Today when I woke up I didn’t even remember it is May 13, the anniversary of THE May 13, until I peeped at the website of my blogging mate Susan Loone.
As usual, Susan always presents intriguing posts. Today her post consists of only one short sentence: Where were you on 13 May 1969? and what a host of response she received.
I too left a couple of mentions there, based on what my uncles told me.
Then when I read Malaysiakini this evening I see May 13: Pakatan Rakyat wants truth unearthed.
The Pakatan Rakyat leaders want an South African styled ‘truth and reconciliation commission’ over the riots on that fateful day in 1969, nearly 40 years ago. They reckoned it would be important to uncover the ‘real’ (and not official) facts behind the killings on May 13 1969.
Lim GE said May 13 should be treated as a chapter in the history which will make the people appreciate the value of democracy and justice, and that it shouldn't be, nor allowed to be manipulated by any irresponsible party, such that it would haunt Malaysians and our politics. I am sure we know who he was referring to.
For me personally, I have heard stories from my uncles and their friends. As recent as early March this year when I was in Penang to vote, that occasion sparked off another round of them reminiscing of an election in 1969. Invariably the KL riots were recounted.
May 13 was a KL localized riot, though there was some but limited fallout elsewhere. But essentially the greatest and probably only horrendous effect was felt in KL (and some parts of PJ).
This morning I posted a comment at Susan’s place which said (I have modified some of those words, corrected my grammar, expanded a wee bit, to make it more readable to all):
“My uncle had a British friend whose wife (a British qualified nurse) participated as a volunteer worker at a KL hospital. She was there on the evening of that terrible day. What she saw totally traumatized her, not so much because of the numerous deaths but by the sad observation that so many of the victims were primary school children. She said the bodies flowed out of the mortuary and were stacked up high in other adjoining rooms …”
The following is a record of their (my uncles' & friends') memories, as accurate as I can put them down in words, and I have limited their stories to KL/PJ incidents:
"The riots started off in the evening, just around the time school children were dismissed from school. Many of those unfortunate children were caught in the mad slaughter. The worst scene apparently was at the roundabout between the Kampung Baru and Chow Kit areas."
"The fighters charged up without warning from Kampung Baru into Chow Kit area, dressed up in bamboo armour (protecting their chests), machetes and spears. Many Chow Kit residents and visitors were killed in that attack."
The story of fighters from Kampung Baru is substantiated by a Malaysiakini report last year when some of those fighters, by now elderly men, were interviewed by the online news portal and revealed what they (as Malay gangsters) did during the riots.
"On the other side, it took the very people whom the Chinese hated, the Chinese Triads, to rise to that occasion and fought back, driving the Kampung Baru fighters off. The Triads were the only Chinese who were street fighters with arms handily nearby, and had experience of armed combat. For a while, the local Chinese looked up to the Triads as their protectors."
"Initially both ethnic groups suffered losses. The Police and the troops, the multi-ethnic Federation Armour Regiment (???) and Uncle heard, the Sarawak Rangers*, were even handed in their patrol and control of the rioting mobs."
* according to Uncle, the unit was then called the Sarawak Rangers
"All that changed when the government apparently withdrew the FAR and Rangers and sent in instead the RMR. A friend, a UM student, who was caught up in the Chow Kit riot had dashed into the nearest house for cover where he stayed there for a week with the owner and his family, whom he didn’t even know but were kind enough not to ask him to leave during the week-long curfew. They even shared with him the limited food they had during the week long curfew."
"He said there were a couple of occasions when patrolling soldiers just shot randomly into the house he was staying. He could hear them outside laughing away . Needless to say, he was sh*tting bricks. He said that though the curfew was on for a week, he was subsequently informed by Malay friends at the university that many people in Kampong Baru were walking around freely, with the RMR looking on benevolently."
But not all were evil. An Indian uncle, a friend of my Uncle (let’s call him Uncle Aru), told me this:
"He was then a teenager traveling on a bus from PJ to KL. The driver and bus conductor were both Malays. The only passenger on that night beside him was a Chinese boy, a teenager like him."
"At a kampong just opposite Angkasapuri, there was a road block made up of burning cars and scooters. Obviously the road block was not by the police, but by some kampong blokes who were all armed to the teeth. There were some bodies lying beside the vehicles."
"They stopped the bus by which time the Chinese boy was hiding behind/beneath the most rear seats (that was, if he hadn’t fainted from terror). At that time, the Indians were still neutrals so he (Uncle Aru) was fairly safe but even then, didn’t dare make eye contact with the rather ferocious looking men who clambered onto the bus, obviously to search for Chinese."
"But the driver and bus conductor pretended to be outraged, reprimanding the young men who boarded the vehicle, telling them they were wasting everyone’s time when it was ‘obvious’ there was no other passenger than one sole Indian boy."
"He (Uncle Aru) was petrified when the two parties (bus driver & conductor versus the thugs) were arguing rather loudly, but eventually the younger men disembarked at the persuasion of the bus driver. There was no doubt that the Chinese boy was saved by two good men that evening."
I am going to leave it at this story to show while there were killings of unmitigated evil, out of hatred, there were equally good people who showed their virtues of tolerance, understanding and kindliness.
One issue I read over at Susan’s blog was about the government’s refusal to issue a White Paper. I have just checked with my Uncle by phone and he told me that was incorrect. The government did issue a White Paper on the May 13 incident (incident? what an euphemism) which put the blame on the CPM, with the death toll at below 200 (he said something like 167 but today Malaysiakini has a figure of 196).
Many believe it was more than 2,000 with the bodies buried in a secret mass grave. May their souls rest in peace.
(1)The Real Cause of the May 13 Riots
(2)New Fact on May 13 Revealed!