Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Harun Idris and The May 13 Incident

After the war, my grandfather started working in the Public Relations Department in Kuala Lumpur (then part of Selangor) until 1950 when he was assigned as a District Settlement Officer in Cameron Highlands. During his 5 year tenure at the PR department, his best colleague, being two years of his junior was none other than the future Selangor Menteri Besar, the late Datuk Harun Idris. Both men, had a very good relationship and I think being the senior rank but younger, Datuk Harun once jokingly told my grandfather to 'tutup satu mata' or close on eye on a matter, which I think Sri Gading MP Mohd Aziz used it sometime ago.

In Malaysian history, May 13 marks the bleakest chapter ever as the riots spurning from Kampung Baru swept across Kuala Lumpur like a wildfire and then across the country. The riots was triggered as a retaliation by the UMNO Malays against the apparent provocation by the other races. This was days after the general elections when the Alliance, pre-Barisan Nasional lost 2/3rds in the elections. On the night of the disaster, 44 were killed, 150 were injured with most of the bodies were the Chinese.

Everyone knows that the point of origin started at MB Harun's house in Kampung Baru. I've tried finding the house each time I go to Kampung Baru but no avail. When my grandfather learned that it was he who started the 1969 disaster alongside Tun Razak (who 'backstabbed' Tunku, as quoted in 1985) he went silent and refused to talk about it except recalling his friendship until Harun's death in October 2003. When I heard over the news of Harun's passing, I did ask my grandfather a question of why didn't he write a letter or so to Harun many years ago. True, he lost contact with Harun and did not where his whereabouts (read: address) after he moved to Cameron Highlands and finally to Ipoh, where he is until now.

Then later on, I was surprised to learn via Raja Petra's posting called "UMNO's losing the plot". It seems that after the 1969 disaster and when things were put back into order Harun Idris and Tun Razak had in mind to separate Kuala Lumpur out of Selangor and part of the new entity called 'Federal Territory'. The reasoning was because Kuala Lumpur is predominantly a Chinese territory at that time, at the separation was part of saving UMNO.

From the essay:

The Umno ‘masterminds’ appear lost. They faced this same problem in 1969 and they solved it then by redrawing the constituencies so that there would be no non-Malay majority areas. And where they can’t do much, like in Kuala Lumpur, they then remove Kuala Lumpur from Selangor. Selangor would then remain in Malay hands while Kuala Lumpur, which will fall into the hands of the non-Malays, can still be controlled through Dewan Bandaraya, the Datuk Bandar, the Minister of Federal Territory, etc. This means, even if all the seats in Kuala Lumpur fall to the opposition, the government will still be able to retain control -- like what is happening now even though 10 out of 11 seats are under opposition control. Another revelation of Fahmi Ibrahim was that the late Agong, who was then the Sultan of Selangor, cried as he signed over Kuala Lumpur to the federal government. This is actually true and most Malaysians saw this live on TV. The Sultan was terribly unhappy at having to hand over a big chunk of very valuable Selangor territory to the federal government. But there was really nothing much His Majesty could do. The federal government of Tun Razak and the Selangor State Government of Datuk Harun wanted to get rid of Kuala Lumpur so that Selangor could be ‘saved’. Almost 40 years on and they have discovered, much to their horror, that this plan worked for only one generation. One generation later and this senjata sudah makan tuan.

Back then in 1969, my paternal family was staying in Malacca from 1967-1970. The community there was quite peaceful, each housing estate, there is a mixture of Malays, Chinese, Indians and the Portuguese natives there. The spillover of the May 13 happened three days later on May 1969. My aunt Joyce was celebrating her 14th birthday on that day and there was some announcement via bullhorns telling that there was a curfew in place. Fortunately, at that time, nobody went out but they were all wondering what the hell happened back there.

Flash forward to 2008, the incident still lingers in the memory of older generations but the younger ones are learning from this incident that racial politics, the use of fear that other races kill one another are just crap and bullshit. There were many attempts to start a Bangsa Malaysia race but the attempt never got of to fruition because of some racist people and those who don't like the idea, for example, Tun Tan Siew Sin.

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