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15 May 2010

How to bury the ghost of May 13

Politicians and civil society groups agree that the ghost of May 13 1969 should be buried, but only after the truth of that dark day in our history is told and reconciliation takes place.

Several politicians said fears of the unfortunate blood bath which happened in 1969 cannot be put to rest unless conclusive account of the incident is laid out.

DAP-Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua said one of the biggest problems of the May 13 incident was the lack of conclusiveness of the event that is often described as "sensitive".

"There are many stories to it. Therefore the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be done to get an authoritative conclusion to put an end to rumour mongering, creating fictions and stirring of racial sentiments in interpreting the incident," Pua told theSun.

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman and former Cabinet minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid told theSun history cannot be changed or forgotten, but many Malaysians may find discussing the racial riot in 1969 sensitive.

"To me, May 13 was part of a chain of events. The issues were many and history cannot deny it was racial in nature as there were many underlying factors to it. (However), unless facts can be presented most objectively, for the time being, it’s not advisable to discuss (the subject) openly," said Azmi in an SMS.

theSun columnist Tunku Abidin Muhriz, writing in Abiding Times on May 14, wrote that the "casualties of this day 41 years ago were, I believe, caused by the provocation of political actors". He said the way forward is for Malaysians of all races to tell the story of unity as it should be told.

"It is not the job of government to tell us who we are and where we are going. It is up to us, and the best thing the politicians can do is to get out of the way."

PKR’s strategic director Tian Chua said the incident should not be put to rest as Malaysians are constantly reminded of the horror as the society moves on.

He however said Malaysians have the courage and the sincerity to face the truth, thus many academicians and historians discuss the matter without drawing political connotations.

"(Only) then we can face it as a Malaysian society and (look for ways) to overcome the spectrum. If we can have this consensus in society on these two points, I think the ghost of May 13 will no longer be projected in a negative manner.

"Secondly, it is important that politicians of both sides stop using it as a means to intimidate and invoke fear. Whatever lessons drawn from it should not be used as a tool to invoke fear among any community," said Tian Chua.

DAP Youth Chief Anthony Loke said the matter should not be prolonged any longer; instead people should forgive and forget and move on.

"We should not keep discussing this. In this country, political leaders should talk about inclusiveness, spread message of peace that should be the focus instead of creating fear."

He said the younger generation may "not have any feelings" about the incident because they were not around during the incident.

"So why impose such fear in the younger generation? Why keep reminding them of the ghost? Looking at the world history, Japan and US were in war but nobody talks about the war anymore. The younger Japanese won’t say they hate the Americans for bombing them," said Loke.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said Malaysians need to draw lessons from the riot but said "no one should fear talking or learning about it".

"I believe Malaysian society is more matured now. The incident is not to be celebrated, people should remember on what can happen to our community," he said.

He said the younger generation are more educated and believed in the diversity of the country.

PAS-Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad said the May 13 incident can be discussed but it should be done responsibly.

"(However, it cannot be discussed) under the current administration as they seek to politicise for their own ends," said Khalid through SMS.

Hulu Selangor PKR by-election candidate and former Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said there is no reason to be ashamed or to forget the incident as it is part of our history.

He however stressed that people should not use it as a "pernicious political weapon" to glorify violence or to make threats of violence "if their political demands are not met."

"That’s savage politics and must be condemned," said Zaid.

It was also reported that Umno Youth chief and Barisan Nasional Youth chairman Khairy Jamaluddin said it was inappropriate for anyone to hold a rally about the 1969 racial riots.

He was referring to the gathering planned by Gerakan Kebangkitan Rakyat in Terengganu on May 13 but was subsequently postponed indefinitely.

MCA deputy publicity chief Loh Seng Kok said any thought of a May 13 rally should be permanently decimated and anything that can re-ignite the old wounds must never even be considered.

MIC secretary-general S.Murugessan reportedly said: "May 13 is a bitter chapter in Malaysian history. We have put it behind us and are now moving forward with the 1Malaysia concept and the new economic model."

Many civil society groups have, from time to time called on the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and constantly called for an open discussion and dialogues on the matter, urging Malaysians not to fear the past.

Haris Md Ibrahim, who is the co-ordinator of Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia, said establishing the commission is important to understand what happened 41 years ago in order to bury the ghost once and for all, so Malaysians can move forward as a united nation.

Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Civil Rights Committee chairman Liau Kok Fah said it is high time the government declassify all documents related to the incident.

Former Transparency International executive director Richard Yeoh maintained that peace and harmony should be given through well-substantiated discourse and respect and not through incidents like May 13, which is used to intimidate legitimate expression and demands of the people.

"Despite the increasing number of Malaysians who are shunning away from politics of racism, there are, however, politicians, more so post-March 2008 have regressed," said Yeoh who is the Petaling Jaya city councillor.

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