Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Can We Now Start Talking About 13 May 1969 Openly?

I am a little non-plussed that this historic date in our Nation's history is passing by without being noticed by the general population. Amongst the mainstream media only The Star is making an effort to mark this event by putting forth questions that to me are what our society should seriously debate in order to obtain closure on this now almost mythical event, that leaves it open to manipulation by opportunistic parties for their own nefarious purposes.
Thus I put forth herewith a repetition of the questions that should be the start of our society's soul searching into this momentous event, so that we all can move forward and leave behind the threat of history repeating itself in the dustbin of time, where it should be.

From the Sunday Editorial "Time to close chapter on May 13"

"More than 60% of the country’s 26 million population, if not a little more, did not experience that shameful part of the nation’s journey, and yet it is still taboo to talk about it"

"For some opportunistic politicians, the May 13 tragedy is used to invoke fear among the people and to protect the politics of communalism.Unfortunately, in our reluctance to talk about May 13 openly, the best of Malaysian stories, even in the worst of Malaysia, have not been narrated.

There have been many fantastic uplifting stories, where Malaysians of different races protected each other and these stories should be told."

"But for many Malaysians, now in their late 40s and mid-50s, May 13 is just a flicker in their memory. It’s time to have a proper closure, a lesson learnt and not to be used to create fear"

From The Sunday Focus "It need not remain a black day"

"It’s been a long time but there are still numerous lessons to be learned from this darkest episode of our history. We should also honestly ask if we have truly learned anything so far, except for treating it as a subject of taboo or censorship. Instead of continuing to keep the events of May 13, 1969, in the deepest recesses of our memory, as we have done all this while, there must be a rational acceptance for a closure on the wretched chapter."
"In this digital age when information on everything is available easily, we should not continue to believe what we think we know about May 13 through what was disclosed officially then.Similarly, we should also not continue to believe what we learned about it through exaggerated accounts and blatant lies or through re-told prejudiced stories.A few of the people who witnessed the tragedy are still alive but the majority of Malaysians are those who only know it as something that is too sensitive to discuss openly. Up to now, that is."

"A nation that has gone through such a tumultuous event should never be rife with deep mistrust or bitter rivalries between communities that have lived together for decades.
No one should harbour any fear of losing out to the other, for in this great journey that we have embarked on, we can’t go it alone."

Now an extract of the defence on the conduct of our Armed Forces in controlling the situation. This is a prime example of how without debate of the incident, it has left open opportunities of misconduct without opportunity of defending one's actions. This appeared in the NST in the Comment Column "May 13, 1969: Serving the nation in its darkest hour"

"May 13, 1969, will always be remembered as the blackest day in our post-independence history. Much water has passed under the bridge since then and we would like to think that we are that much wiser, as a people and a nation, because of it. This event, as such, must never be in any way slanted or distorted, especially given its polarised complexion. The truth can be so easily desecrated, especially when written retrospectively against the comfort of present-day peace and harmony, void of the reality of the time, and given an unbridled interpretation based on third-party random personal glimpses and snatches of fleeting partial observations."

In response to this quote from the book "The Reluctant Politician - Tun Dr Ismail and His Time (Ooi Kee Beng, 2007)" "However, he added as a private message to Ismail that the army is reported by the same sources to have been responsible for excessive force against the Chinese - it does seem on the best information that I have that the Malay Regiment rather lost its head."

"The quote is most damning for the RMR and casts aspersions on its integrity and professionalism. It is an affront to the sacrifices of its officers and soldiers who had dutifully and unfailingly served in defence of the country for the last 75 years. "

Food supplies being distributed after the May 13 incident. The presence of the police and armed forces was vital in ensuring that all communities were kept safe and had enough food, water and medicines.

Examples of the RMR examplary conduct was then provided and followed by this damning statement.

"These examples may not mean anything to those bent on seeing and reporting only the perceived negative sides but they serve to illustrate the many different sides of this same equation, one that should never be made to seem so conclusively and conveniently simple. Neither are they meant to eulogise the RMR battalion involved, or the army in general.They are simply to point out that in discharging their responsibilities during this very sensitive and difficult period, they had to carry out many different roles - some pleasant, others less so, and some outright painful - but always by the book.The regiment had acted with the same professionalism and dedication, precisely as they were trained and prepared, entrusted and mandated, committed solely to ensuring the well-being of the nation. And, at the very least, their contributions should be impartially and fairly judged"

Thus without debate that illustrates what really happened in this dark period of our nation's history, how then can we move forward with confidence I ask you.

Finally, do read up on remembrances of those who were actually there, it may surprise you. This is one posting that is worthy to be referred to here.

So on this 39th anniversary of an event when 196 Malaysians (according to official records) lost their life's , I invite you to join me in offering a prayer to all those victims of race based enmity and strife that should never be forgotten in the annals of our nation's history. Al Fatihah.

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