May 13, Ahmad Said and Umno


While the anniversary of May 13 was very low key, the former Terengganu MB was the media highlight

Koon Yew Yin, Free Malaysia Today

This past week has been notable for two events. Firstly the anniversary of May 13 came and went without much fuss.

The mainstream media largely ignored the event and so did politicians and the general public. There were a few exceptions to the absence of attention given to May 13.

A press statement from over 20 civil society organisations pledged to defend peace, inclusion and freedom in Malaysia and calling on all political parties and politicians to openly declare that they will govern and administer on behalf of all Malaysians, irrespective of ethnicity, belief, gender and any other social standing and group membership.

By and large it is a good development that the tragic anniversary day was trouble free and also threat-free.

In the past, Umno politicians have played the racial riot card on this day; and their extremist supporters have threatened to run amok anytime they have felt that the “pendatang” are unreasonable in their demands for equality in the country.

Can another May 13 happen again in Malaysia? I personally do not think so for the following reasons.

1. The elite Malays of today in the palaces, Putrajaya, business world and other sectors where they dominate have too much to lose. There is no way they will allow a Malay instigated racial riot to take place – even a limited one – because the cost to their own economic and financial interests will be too heavy. If it was just a few Malays who belong to the elite and they have a small share of the national wealth, then perhaps it may happen. But the Malay upper class and elite now number in their tens if not hundreds of thousands; and they probably own just as much of the country’s wealth as the non-Malay elite.

2. Secondly, we now have an educated and politically savvy Malay middle and upper class. I am sure that many who have voted for the opposition are aware of the way in which Umno manipulated the political environment after the 1969 elections which was a major factor in triggering off the racial blood bath. I am confident that this group will resist any attempt to frighten and instigate the Malays into senseless violence.

3. Thirdly – this is where the statement of the civil society organisations mentioned above is relevant – we have a Malaysian public – educated as well as less educated – who will not allow their futures to be hijacked by racial extremists. I know that many analysts have doubts on whether the silent majority in the country will be able to react rationally should racial violence break out again. As for me, I am confident that Malaysians of all races will respond sensibly, protect their friends and neighbors irrespective of their race and religion, and help preserve the peace.

4. Fourthly, the spread of new communications technology in the form of social media and on the spot recording and feedback makes the waves of killings that took place in different parts of KL during May 13, 1969 impossible to replicate. Eye witness response to the first killings in any new racial violence will ensure that biased accounts will be immediately repudiated and official censorship of news quickly exposed.

5. Finally, as with MH 370, the eyes of the world will be on Malaysia. Those who instigate racial violence will not get away with it in the way they were able, 45 years ago.