The REAL Story Of May13

UMNO is at it again! They are going round the country saying that keADILan and PAS have allowed the National Mosque to be used by non-Muslims to attack Muslims. UMNO politicians and Pusat Islam officials have likened the non-Muslims to “unclean” people because of their pork eating and liquor drinking so they should not have been allowed into the mosque.

Maybe these narrow-minded people have not noticed the daily busloads of foreign tourists visiting the National Mosque as part of their itinerary? Have these foreign (non-Muslim) tourists been screened whether they eat pork or drink liquor before being allowed into the mosque? I bet not!

UMNO adopted this very dangerous strategy once, 30 years ago, back in 1969, which resulted in the infamous May 13 racial riots. Now they are doing it again. It was a very narrow-minded and shortsighted strategy then. It still is now – maybe even more so now seeing that we have entered the borderless cyber age and are about to enter a new millennium.

Race and religion should no longer be used to separate Malaysians in the divide-and-rule policy of the Barsian Nasional government. The Malays, Chinese and Indians must protest strongly and reject this outdated racial politics that is extremely dangerous and can disrupt the peace and stability of this multi-racial, multi-religious country of ours. UMNO is saying one thing to the Malays, and the opposite to the non-Malays. This is the height of hypocrisy. 

Do any of you know the REAL story behind May 13 – how is started, why it was started, and who started it? If not, then let me take you down memory lane.

Contrary to what the (local) history books try to tell us, May 13 was NOT about Malay and Chinese rivalry. It may have eventually ended that way, but that definitely was not how it started out. May 13 was basically a Malay political struggle with racialism used as a camouflage.

To understand May 13, we need to go back to the pre-Merdeka days to see how independence was achieved and how the first leaders of independent Malaya were groomed to take over running the country.

The British knew that, one day, they would have to grant independence to Malaya. India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and many countries around this region had already gained independence from their colonial masters. In 1946, the independence movement in Malaya had also started, giving birth to the first Malay political party, UMNO. It was a matter of time before the British would have to give in to the demands of the Malays.

The British thought that the best way to grant independence to Malaya, yet still have some control over their old colony, would be to groom the leaders who would take over and educate them the British way so that they would soon become more English than the Englishman.

In the mid 1940s, the British doors were thrown open to the Malays and the first batch of Malays was brought over to England to receive an English education. These were mostly the sons of the elite and royalty - Tengku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, and many more future leaders of Malaya. Tengku Rahman was definitely given special treatment by the British to the extent he was the only student in Cambridge history ever allowed to own a car on campus (everyone else rode bicycles). He drove a MG sports car and spent his years enjoying the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

Eventually these young graduates of an English education were brought back to Malaya and given government posts as part of their training to one day take over the reins of power. As an example Tengku became a District Officer in Kedah, a post normally reserved for the "white man".

Needless to say, these English educated Malays enjoyed all the trappings of England including cricket, rugby, tea-at-four, brandy-after-dinner, and so on, not to mention a day at the races.

Eventually Merdeka was won and, in 1957, the local Malays took over running the government. But it was merely a changing of the skin colour. The management style remained the same. It was Merdeka without losing the English influence. In fact, as mentioned earlier, the Malays of this era tended to be more English than even the Englishmen themselves.

Twelve years on and the "young Turks" in UMNO were getting restless and wanted a change of leadership. These young Turks such as Hussein Onn and Mahathir Mohammad had no sentimental attachments to the British, as they were educated in India and Singapore respectively. They were also angry that the Tengku surrounded himself with Chinese businessman. Mahathir made this point very clear in his letter to Tengku which goes as follows:

"You have become so powerful, both by virtue of your office and by popular acclaim, that UMNO has become subservient to you. UMNO is being held together, not because the members share your ideas on politics, but through a system of patronage and disguised coercion based on
Government rather than party authority.

A feeling of power normally grips those who wield patronage, a feeling that they can mould and shape people and opinions any way they please. The leaders of UMNO, the senior partners of the Alliance Government, have succumbed to this disease and, believing that they no longer need to heed the opinions of their supporters, they disregard them at every turn.

Laws have been hurriedly passed without prior consultation with the representatives who have had to "sell" these laws to the people. Tax innovations have been made and discarded with complete disregard for the disrupting effect on the public. In the main, Parliamentary sittings are regarded as a pleasant formality which afford members an opportunity to be heard and quoted, but which have absolutely no effect on the course of the Government. The sittings are a concession to a superfluous democratic practice. Off and on, this strength is used to change the constitution. The manner, the frequency, and the trivial reasons for altering the constitution have reduced this supreme law of the nation to a useless scrap of paper.

Your Ministers and the Cabinet are vested with this decision-making authority. It is obvious that only the most capable and experienced should be made Ministers and be in the Cabinet. But independent Malaysia has chosen to treat membership of the Cabinet as a reward for loyalty to party chiefs and acceptability to the Prime Minister. Once appointed, no amount of dereliction of duty could affect the position of a Minister. On the other hand, even if the Minister performs well, failure to remain on good terms with the Prime Minister means removal from the Ministry.

Your Government of mediocre people is bereft of ideas, is unable to understand the limits of their authority, and is generally unable to rule. All the while, however, your Government is busy on devices to perpetuate itself. These devices are so transparent and so lacking in subtlety that they achieve just the opposite effect.

May I remind you, Merdeka has brought power and wealth to the new Malay elite. Politics is found to be the panacea. It provides a shortcut to everything. It makes possible the attainment of positions of immense power. These Malays are in a position to acquire riches.

At first, this might seem grossly unfair. These few Malays - for they are still only a very few - have waxed riches not because of themselves, but because of the policy of a Government supported by a huge majority of poor Malays. It would seem that the efforts of the poor Malays have gone to enrich a select few of their own people. The poor Malays themselves have not gained one iota. With the existence of the few rich Malays, at least the poor Malays can say that their fate is not entirely to serve the rich non-Malays. From their point of view of racial ego, and this ego is still strong, the unseemly existence of Malay tycoons is essential.

The various races in Malaysia are differentiated not merely by ethnic origin, but also by many other characteristics. These characteristics are important. How these characteristics develop is another matter, but when races compete in a given field, these characteristics play an extremely important role. The Jews, for example are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively. 

The possession of these characteristics means little until different races come into contact with each other. Jewish stinginess and financial wizardry gained them the commercial control of Europe and provoked an anti-Semitism, which waxed and waned throughout Europe through the ages.

The first thing that comes to mind is that the vast majority of Malays are feudalistic and wish to remain so. A revolution, which starts off by preaching the destruction of the established monarchical order, will therefore fail. It will not win the support of the majority of orthodox Malays. In any case, the monarch has done no real harm to the Malays or to anyone else. The maintenance of the system is no doubt costly, but being separated from power, the ruler cannot constitute a tyranny. Besides, a Malaysia without rulers would mean the complete eclipse of the Malays. It is the rulers who have in the past furnished and continued to present the Malay character of Malaysia. Remove them, and the last vestige of traditional Malaysia would disappear. It is essential therefore that the monarchy remains.

To take on an adversary when it seems to be beyond one's capacity is courageous. To calculate and assess one's chances first is to exhibit cowardice. Time and again this inability or unwillingness to measure the odds against them has led to defeat and disaster for the Malays. The courageous or brave Malay is usually foolhardy, and because he is likely to do things without thinking of the consequences, the average Malay treats him with fear and respect. The ordinary man knows that it is not worthwhile to incur his displeasure and that it is safer to let him have his own way. The ordinary man therefore represents the other extreme when principle is easily set aside for the sake of safety.

Even feudalism can be beneficial if it facilitates changes. The political Rajas of today can, therefore, institute change if they themselves are willing to change. Such a change would spread rapidly. If the indications are that there should be a change in the value system and ethical code, then the leaders can lead the way with the certainty that they will be followed by the masses. In a feudal society, if the leaders fail, then there is little hope for the masses."

The move to push Tengku Rahman aside had started. They needed something to trigger off some
form of resentment to the government. They needed the Malays to rise, and what better platform than a racial platform?

Prior to that, 11 Chinese were sentenced to death for killing a Malay prison warden in Pudu Jail. The Chinese wanted the death sentence commuted and they held demonstrations in the Chinese dominated areas around Kuala Lumpur. The government had no choice but to back down, thereby angering the Malays.

In another incident, some Chinese demonstrated in front of the USIS and one demonstrator was shot dead. The Chinese wanted a funeral procession but the police would not grant them permission as they knew it would attract a huge crowd and the funeral would be turned into a demonstration. Tun Razak, however, told the police to grant them permission and ordered the police off the streets. The resulting "giant" parade built up tensions further.

The May 1969 General Elections were held soon after and the Alliance Party won only 40% of the votes resulting in them losing their two-thirds majority in Parliament. The opposition party held "victory parades" which turned into a mud-slinging and name-calling session. The Malays were now really angry and decided to hold a victory parade of their own. Dato Harun was given the task of managing this "event".

On May 13 the entire cabinet withdrew to Frazers Hill while the Malays prepared for trouble. People in the top echelon of the government and commerce were tipped off to get out of town or go home early and by 3.00pm the city was quite deserted of the elite except for the unknowing rakyat.

That same evening, racial riots exploded, Parliament was dissolved saving the Alliance government, and power was transferred to Tun Razak under the NOC. Tengku was now powerless.

Mahathir then increased his attacks on the Tengku using racial issues as his platform. He also called for MCA's expulsion from the Alliance to "punish" the Chinese. Instead, Mahathir was expelled from the party as these two newspaper reports show.

1. (Utusan Melayu and Utusan Malaysia of 6 June 1969)

KUALA LUMPUR 5 June - Some leading members of UMNO's Supreme Council have voiced their support for the decision by MCA leadership to exclude themselves from the Cabinet. Among them are Tan Sri Syed Jaafar Albar, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad and Syed Nasir bin Ismail.

In a meeting with Utusan Malaysia, Tan Sri Syed Jaafar emphasised his disapproval of efforts made to ask MCA to re-enter the Cabinet.

"I do not agree with the way some Chinese chambers of commerce have stated their confidence and support of Tun Tan Siew Sin and their asking him to reconsider MCA's decision to withdraw from the Cabinet," he said.

According to him, the problem now was not the question of confidence towards Tun Tan Siew Sin as the MCA leader, but whether the Chinese supported the present policies of the Alliance.

"This is the matter that should be considered by these people who are making a big fuss about giving their support to Tun Tan Siew Sin today," he added.

Tan Sri Jaafar Albar also stated that the support given to Tun Tan Siew Sin by the Chinese Chambers of Commerce was not sufficient because support had to come from the majority of the Chinese population.

He stated that discussions about MCA's inclusion in the Cabinet should not be confined to the newspapers or to MCA alone because UMNO, as the backbone of the Alliance party, had not decided yet if MCA and MIC should be included in the Cabinet or if the Alliance should remain as it was then.

He said: "It is not only the duty of MCA to discuss this matter as if it is its own peculiar problem, but it should be the responsibility of all the Alliance leaders from the UMNO, MCA, and MIC."

However, he did not want to give his final views before the party met to discuss the matter.

Mahathir, who supported Tan Sri Syed Jaafar's statement, stressed that MCA leaders had to adhere to their earlier decision of not wanting to be included in the Cabinet.

He said that he agreed with the view of MCA leaders that they could not actually represent the people they claimed to represent.

According to Mahathir, the support given to Tun Tan Siew Sin by the Chinese chambers of commerce and other Chinese organisations could not be taken as support from the Chinese community as a whole to MCA because those organisations did not represent the desires of the Chinese community as a whole.

"If MCA wants to know whether they have the support of the Chinese, they have to wait for the next general election. Since this will take quite some time, it is no longer necessary for MCA to remain in the Cabinet," he emphasised.

Mahathir also said that MIC's position in the Cabinet should also be reconsidered.

Syed Nasir stressed that on the whole, the relationship between UMNO, MCA and MIC had to be reviewed to take in the changes which had taken place after the general elections.

"The people have expressed their needs and desires, and there is little point in pretending that the policies of the Alliance party are the best acceptable to them," he said.

2. Press Statement Released by UMNO's Secretary General, Senu Abdul Rahman

"Mahathir Mohamad ceases to be a member of the UMNO Supreme Council with effect from today, 12 July 1969.

This decision was taken following the wide distribution to the public of Mahathir's letter to Tunku Abdul Rahman, President of UMNO Malaysia.

Letters containing important matters should first be discussed by UMNO's Supreme Council, especially in view of the present situation in the country.

The action taken by Mahathir is seen to be in breach of the party's etiquette and is capable of damaging party solidarity and the government which the party supports."

Mahathir replied to this in his letter to Tengku dated 17th June 1969. 

"Your opinions were based on stories you heard from people who surround you, and who tell you only what they think you like to hear or should hear. Permit me to tell you what the position, the thoughts and the opinions of the people are really, so that you can understand my motive for making that press statement.

You yourself told me that you have prevented a riot by commuting the death sentence of the 11 subversive Chinese. In truth this very action sparked the riots of 13 May, which resulted in the deaths of many, many more.

Your 'give and take' policy gives the Chinese everything they ask for. The climax was the commuting of the death sentence, which made the majority of the Malays angry. The Chinese on the other hand regarded you and the Alliance government as cowards and weaklings who could be pushed around.

That was why the Chinese and the Indians behaved outrageously toward the Malays on 12th May. If you had been spit in the face, called dirty names and shown obscene gestures and private parts, then you could understand how the Malays felt. The Malays whom you thought would never rebel went berserk, and they hate you for giving too much face. The responsibility of the deaths of these people, Muslim or Infidels, rests on the shoulders of the leader who holds views based on wrong assumptions.

I regret writing this letter, but I have to convey to you the feelings of the Malays. In truth the Malays whether they are UMNO or PMIP supporters really hate you, especially those who had lost homes, children and relatives, because of your 'give and take' policy.

They said you wanted to be known only as 'The Happy Prime Minister' even though others are suffering. They said that although the country was in a state of emergency you were engrossed playing poker with your Chinese friends. Even the policemen said that you were using official cars and police escorts to contact your poker gang.

Lately, another disturbing factor came to light. The Malays in the Civil Service, from Permanent Secretary downwards, Army Officers and the Malays in the Police Force have lost faith and respect for you. I know that the majority of them voted for the PMIP through mail ballots....

I wish to convey what the people really think, that is that it is high time you resign as our Prime Minister and UMNO leader.

I am fully aware of the powers you still hold and I remember too well the fate of AZIZ ISHAK. But I would be irresponsible if I do not explain what I have said earlier. Even if I am jailed, I have to say what I have already said.

Once more I wish to repeat that the statement I made [on the continued exclusion of the MCA from the Cabinet] is to prevent the Malays from hating the Government more and to stop the Chinese from abusing the dignity of the Malays. A bigger riot will occur if this is allowed. The military itself will be beyond control.

I pray to God it will open your heart to accept the truth bitter though it may be."

Soon after, Tengku stepped aside and Tun Razak took over as Prime Minister. The opposition parties were invited to join the government and the Alliance gave way to the Barisan Nasional giving the government back their two-thirds majority in Parliament. Later on, of course, PAS left the BN to stay on as an opposition party.

This was a conspiracy at the highest level and nothing short of a power struggle with the "Young Turks" then forming the pressure group. To achieve their ends, they very “cleverly” used race to make the Malays rise and push Tengku aside. Today they are doing it again, but this time to try to push keADILan and PAS aside. This is dangerous. It may backfire and, instead, it may make the Malays rise against the non-Malays, like what happened in 1969 – a fire raging out of control and no fire extinguisher in sight.

We must never allow our country to be turned into a racial battlefield again. Let politics be issues concerning policies, civil rights, and justice. Let us not allow anyone to bring race and religion into our politics lest we suffer the fate of many countries around us where mass murders of entire families are made in the name of “bangsa” and “agama”.


Raja Petra Kamarudin