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May 13 anniversary passed as non-event

  • From the painful past, we must honestly inspect our problems today so that we can wholly deliver ourselves out of the gloom of May 13.

By TAY TIAN YAN
Sin Chew Daily

May 13 this year marked the 50th anniversary of the bloody incident taking place back in 1969.

The media carried sporadic retrospective reports while one or two commemorative talks were held by civic organizations.

Same as the previous years, the atmosphere this year has been dull and low, with hardly any significant public attention drawn.

The issue was handled coldly by the authorities as in past years. Home minster Muhyiddin Yassin said the May 13 files would not be declassified as no one had voiced it up. Those seeking to declassify them, apologetically, only represent the “viewpoint of a few”.

The attitude towards May 13 remains much the same despite a change in federal administration.

So, that was how we had our May 13 anniversary, 50 years or half a century on.

To this particular part of the nation's painful history, I have a feeling we have chosen to deal with it with indifference, apathy and elusion.

Of course, there are people who would argue that we should let bygones be bygones.

Understanding our history and facing it boldly is not to dig up old wounds or to pursue the culprits, nor incite public sentiments.

As a matter of fact, May 13 has been repeatedly exploited by irresponsible politicians to instill fear in people, just because many of us don't understand it and fear mentioning it again.

Despite the fact May 13 ended 50 years ago, its ghost is still haunting us for much of the past five decades, and all that we know about it has drawn almost exclusively from vague official illustrations.

We actually know very little about the truth. All that we have is some kind of impression ingrained in us.

As for the social conditions back in those days, we hardly have any idea.

Both the Chinese and Malay communities then were overcome with a sense of insecurity in the absence of common understanding.

The Malays did not have an absolute advantage of numbers like what they do today. Coupled with their relatively low socioeconomic status, they were fearful of losing their political dominance.

Meanwhile, the Chinese were unhappy that the Malays had all the political powers in their hands, the status of the Chinese language was not recognized by the government and the perception that they had not been treated equally in the country.

The allied government under Tunku Abdul Rahman used to be an enviable model of running a multiracial country. However, Tunku's model was put to a test when mutual trust thinned out and the sense of insecurity surfaced, and came to a complete collapse at the instigation of extreme racists.

From the Alliance Party to Barisan Nasional to Pakatan Harapan today, racial and religious ideologies have shown no signs of ebbing in the past 50 years. Politicians and their parties continue to cook up racial and religious issues as they did in yesteryear.

As our society continues to elude May 13, the specter of May 13 will keep haunting us for many more years to come.

But the thing is: from the painful past, we must honestly inspect our problems today so that we can wholly deliver ourselves out of the gloom of May 13.

 

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