Remove shroud cast over May 13 tragedy, activist tells govt

Kua Kia Soong has called on the government to investigate the incident and declassify all documents to reveal the whole truth.

(FMT) – Kua Kia Soong has called on the government to remove once and for all the shroud cast over what he calls the darkest day in the history of modern Malaysia.

Fifty-four years may have passed since the unfortunate racial riots of 1969, but the May 13 episode remains a significant blot on the nation’s story of cultural diversity and harmony, he says.

Kua fears that, unless properly addressed, its legacy will continue to haunt the country.

That, he says, is because the incident is rarely discussed in the public sphere and has not been properly taught to the younger generation.

This must change for the country to heal properly, Kua told FMT.

“May 13 is a subject which has not been properly addressed in schools,” said Kua, noting that it did not even form part of his own children’s learning at school.

Author of the book “May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969”, Kua said his passion for the subject stems from his love for history in general.

He believes the incident marks a “crucial point” in the country’s history.

Kua was just 18 and living in his hometown of Batu Pahat, Johor, when riots broke out in Kuala Lumpur.

“As a Malaysian living in a multiracial society, such an event stays in your consciousness for all time,” he said.

Kua is convinced that the real lived experiences of Malaysians of that era will reveal details not found in official accounts of the incident.

“My book was the first challenge to the established narrative,” said Kua.

He called on the present government to show more political will by revealing a historically accurate account of the tragedy.

There is no justification for withholding the truth any longer, he says.

“It happened. Can you block something from memory? World War Two and the Emergency are sensitive topics, but they happened.

Can you block out the memory of something that happened? There will always be people who will keep history alive,” said Kua.

He pointed to the recent coronation of King Charles III, which saw historians discussing how the British royal family had benefited from the Atlantic slave trade.

“Does it make the royals look bad? Of course, it does, but that was what happened. That is history. You cannot hide it,” said Kua.

He also called on the government to identify and honour those who lost their lives in the tragedy, pointing to Germany as an example for Malaysia to follow.

“They have the name of every Holocaust victim on their streets. Malaysia has not even acknowledged some basic facts of May 13,” he lamented.

Kua proposed that the government honour those who lost their lives by erecting a suitable memorial to them.

“That is the least you can do for the innocent victims of May 13,” he said.

He noted that in 2015, the remains of 138 victims found in a mass grave in Wang Kelian were exhumed and identified by the authorities.

“Why can’t the same be done for the victims of May 13,” Kua asked.

He also called on the government to declassify and make public all official documents relating to the incident.

That is the best way to shed light on the entire truth, said Kua.