For May 13 generation, Malaysia still a country divided by same old topic of race


(Malay Mail Online) – The spate of hate speeches aimed at driving a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims appear to be unravelling nation-building efforts made since May 13, 1969, and suggests not much has changed since that watershed 45 years ago, civil society leaders and opposition lawmakers have said on the eve of the anniversary of the country’s worst race riots next Tuesday.

Although 45 years have passed since the May 13 riots, racial tensions continue to simmer beneath the surface of a robust economy, they said at a small public forum here last night.

According to them, the recent spate of racially venomous remarks and actions point to a dangerous future for Malaysia and must be tackled by the authorities which have mostly stayed silent.

“It can be said that there is evil in the air. Venom, poison, baggage of hate based on language,” DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang told the forum.

“Never has it been this serious, I think. Where are we heading? We have lost our direction on nation building.”

The Gelang Patah MP pointed out the recent inflammatory statement made by Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), which accused the Chinese of being intruders into Malay land, and had been brought by British colonialists to oppress Malays.

“Nothing I can see that shows anything new between 1969 and 2014. We see remarks, actions and nuances that depict it as if we want to return to racial tensions, by invoking ancient history,” said PAS’ Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa.

Mujahid, who claimed he was raised with the May 13 incident as a bogeyman, claimed that sentiments against the Chinese and Indians have stayed the same among some Malays, where the two ethnic groups are still considered as immigrants.

“These are jarring voices, whose ears are deaf, whose eyes are blind… who do not know the direction of our future,” the Parit Buntar MP added, referring to Isma.

Besides Isma, the panellists also mentioned Muslim speakers at a seminar on Christology in Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), who claimed last Tuesday that the Gospels in the New Testament were “fake” and that Jesus Christ was simply a “human slave to Allah”.

Meanwhile, PAS’ Mohd Nasaei Ismail alleged that there was a series of events involving hudud, arrests of Islamic militants and negative comments from Islamist groups, which he claimed were linked together to make Islam look bad.

The forum last night, organised by Shah Alam PAS, saw Lim relating his times during the racial riots, which he only experienced through news as he was away in Kota Kinabalu at that time.

Joining him was veteran journalist Subky Abdul Latiff, who experienced first hand the riots as he was residing in Kampung Baru at that time.

The riots were said to be started at the house of Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Harun Idris of Umno, where two Chinese were reportedly killed on the spot after it broke out.

The incident subsequently ignited Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, leading to a nearly one-hour riot that saw deaths, injuries, and arson.

Official police figures said 196 people died and 149 were wounded, but the numbers were disputed with unofficial figures almost three-fold.

A state of emergency and curfew was declared, while Parliament was suspended as the National Operations Council (Mageran) took over until 1971.

The aftermath saw the Malaysian pledge of allegiance Rukunegara introduced, and affirmative action policies for the Malays such as the as the New Economic Policy (NEP).

In the forum, Lim urged the public to “save the country” adding that his opposition pact Pakatan Rakyat must step up if the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional fails to do so.

He also repeated his calls for a truth and reconciliation body to conduct an independent probe on the incident, similar to the one in South Africa after the abolition of apartheid.

“Do we want the incident to repeat itself? If it does, I worry of the intervention from foreign powers,” added Subky, who started his career in Malay broadsheet Utusan Melayu before joining PAS.