Malay Malaysians had of Chinese Malaysian domination and ascendancy at a critical juncture in our history. However, these taunts and the potential loss of political power for the Malays cannot justify the violence that was finally unleashed upon Chinese, and to some extent Indian, Malaysians.

Still, there is no denying that the provocative behaviour of the jubilant DAP and Gerakan supporters was one of several factors that eventually led to a tense situation where violent retaliation seemed to be a justifiable option. I’m no historian, and my research for the workshop reading was, for certain, limited to published texts I could find. But the historical documentation does suggest strongly that Chinese Malaysians weren’t just passive victims who were suddenly and irrationally set upon by the Malays.

What Umno is doing

Fast forward 40 years later, and what do we see? The same behaviour employed by some Chinese Malaysians in 1969 is today being repeatedly used to invoke racial fear, hatred, anger and suspicion. But it is not being employed by Chinese Malaysians or politicians. Rather, it is being used by certain Malay Malaysians, such as some in Umno, and Perkasa and Pembela leaders who tell non-Malay Malaysians they are “pendatang”.

They insist that non-Malay, non-Muslim citizens have less rights because “ketuanan Melayu” is somehow enshrined in the Federal Constitution. And should any citizen object to the notion of Malay supremacy, we are told that we can get out of the country, in other words “balik kampong!”, even if our home is in Malaysia.

Datuk Ahmad Ismail, infamous for having called Chinese Malaysians pendatang during a ceramah in 2008 (Ahmad Ismail pic courtesy of Oriental Daily)

These same individuals and groups are also the ones who warn non-Malays that Malays will run amok and spill blood if they don’t get what they want regardless of the legitimacy of their demands. The same tactic to stir up racial strife and anxiety is being used by Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia, which unethically and irresponsibly reports half truths, threatens that Malay Malaysians are close to having their power snatched away, and conjures fiction about a non-Muslim takeover of the country.

It would seem then that while non-Malay Malaysian politicians and groups have learnt the lesson of 13 May and are no longer willing to risk the consequences of unnecessary taunting and provocation, Umno, Pembela, Perkasa, Utusan Malaysia and even Berita Harian haven’t.

Remember that after the historic 2008 elections where the opposition denied the BN its two-thirds majority like it first did in 1969, the Pakatan Rakyat made clear there would be no victory marches on the streets. Additionally, it isn’t non-Malay individuals, groups or political parties that are exhorting for racial/religious domination at the expense of the rights of other citizens.

And yet today we are more segregated than we have ever been. And racial tension is continuously stoked and invoked as a national sport, as if 13 May wasn’t lesson enough for all of us, whether we lived through it or not.

What then becomes clear for me is this: It isn’t a repeat of 13 May per se that we should fear. What we should revile and reject are the individuals and groups who did not learn the lessons of 13 May.

By recreating some of the conditions that led to the racial clashes that have defined our nation ever since, it is clear that these individuals and groups want another 13 May. After the 1969 riots, a national emergency was declared and Parliament, indeed democracy, was suspended until 1971. The country was ruled by a National Operations Council (NOC) that placed all power in one man – Tun Abdul Razak.

Tun Abdul Razak (Wiki commons)

In the preface to the NOC report on 13 May, Razak, who was the NOC director of operations, wrote: “May 13, 1969 will go down in our history as a day of national tragedy … On that day we were jolted into a sharp realisation that the racial problem in this country is a serious one and measures taken in the past to cope with it have not proved adequate …  The lesson of the recent disturbances is clear. This nation cannot afford to perpetuate a system that permits anybody to say or do things which would set one race against another. If the events of May 13 are not to occur again, if this nation is to survive, we must make sure that subjects which are likely to engender racial tensions are not exploited by irresponsible opportunists.”

More than 40 years after the tragedy of 13 May, Razak, who was eventually Umno president and our nation’s second prime minister, must be turning in his grave.

Jacqueline Ann Surin is moved and encouraged by the numerous stories of how Malay Malaysians acted courageously to protect Chinese Malaysians and vice-versa at the height of the 13 May 1969 clashes. These stories can be read here: Harith Iskander’s “Race Malaysia”; Driving into trouble; Malay volunteer saves Chinese man; Doing the right thing; One day in 1969; Trouble brought neighbours closer; and Schoolgirl’s escape from death. And for an incredible story of courage and compassion during 13 May, read Datuk Mahadev Shankar’s account, May 13 The glue that binds us.

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57 Responses to “Who wants another 13 May?”

  1. Ellese says:

    Jacqueline always spins stories. My comments, I believe, won’t be published again by TNG.

    It’s sad that she purposely omitted the push and incitement by the DAP and the left this time. They call Malays racist for defending the rights laid out in our constitution, which we all have agreed to honour. They call these Malays racists, but never even condemned racist practices of the Chinese business groups and cultural and educational groups who defended their race’s rights and practised racism.

    She purposely overlooked these insults and resentment caused. And this time it has culminated into an explosive Allah issue which seeks to change the Malays’ culture and religious practice. Allah, to the Malays, has been used for hundred of years as the Muslims’ god. The DAP seeks to change its meaning and is in fact triviliasing this issue.

    Ms Surin compartmentalises and simplifies this issue as a Perkasa and Umno issue. Very shrewd but absolutely abhorrent.

    Why not settle this issue by referendum? Let’s see whether the kalimah Allah issue is just her spin, or whether it actually deeply affects the Malays, before the DAP further pushes this leftist agenda towards another 13 May.

    • “Always” spins stories? That would suggest that you have read every single one of my writings 😛 Unless you have over the past 18 years of my journalistic career, that is a false claim you are making.

      Want to know the difference between a “spin” and what I’ve written? “Spinning” requires me to make claims I cannot substantiate. Please point out which argument I’ve put forward that cannot be substantiated. Unless you can do that, it would be hard for me to take on your criticism that all I have always done is to “spin”.

      In the same vein, I would ask you to also substantiate all the claims you make in your comments lest you be accused of spinning yourself. Show us proof instead of using adverbs and adjectives.

      And one other thing, if you would only do research on Islam, you would discover that “Allah” predates Islam. “Allah” was the name of one of the gods in the pantheon of gods that the Arabs worshiped before the Prophet Muhammad introduced Islam to the Arab world. Regardless of how fragile some segments of Malay-Muslim Malaysians feel about their faith because others use “Allah”, the fact remains — no Muslim owns copyright over the word. If you feel so threatened about your faith (as if the DAP or any other party could so easily confuse Muslims about their beliefs!), may I suggest you take measures to strengthen your own iman rather than blame others who have every right to use a word that does not exclusively belong to Muslims.

      Muslims in other parts of the Muslim world — the closest being in Indonesia — have no such dilemma over their faith. I wonder why you think Malaysian Muslims should be any less robust and should demand that the strength of their faith depends on denying other faith communities the right to worship in their chosen language.

      • Idris says:

        Slightly off topic. Despite what they say, I am convinced that the Malay Muslims objection to the use of Allah by all in Malaysia has nothing to do with their faith being threatened. They know full well that “Allah” predates Islam, they also know full well that in many Muslim majority countries the word is used by all. As for what the reason is, then in one word: race.

        On another note: it is often said that the stronger the faith, the less likely one will convert. This is often used as an argument against those Muslim malay malaysians who want “Allah” to remain theirs, as you did above.

        I disagree with this. One might as well say – the stronger the will, the less likely one is to fall into depression – which, I believe, has been shown to be untrue. I think it has everything to do with how one thinks and NOT how strong his/her faith is. In other words, some people, in some circumstances, are more likely to be ‘convertable’ then others, and it has little, if anything at all, to do with the strength of their faith, but their thought processes (i.e. brain chemical makeup).

        Last. Regardless of the above two points, I don’t see why the fact that the word “Allah” predates Islam, and is used elsewhere to mean “God” by all, should have anything to do with how it is used here in Malaysia. The fact that the word has been continually used for hundreds of years up to today only by Malay(sian) Muslims (and pockets of Orang Asli, but NOT the general non-Muslim populace) to refer to their God cannot just be tossed aside.

        Anyway just thought you might be interested in a different point of view.

        • Alvin says:

          Fascinating… to put it in simpler terms, you’re saying that because some people are too ‘chemically imbalanced’ to make up their own minds, they should therefore not be allowed to exercise their own judgment, less they come up with a conclusion that is less than acceptable to you.

          Free will means nothing to you, huh? That’s fine. Nice to know where you stand on that subject.

          • Idris says:

            I would suggest you try not to read too deeply into what I wrote. Try not to conclude too much based on too little.

            “Chemically imbalanced”, free will being meaningless – those are your words. I did not even imply such.

        • Fern Yi says:

          Still, I do not see how it would confuse Muslims by using the word “Allah”. It is insulting to the Muslim population, I believe, that such a small matter could confuse them, as if they do not have the intellectual ability to distinguish their own God and the non-Muslims’ God, even if the same name is used.

          And what you said, “Some people, in some circumstances, are more likely to be ‘convertable’ then others, and it has little, if anything at all, to do with the strength of their faith, but their thought processes (i.e. brain chemical makeup).” Aren’t you implying, then, that because they were created that way, and it’s in “their brain chemical make-up”, they cannot be blamed for converting to another religion? Since they were made that way, they can’t help but convert, because it’s their fate from the very beginning to convert. So you’re also implying that the issue of using the word “Allah” has very little to do with whether the person in question would convert. It all depends on their “thought processes”

          And, you also can’t toss aside the fact that the Orang Asli have also been using the word “Allah”, and it’s the only word they’ve ever known. How long the word “Allah” has been used? I don’t know. But it’s not a competition, for goodness sake. It doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t claim ownership of something just because you’ve used it longer. It’s like Malaysia. It’s my home, even though my ancestors didn’t come here first. And like my (Malay Malaysian) best friend Alisa, it’s the only home I’ve ever known.

          • Idris says:

            @Fern Yi

            I don’t think it’s just a matter of Malay Muslims becoming confused upon hearing the word Allah being used by non-Muslim Malaysians to refer to their God. I believe there is more cunning involved, and allowing the use of Allah may or may not make it easier – I don’t know and I don’t care (except from an academic point of view). But that is a different story for which I would rather not, and have no interest to, discuss here.

            All I wanted to say in my post above was that people should stop using this line of argument for or against the use of Allah by non-Muslims. Non-Muslims should stop the usual “If Muslims are strong in their faith”, “have the intellectual ability” and variations thereof to mock Muslims (as some of them do) because that isn’t the issue at all. Likewise Muslims, if there are any, should stop worrying about conversions out of Islam, because even if such worry were real… tough. Too bad.

            Malay Muslims (at least the ones I know) who are currently against the use of Allah by all Malaysians (please note: ALL Malaysians) have reasons entirely unrelated to this “easier to convert” business.

            I did not toss aside the fact that (non-Muslim) Orang Asli have been using the word (for decades? centuries? I don’t know). I’m not sure of my stand with regard to your statement “You shouldn’t claim ownership of something just because you’ve used it longer.” I think there may a philosophical argument with regard to this.

            Lastly, your ancestors (Chinese I assume, but even if not) may well have been here before Alisa’s. I question the common belief that the Orang Asli or even the Malays were here “first”. Please refer to the comments in the thread “Saya bukan Melayu, saya Orang Asli” if you would like to read some thoughts on this.

        • Query says:

          If Allah predates Islam, then Islam must have pagan beginnings?

          How about Borneo people using Allah a long time ago, or the Indonesian Christians?

          Also, are foreigners or the rest of the world prohibited from using the word “Allah”?

      • Ellese says:

        Please print. Many a time you have delayed or not printed my response and thus purposely gave the impression that I have agreed to the counter arguments.

        Your argument cannot stand on two counts. One, you have been selective in choosing Islamic practices. For your information, there are many different practices in the world. Say in Saudi all women must wear the hijab and cannot drive. Now by the logic of your argument should we apply the same [here]? No, right[?] We have different practices, customs, culture and language. Thus, this simplistic argument does not stand.

        Two. We are upset that the word we have used many times a day and dear to us for hundreds of years is being changed to refer to something else. Even the English dictionary refers [to] Allah as the Muslim God. We have practiced here that whenever we refer to Allah it must mean the Muslim god and you seek to change it. We see hypocrisy in people like you who fight for the word Allah but don’t want to change the word god in the English bible to Allah and worse look down on Bahasa Malaysia. At least in Indonesia all of them assimilate, use Indonesian names and speak Bahasa Indonesia. (This is less hypocritical).

        So back off trivializing this issue. Why not we go for referendum to settle this once and for all. Do the democratic way in settling this. Let us all debate and resolve this once and for all. The referendum will establish the point of our social cohesion that you and I must accept so that we can go forward on a more beneficial common ground rather than this leftist move you are pushing for.

        • Andre Das says:

          This Allah issue is off this topic but to clarify your point:
          Not only the Christians but also the Sikhs and Bahais have been using Allah for their prayers for God knows how long.
          Has it made the Sikhs or Bahais so confused about the point that they recognise themselves as Muslims? According to your arguement this is the point of concern to the Muslims?
          Which dictionary are you referring to? A simple google search can enlighten you. […]
          You can tell the people anything you want but the “Truth” will remain the “Truth”.

        • JW Tan says:

          I take issue with your assertion that the practice in Indonesia to use Indonesian names and speak Bahasa Indonesia only is somehow less ‘hypocritical’ than to retain non-Malay names and speak languages other than Malay.

          Non-Malay Malaysians almost always speak Malay – it is difficult not to, given the nature of our educational system – but this does not mean that they ought to be forced to give up their culture and their language simply to be thought of as Malaysian. Malaysia has three major cultures, and many others, entwined in a single national identity. This is what is enshrined in the constitution. Indonesians of Chinese descent sometimes adopted Indonesian names out of fear. I’m very glad to say that this is not the case in Malaysia, because it is completely at odds with the rule of law.

          Anyway, if speaking anything other than Malay is hypocritical, what are you doing posting in English?

          • Ellese says:


            Your argument on constitutional rights is selective. You have purposely forgotten you are duty bound to protect Malay [Malaysian] privileges enshrined in the constitution. In the inverse, there are no specific provisions in the constitution recognising Chinese or Indian [Malaysians]. All races are treated equally save for certain provisions mainly on Malay [Malaysian] privileges, rights, customs and religion.

            On your argument that I use English as a form of communication, as a defender of Chinese culture, I don’t see you responding in Chinese. By the same token is this not hypocritical as well?

          • ID Crisis says:

            At one stage the Indonesian government shamelessly treated their citizens of Chinese origin disgracefully like the Germans did to the Jews in breach of their human rights. Indeed they also carried out pogroms against the Chinese as the Germans did to the Jews. Umno did the same on 13 May 1969. Umno also put thousands of Chinese in mass concentration camps during the “Emergency” period. The only thing missing were gas chambers.

            The Indon government made the Chinese use different ID cards and prohibited the use of Chinese signs. They had to “Indonesianise” their names etc. They faced a lot of discrimination and persecution (as Christians – thus copping it twice as Chinese and as Christians, which is what is happening here.)

            Is this a humane Islamic country? Are not Muslims meant to practise humane governance, or does the Quran tell them to treat others like animals? No. Everyone knows that. Only Umno does not.

            The problem with “Malaysia” is its neo-colonial nature which has created an ID crisis among many people. In 1957 there were “Malayans”. In 1963 Umno inherited and became the new colonial ruler of the British colonies of Sabah and Sarawak under the neo-colonial creation “Malaysia”. So the new “Malaysian” ID is a fake national ID!

            KL/Umno has further confused the matter by importing “instant Malaysians” from Indonesia and elsewhere in its cynical mass transmigration programme to boost its electoral strength. These people get instant Mykad, while thousands of natives born in Sabah and Sarawak remain stateless and are excluded as “Malaysian”.

            That is why the people of Sabah and Sarawak want their independence from Umno colonial rule. The majority do not regard themselves as “Malaysians”, only Sabahans or Sarawakians.

        • @Ellese, you suggest a referendum. That would be no different from asking Saudi Arabia to hold a referendum about whether Muslim women there should be allowed to drive.

          The issues about the use of “Allah” isn’t whether or not it’s what the majority wants. If that is the only standard we use to ensure justice and fairness, then I will bet my bottom dollar that Saudi women will never be able to drive. And how, then does that do them justice and ensure their freedom of movement and their independence?

          Similarly, how would it be fair, just or rational if the majority of Malaysians want non-Muslims to be barred from using “Allah”? If we say let the majority decide even if the tyranny of the masses deprives a community of the rights, then it would be no different from us agreeing that slavery and Apartheid are also right and just.

          The standard that should be used in lifting the ban on “Allah” should be seen from rights perspective, not a majority-rule perspective.

          Ah, but I’m sure you already know this 😉 Question is why do you persist in demanding for the rights of non-Muslims to be denied in the name of some Muslim’s confusion and lack of faith?

          • Idris says:

            I cannot find any reference showing that Ellese insists on non-Muslims being denied their rights in the name of some Muslims’ confusion and lack of faith. Please point out where such reference was made, if indeed there was such.

            That said, I do not see why you have to insist on this line of argument. It may be that some Muslims claim this to be a or the reason, but I strongly believe it is just an excuse, and that the root cause is different. I believe you have no chance of ‘winning’ if you maintain this defence and not go down into the root cause of things.

            Or perhaps you just take pleasure in taunting people, malay Muslims in this case.

          • Andre Das says:

            @Idris, interesting that you look at this as winning or losing (this is my inference, although you did not mention this anywhere in your reply), because this is not what this is all about. It’s about fairness and justice. Do you need certain things to be spelled out to know the implications of the statements?

    • Andre Das says:

      The Allah issue or nonissue was created by people associated with Umno despite there being no issue with its usage among Muslims in East Malaysia for many years. How DAP become the scape goat and how you have conveniently excluded PAS’s opinion about the Allah issue clearly shows that you are the one compartmentalising and simplifying this issue and not Ms Surin.

      Why don’t we also referendum the issue of whether the sun rises in the east, is a simple analogy for you in the hope you understand the point. The point is should we not educate people that the sun rises in the east? Or should we continue to insist that it does not as claimed by certain political parties without factual or theological support for political gain. The ultimate losers are simple folk who are led by lies and mistruths and continue to be backwards and easy prey for politicians. For the sake of simplicity, I choose to believe that you are in this category and not a cybertrooper assigned by Umno to enhance their political agenda and hope that you can see some sense.

      • Idris says:

        This is funny. Where you should be trying to convince Ellese of your point of view, you choose instead to belittle him/her, to run down and mock his/her arguments.

        I can’t say if I agree or disagree with Ellese’s opinions but I do think he/she is anything but a simple-minded folk. If anything, the opinions put forth resonate well with some of the more open, educated, intellectual Malays I know.

        Calling people like Ellese simple-minded does not help the cause of the non-Malays (I am assuming Ellese is a Malay here; I could be wrong). Again, it is people like Ellese whom you should be trying to convince. At the least, Ms Surin did not insult when rebutting Ellese’s arguments (not that I agree with everything Ms Surin said, though).

        If you cannot convince people like Ellese and have to resort to insults (reverse psychology of some sort?), how do you expect to convince the people in Perkasa, for example (let alone the rempits)?

        • Andre Das says:

          Sorry if you perceive my comments to the defined groups as insults. I have no intention of convincing or insulting anyone.

          For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
          For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

          • Idris says:

            “For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.”

            Wow. I would imagine Osama bin Laden’s thinking was along the same lines. He resorted to terrorism to overcome the problem.

  2. Nic says:

    Thank you for this. It is a very good summary of what had happened and what is happening now.

  3. rob says:

    Ms Surin makes a compelling case as to why some are trying to stoke the flames of ethnic tension in Malaysia. What should happen is a real shake-up in Malaysian politics with political parties based on ethnic or religious grounds outlawed. This was done in Nigeria following their terrible civil war: any party had to prove they had support from the major geographical (tribal) areas in the country in order to be registered.

    New Malaysian political parties should prove they have supporters from all major ethnic groups in the country in order to be registered. This would defuse a lot of the current nonsense.

  4. Kong Kek Kuat says:

    @ Jacqueline

    I understand that as the author of this essay, you are entitled to select the part of a narrative which pleases you.

    But don´t you think that you should have started your brief narrative from where it all begun, i.e. the first riot which started in Singapore and the causes of that first riot?

    Taken as a whole, i.e. from the first riot in 1964 (and the activities of the late Syed Albar) to the 1969 riot, I´m sure that the 1969 riot would fall into an accurate perspective — rather than the one which you´ve just narrated which appears to put the entire blame on the Chinese Malaysian community in and around KL at that time in 1969.

    • I think it’s important to show that May 13 happened because of a convergence of factors. I think I also make it clear that whatever Chinese Malaysians did to provoke the situation, the ensuing violence cannot be justified.

      I believe it is the mark of a mature individual and society if we are able to reflect on the role/s we played that contributed to a situation.

      The Chinese in 1969 were not passive victims. They actively took part in the demonstrations and the name-calling and the threats against the Malays. The point I’m making is that at least they have learnt from the past. Certain segments of Malay Malaysians still refuse to.

      If you yourself have done other research, and have another thesis, feel free to write your own commentary about 13 May and have it published. I do not claim to write the definitive commentary on 13 May. Just my findings from the limited research I did and my observations from past and present politics.

      • Kong Kek Kuat says:

        @ Jacqueline

        “I do not claim to write the definitive commentary on 13 May.” And you were not writing about that; you were writing about the lesson being lost on some segment of the Malay-Malaysian society. Your point has already been taken.

        But thank you for re-qualifying the following statement:

        “In my research to curate the different narratives about the incident for the reading, one thing above all surprised me. Chinese Malaysians, it was reported, were clearly responsible for the rising racial tensions that exploded on the streets of Kuala Lumpur in the evening of 13 May 1969.”

        It does have a curative effect.

  5. TC Ang says:

    Chinese Malaysians are not dumb enough to start a fight when the enemy outnumbers us 50 to 1. We prefer to just leave the country and never come back. We will probably come back when talent corp offers us more than just two tax-free used cars, and a permanent residency for our partners who then move here but cannot work.

    • JW Tan says:

      Certainly that is a path many non-Malay Malaysians have taken in the past. I don’t think it is the right one, certainly not if you wish to continue calling yourself a Malaysian. If you wish to leave that behind, then yes, there is something to be said for this course.

  6. alwaysfair says:

    “””But the historical documentation does suggest strongly that Chinese Malaysians weren’t just passive victims who were suddenly and irrationally set upon by the Malays.”””

    Even though there was some unruly behaviour from the participants of the procession by the Chinese [Malaysians], most of this behaviour was basically an excuse for power-grabbing. Please read RPK’s accounts of 13 May where Razak granted a permit for the procession in Tunku’s absence. Tunku refused to allow the permit, which he knew would provide an excuse for riots; the Chinese would then be blamed for the provocation. It was also a plot to oust Tunku. So, your facts are mostly one-sided.

  7. Shai-Hulud says:

    Wow. The quotation of Abdul Razak is painfully ironic.

    According to Tunku Abdul Rahman’s Tunku Tapes,
    “To this day I find it very hard to believe that Razak, whom I had known for so many years, would agree to work against me in this way. Actually, he was in my house as I was preparing to return to Kedah and I overhead him speaking to Harun over the phone saying that he would be willing to approve the permit when I left. I really could not believe what I was hearing and preferred to think it was about some other permit. In any case, as the Deputy Prime Minister in my absence from KL, he would be the Acting PM and would override my objection. Accordingly, when I was in my home in Kedah, I heard over the radio that the permit had been approved.”


    Thought this was already common knowledge. Turning in his grave with laughter more like.

  8. Andrew I says:

    Look on the bright side. It’s been 42 years since. It’s like repeating a story told to a child who has now grown up.

  9. Andre Das says:

    Ms Surin,
    Succintly written based on research and in your true journalistic tradition without fear or favour. No one will ever know the actual truth about any event and we can only get an idea based on research and how it is presented.

    I especially enjoyed your revealing of your age which I think is by intention, seeing your honest and direct approach on most things. […] Keep on Writing.

  10. Marcus says:


    I enjoyed this piece, and thoroughly enjoyed the workshop presentation at Five Arts Centre in TTDI on 14 May. It would be an excellent resource and reference if the script for that presentation could be made available for download.

    18 years is a long time; please keep writing for much longer.

  11. neptunian says:


    You should try to get hold of some retired Special Branch officers and get their take on May 13 riots – or should I say massacre. Putting the blame on the Chinese celebratory march is to insult those who were killed, mainly by the army (Malay regiment)

    The SB were aware of the plot for violence brewed by the then MB, but did not expect the participation of the Malay regiment as well. That’s the reason it got so out of hand and turned into a massacre.

    All police leave was cancelled prior to May 13, and all non-uniformed police, including the SB, were put into uniform. I am sure there are still a few SB members (Malays and non-Malays) alive today who can verify the statements above.

    It was a very sad day in Malaysian history, and nobody in their right mind wanted it then. I do not think anyone in their right mind would want it repeated.

  12. a coin will forever has two sides says:


    Hahaha… “limited research”… to back up your flaws… Next time please don’t find an excuse like this to justify your publishing. Please be mature. […]

  13. kamal says:

    Recognising this is a sensitive topic and as mature as we want to be, responses here clearly show that for some, we are still far from it. But allow me to raise some questions here.

    The violence was clearly something as a nation that all segments regretted. It had long-lasting political and social ramifications. Consequently it impacted and continues to impact the economy. People leave, some suggesting it is because they feel there is little or no room to negotiate their interests.

    It was interesting that Surin raise the Chinese role in leading up to the violence. And as she says, this does not justify the violent reprisal. I agree, no amount of name-calling should justify physical harm. But as some authors have suggested, the violence was not just one way. That deep seated mistrust had already caused people to be on alert. Miscommunication, rumours of attacks, etc added fuel to the situation. There were the events that led to the riots (Please correct me if I am wrong, this is all written from things I read many years ago). First there was the UMNO worker who was killed in Penang and then in KL two or three Chinese youths were killed in chase after having written Communist slogans. Then there was the funeral procession and what Tengku describes in his book on the event as having Communist slogans. And then of course the victory parade up and around Kg baru leading to May 13th. There was a Malay response to this-also marching and then violence erupted. Violence at this stage was still local. I am not trying to blame any one group here, but I feel there is a need not to lay blame rather as it goes on with time, more academic interests will uncover the complexities that caused the riots. What as society though we need is closure. Addressing the ghost of May 13 and honoring all those who died and forgiving all those whose hands may be bloodied is one way to close this chapter and move forward. We are all Malaysians. Inter-ethnic violence has sporadically sprouted here. If I am not mistaken one of the earlier incidence was not May 13th but rather post-WW2 when members from the resistance (mostly Communists) went after Japanese sympathisers and collaborators (much like what happened in Post-Nazi Europe). Only thing, here it had more of an inter-ethnic dimension. Was this racial?

    In the end the language here boils everything down to race, but a deeper search may uncover more complex relations.

    And, perhaps we should not all be too concern of our future, riots are a common theme in any modern society (look at Thailand-red and yellow shirts, Sydney Riots, Birmigham Riots, etc.). The question is not about Riots, but about our ability to move beyond that and embrace each other as part of one society: Malaysians.

    And to Ellese and Idris, Muslims are monotheistic-it means we only believe there is ONE God- not that we believe we have only one God. Also, it is to my understanding that the Orang Asal of Sabah and Sarawak have used the word Allah to mean God for a long time. It isn’t just a debate from the middle-east, rather it is one well rooted here in our country and in our region. For the Orang Asli of peninsular Malaysia there are several reference of familiar terms in Islam such as Firman, Ta’ala,Jibril, Malaikat, etc. that have found their way into their local vocabulary to refer to their pantheons of Gods and helpers. The point is not to suddenly impose sanctions on these terms as if they have copyright but rather to recognise that in a multicultural and cosmopolitan society like ours-which has probably been this way for at least a thousand years, syncreticism and hybridity will be the norm rather than exception. We should rejoice in it rather than attempt to create artifical boundaries to separate ourselves.

    • Idris says:

      […] I wonder, are we trying to so hard to distribute blame so as to not be seen picking on any one race/ethnic group? In other words, so as to not be seen as racist?

      Can we (whether Chinese or Malay, or both) accept the possibility that it was one and not the other that started this mess? Ms Surin tried, I believe, to write a balanced article (which may or may not be accurate), by not pinning the blame solely on any one racial group, but even so we have some people saying their race/ethnic group had little to do with that unfortunate incident. Hmm. I guess they’d probably say that their statements are fact, and that it is in fact the other party that started 13 May but now cannot accept this fact. Well, maybe they’re right. Maybe not.

      This brings me to another, somewhat related topic: is it fact that all races contributed equally to achieving independence (and all good things that came after that)? There are those calling for the rewriting of school textbooks to clarify the contributions by all races. Is it so difficult to accept that perhaps, Race A had a far greater role than Race B? So what if one race had a greater role than the other? So what (for example) if one race, at the time, was thinking only of the economic benefits to be had if independence was achieved?

      I think the MALAYS* should be prepared for the possibility that their race/ethnic group had practically nothing to do with our nation gaining independence (compared to the contributions by the other races) and everything to do with 13 May. No race today should feel guilt or be burdened in the least by what happened in the past.

      *Had I written the name of any other race here, some of TNG’s readers might start frothing at the mouth, spewing vitriol and making accusations of ‘simple-minded folk’. So Malays who are not happy with my use of their race as above, please accept this as a necessary “sacrifice” for the sake of preserving civilised discussion.

      • JW Tan says:

        I agree that it is highly likely that certain races contributed more to independence / May 13 violence / the Emergency / Operasi Lallang / any significant event in Malaysian history than others. I also agree that one ought not to be afraid or offended by statements to this effect, assuming they are well-researched and verifiable.

        I disagree however, that endorsing these statements or not endorsing these statements makes one a racist. Racism is an attitude, the existence of which normally can be gleaned more from the context of a statement than content (especially in these politically correct times). Asserting something definitive, like for example a certain race made no contributions to independence, without supporting evidence, may well be indicative of racism. It certainly is indicative of being a poorly conceived and unsupported statement.

      • Kong Kek Kuat says:

        @ Idris

        Wow, you have many facts but little to show here. I believe everyone would love to see what those facts are, instead of just words such as “this is a fact”.

        Would you mind showing us what your facts are? Here´s your chance to (re-)write the history of Malaysia!

        • Idris says:


          Apologies but as far as I can tell from what I wrote above, I did not state any ‘facts’. All I mentioned were possibilities.

          If I said anything that implied “this is a fact”, please point it out.

      • Firdaus says:

        @ Idris
        @ Ellese A

        Until now, you have not shown how not banning non-Muslims from using ‘Allah’ to refer to their God will affect Muslims in Malaysia. Maka mereka akan sesat agama” is nothing more than a statement.

        • Ellese says:

          Did I say that? Kindly point out where. Let me pose you the inverse question: Why in the world does anyone want to change our values, culture and practice of using Allah to exclusively refer to the Muslim god which has been accepted here for years and years? The only reason given is that it’s used differently by a minority population. The answer then begs the question: Why must we, being the majority, change and not them?

          Don’t be fooled by people like The Nut Graph on this issue. If they think it’s trivial and an Umno issue, why should they object to a referendum?

          • Andre Das says:

            Does Islam teach that might makes right? Malaysia is but a small point in the bigger map of the world, so please don’t keep harping on rhetoric that sounds like threats. If there was a referendum with proper briefing to the people of Malaysia, instead of the propaganda from the govt mass media, do you think [Muslims] will win it? Even now, there are many Muslims who are well read and mature, of which Tok Guru is a good example, who disagree with the Allah issue. […]

    • Ellese says:

      Dear kamal,

      Any society which is multicultural, multiethnic and multireligious will [be] bound to have conflict. It even happens [in] liberal democracies like France and UK. Thus you will see difficulties in building a mosque and a ban of Muslim headgear in Europe. In Switzerland, they even banned minarets on mosques through a referendum. The point is that in every country there is a point of common value where social cohesion exists. Invariably, it is the value of the majority.

      Now in this country there is a pure conflict. Muslims in Malaysia have used Allah exclusively to refer to the Muslim God for hundreds of years and overwhelmingly Muslims want to maintain this. On the other end, the Christian minority in east [Malaysia] have used it to refer to a totally [different] meaning at a much later date (at earliest 19th century if not 20th-during brooke period). Now tell me why is the value of the minority being preferred over the majority in this matter? Why not settle this by referendum?

      • Kamal says:

        “The point is that in every country there is a point of common value where social cohesion exists”.

        Ellese: Don’t you feel that we have a common value that make us Malaysians?

        A country that is truly cohesive is one that is not simply based on a crude populism or majority/might is right. There has to be a sense of right – and we have that in the spirit and practice of our law and the constitution. Everyone should have a fair say, and the protection of the minority – not against majority but against injustice – shows the maturity of a system.

        Where do you find that “Muslims in Malaysia have used Allah exclusively to refer to the Muslim God for hundreds of years and overwhelmingly Muslims want to maintain this…” Please show us where “an overwhelming Muslims want to maintain this”. Outright distortion of facts to support a point is just not cool.

        For this issue, a referendum is not the answer. Rather, the solution is how we have been doing this before it become a political topic, and that is to recognise and respect religious space. A Christian using “Allah” to refer to God does not infringe upon your belief. But you trying to get the word “Allah” exclusively for Muslim use does infringe on the thousands of Christians who choose to practise their faith in BM. Unless, of course, you are going to argue that they have no right to pracise their faith in BM. Now, why would anyone want to deny anyone the right to practise their faith in whatever language they choose, especially in the national language?

        I am going to repeat myself here: To your question, “Why not settle this with a referendum?” The answer is, we have a constitution that allows the freedom of religion, we have the practice of Christianity in BM, we have recorded traditions of Christians using “Allah” to refer to God, and finally, because it really doesn’t infringe on anybody’s rights. If you want to say they don’t have a right to how they want to practise their religion, you are the one infringing on their rights.

        As in the case of France and other European countries, Muslims are a fairly recent migrant population. There is also a recent history of fear of what people don’t know. And finally, yes, there is also the rise of right-wing ethno-nationalism. In my opinion, what they are doing is wrong. And we shouldn’t be applauding it, let alone think that it justifies our own discrimination.

        Ours is not about a migrant population, it is about OUR people. The Ibans, Melanaus, Kadazans, etc are indigenous communities of Malaysia. And lets face it, this is not about faith, it is about politics.

        Finally, we do have a common value, and anyone who has travelled beyond Bukit Kayu Hitam, Johor Baru, Golok, Tebedu, or any of our border towns will tell you that they can spot another Malaysian and more often than not would quite easily start a conversation. Why? Because we have a common basis as a nation: we are Malaysians. We will laugh at missing our local delights (yes, Mamak food suddenly becomes iconic); we laugh at our politics and politicians; we make fun of our papers and the freedom of press, etc.

        The point is, we have so many points of reference that we can appreciate the humour and the conversations. And one thing that never cease to amaze me is that regardless of age, gender or race, a Malaysian feels that it is only right to delve into one’s personal life. Frequently asked questions that I have encountered when meeting someone for the first time: “Sudah kahwin?” “Kenapa Belum?” Or “Awak Thambi ke?” or ” Sudah makan? Makan apa?” Food, family and race are common values we share. If we listen carefully enough, we realise that these questions aren’t meant to discriminate or separate us; these are simply common starting points that allow us Malaysians to feel comfortable to share or continue a conversation. It’s like our own secret password.

  14. There is much to be said of your essay on 13 May and what you clearly like your blog to propagate as the bogey of local politics, that being Umno.

    13 May was not an unforeseen event. There was a longer more sinister and bloody period in Malaysia’s history even prior to 13 May 1969 that continued unabated until it was finally checked in later years. That insurgency cannot be viewed in isolation like 13 May conveniently is. This was the Chinese-sponsored communist insurgency in Malaysia supported largely by local Chinese comrades in arms on both sides of the border. Sure, Chin Peng would like a rewrite of history to justify his bloody deeds and to compromise with his local Chinese partners so that history can be conveniently rewritten.

    It was an armed insurgency by Chinese-dominated groups bent on asserting their supremacy over the Malays and anyone else in the peninsula and beyond, through the force of arms. The myth of there just being Chin Peng and his band of merry men is disputed and documented by the former head of counter insurgency the expert Lt. Col. Peter Walls (now retired).

    There were significant and disparate groups under the same banner with one common purpose in mind: that being a Chinese-dominated peninsula and beyond. It was what China referred to loosely as Nanyang (a political doctrine of Maos).

    Today notably TNG leads the push to allow Chin Peng the terrorist who led that bloody insurgency to return to Malaysia from where he is currently holed up in Thailand. One must therefore question your objectives and the lack of objectivity in your continued provocation, writing incessantly and relentlessly about Malays and their organisations in such demeaning terms without the benefit of proper evidence and in reckless disregard for the truth.

    You may be entitled to your opinions as I am to mine, but without balance and with a style of chauvinism in your rhetoric resembling the Chinese writings in Malaysia prior to 13 May, one has to ask what your true motives are on this blog. Are you in fact provoking another spill of blood? Patience is a virtue, but when taken to the limits of human endurance, patience is stupidity and people will react. And I am not Malay nor Tun Hussein but cannot help but see his point of view and contention with the likes of TNG.

    Your continued attacks on Malay nationalists and Umno are no different to the unrelenting propaganda of the communist Chinese youth of the time (the 1960s and 1970s), which the Malays perceive as a threat to their existence. And neither you nor your supporters in a vocal minority have any moral or political right to wish away.

    There was fear then – and that fear was real – that the Chinese did plan to conquer and subjugate the entire peninsula and Indonesia. The British, Australians and the US shared that fear then. That fear was shared by noted Chinese luminaries and politicians alike, from Lim Soei Liem (Indonesian tobacco billionaire) to Lee Kuan Yew, former Prime Minister of Singapore.

    By adding what you see as facts scantily clad over your thinly veiled anti-Malay rhetoric, you do not overcome the bigotry of your assertions in this essay. There was a two=pronged putsch by the Chinese for domination as there is now. The Kuomintang elements supported by the British and Americans dominated commerce and obtained favour and patronage through the MCA. Their ‘soto governo’ (the Italian term for under government a reference to organised-crime syndicates) ruled conveniently and alongside the MCA in Malaysia.

    The triads were then as they are today a traditional part of Chinese society tolerated by their silence and their willingness to pay for a bit of peace and indulgence when the occasion calls for it. Why on earth would the Chinese continue to provoke another 13 May? Why would the rhetoric of the Malaysian Bar and TNG continue to test the constitution without properly understanding its contents and the conventions that run alongside the constitution?

    In a majority, the Malays could well overturn the constitution without the need for a referendum. Tommy Thomas, your so-called constitutional expert, may disagree but he is supportive of your inflammatory arguments, it would appear.

    By your unrequited call for changes you demand through TNG and other platforms for constitutional ‘reform’, you may be precipitating a crisis and a change you are not quite ready for. And neither is any quarter of an enlightened Malaysia. The Malays as a majority do not have the numbers they have the right to in a democracy. And the way you and your blog continue to provoke, I for one will be propagating a gradual change to Ketuanan Melayu which exists in its conventional form anyway. Safer with them than with you and your kind anyday.

    • JW Tan says:

      Some of those are pretty shocking statements. Could you clarify some of them? In particular I’m interested in these:

      (1) “The Kuomintang elements supported by the British and Americans dominated commerce and obtained favour and patronage through the MCA. Their ‘soto governo’ (the Italian term for under government a reference to organised-crime syndicates) ruled conveniently and alongside the MCA in Malaysia.” Any evidence or further citations on this?

      (2) “In a majority, the Malays could well overturn the constitution without the need for a referendum.” In the trivial case that this is an illegal act on the way to reverting to some sort of dictatorship, this is true, but I presume you mean democratically and legally?

      (3) “The Malays as a majority do not have the numbers they have the right to in a democracy.” Could you explain this please? As we do not have a proportional representation system in our lower house there is no reason to expect the proportion of Malay MPs to conform to the proportion of Malays in the population. In fact if it did it would be further damning evidence of our racist affirmative action policies.

      (4) “I for one will be propagating a gradual change to Ketuanan Melayu which exists in its conventional form anyway.” By this presumably you mean absolute domination by the Malay socio-ethnic group rather than the current looser, unofficial discrimination in favour of and by the Malay socio-ethnic group?

    • Kong Kek Kuat says:

      @ Gopal Raj Kumar

      Aiyoyo… I totally absolutely completely agree with you after I had a good laugh, which was so hard I fell off my chair.

      You know what? Let me tell you a secret: The Chinese are planning to conquer and subjugate the world this time – not just “what China referred to loosely as Nanyang (a political doctrine of Maos).” This time, it´s not just the British, Australians, and the Americans, but the whole West (+ India) that is sharing that fear.

      I guess for you, you´ll be switching sides to the Americans, huh? No surprises there.

    • HY says:

      “There were significant and disparate groups under the same banner with one common purpose in mind: that being a Chinese-dominated peninsula and beyond. It was what China referred to loosely as Nanyang (a political doctrine of Maos).”

      Not sure what is meant by political doctrine of Maos. It is a well-known fact that there was abattle of ideology between liberal democracy and materialism communism during the 20th century. The Soviet Union and China supported communism, and the USA/West supported democracy. So what does this have to do with being “Chinese-dominated”? Nanyang was the appellation used since the Ming Dynasty, so how this relevant? […]

  15. Adam says:

    No Malaysian would want another 13 May, and Malaysia cannot afford another either, as otherwise our economy would be in shambles.

    The victorious Chinese [Malaysians] taunting the Malays was only an excuse for their larger agenda of taking back control and ousting our Tunku. They were bad losers if you ask me. Blood was on the hands of those who planned and started it.

    Now, I do not think that the Malays would also want to start any event like that as there is more to lose than to gain. The many shares they are holding would go up in smoke and would be worth nothing if another event like 13 May were to happen. No way.

  16. a coin will forever has two sides says:

    Surely, the Sarawakian & Sabahan were not involved at ALL in May 13th… perhaps we all from the peninsular should have “a once in a lifetime stint in East Malaysia” to learn how to be real Malaysians.

    ‘O people we have created you from a single male and female and divided you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.’

  17. Fern Yi says:

    I’ve never read an article about May 13 from this angle. Very well written. =D

  18. Nic says:

    Life is about change. As humans, we grow, develop and constantly change. It may be the case that Malay [Malaysians] have used the word Allah exclusively for Muslim beliefs for generations, but now there are many cultures here, and there is bound to be an adoption or use of the word amongst these people. If it is done in respectful discussion, then indignation and anger about its use is misguided and bound to cause intercultural angst.

    Malays, Chinese, Indians and the various Orang Asli groups in Malaysia have been influencing each other a lot for the last hundred years at least, and historically, much longer than that. Chinese Malaysians, for example, are very different to Chinese Republicans. And if Malays had never experienced change, they would all still be Hindu. Change is a constant. In a multicultural society, it can enrich the citizens if they wish, or they can try to fight it and bring civil disorder.

    All the citizens of Malaysia bring value, talent, wealth and the patriot spirit to the country. For it to give back to all its citizens, we have to demand respect for this concept from our leaders. If our leaders, from any part of our society, try to denigrate other groups, then those leaders should not be given the support or attention they are trying to garner.

    Nazism in WWII was an extremely racist group, vilified by the world, but they have never been the only ones to ever think this way – even now. Racism and hate-mongering have always been a good way to galvanise people and turn them away from the real issues (government corruption and negligence for example), because these thoughts and ideas are never far from the surface. Humans always blame behaviour on the face of the person rather than their personality. Someone hurts us and we say it’s because of their such and such race/sex. So racism and discrimination are always close by. If leaders are encouraging it, we have to look behind their smoke-screen words and look at what they are really trying to hide.

    Malaysia has come far in the last three decades. There have been some good leaders, but most of the work has been done by the people. Do we want our leaders to set us back again?
    Malays are the majority, but with that comes responsibility. We have to pick our fights. Really, in the big picture, is it more important who uses the word Allah, or is it the freedom to practice our beliefs in a peaceful country where Allah’s love is everywhere?

  19. Andre Das says:

    You have a talent in writing that almost eclipses Jacq. You know how to express facts in an uncondescending and pleasant manner so hopefully the point gets delivered without all the vitriolic and emotions that serve to build animosity. I enjoyed your writing which expressed so many of my thoughts and feelings which I am unable to put down to words so clearly as you have down. Maybe my scientific background has deprived me of artistic traits so my writings are more blunt and perceived as abrasive by some.

  20. Tan says:

    It has nothing to do with any of the arguments. It’s a distraction for more urgent issues like Lynas, nuclear plants, scholarships, the hardship all Malaysians will face when we have exhausted our oil, [etc.]

  21. Jess says:

    Jaq: A well-intentioned piece which got more than a little side-tracked by the official line used in the National Operations Council (NOC) report, i.e. it was the victory demonstrations and tauntings by the mainly Chinese DAP/Gerakan supporters that started all the trouble. I have no doubt this happened and was a contributory factor. But was it the sole or main contributory factor? Or was it a golden opportunity for those Malay-ultras within Umno to launch a coup d’etat against Tunku and his more moderate, multiracial approach to nation-building?

    It would have been more balanced if you had compared and contrasted other independent sources (e.g. British diplomatic cables) as Kua Kia Soong did for his 13 May book.

    The NOC was not an independent body. It was set up by the same people, Tun Abdul Razak included, that ousted a democratically elected prime minister (the Tunku’s own conclusion), suspended Parliament, and ruled and rewrote our laws by fiat. One cannot expect them to write an unbiased account as they had an agenda and needed a convenient excuse to execute that agenda.

    It would also have voided this infantile “Who started the riots, the Chinese or the Malays?” argument that gets us nowhere closer to closure from 13 May and moving on as a nation.

  22. siuyea says:

    I came across a tiny book in 1995 in the university library from John Slimming, a British journalist who wrote down what he saw, heard and verified in 1969. I jotted down what summary I could. My heart sank […] realizing for the first time in my life of how NEP came about. He documented that the police and the armed forces caused the most casualties. See

    Fifteen years later, I wrote a piece on “Saying ‘I love U’ to Ibrahim Ali” (, finding courage to forgive the ‘Perkasa’ mentality and love the people behind the idea by digging deeper into my faith. I hope it will be helpful to someone else other than myself.

  23. Merah Silu says:

    I share with many views here that we cannot afford to have the repeat of the 13 May 1969 again. Not in the 21st century. We should live in peace and harmony. And we should have mutual respect and understanding between many races in this country, whether they are the native sons-of-the soil, the legal and illegal immigrants and their respective descendents.

    Melayu mudah lupa. That was what the great leader of Malays, Tun Mahathir, said. They easily ignored the fact that Chinese and Indian immigrants were brought in by British, and became collaborators to serve the British interests in robbing the country’s resources. Although the British forgot to bring these immigrants and their descendants out from the country in the late 50s, some Malay leaders agreed to adopt these immigrants and their descendants, thinking that they were only interested in cari makan sahaja. They broke the Malay principle that the guests could share the food but not the ownership of the house!!

    I agree with some views here that the Chinese started the armed struggle to take over the country immediately after the war. They also started the racial riot 1964 in Singapore, and as correctly highlighted in this article, they did the provocation and started the May 13 tragedy.

    I have seen that the provocations by these the descendants of the economic-seeking immigrants are still happening. They are adopting the strategy ‘break and rule’ of Malay unity, for them to rule this country according to their own mould. I hope they understand that to develop a very stable ‘bangsa Malaysia’ requires a lot of sacrifices and understanding from various races. It would also take decades if not centuries. The Malays, however, tidak lupa that this is their country, and the country of their ancestors. Nothing will change that.

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