Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The REAL story of May (Part 3/3)

They say those who forget history are doomed to repeat its mistakes. In light of the recent sabre-rattling by those in Umno and the warning by the Armed Forces Chief, Malaysia Today feels compelled to republish an old article by Raja Petra Kamarudin that was published in Harakah on 24 September 1999.

NO HOLDS BARRED


The move to push Tunku Abdul Rahman aside had started. They needed something to trigger off some form of resentment against the government. They needed the Malays to rise, and what better platform to exploit than a racial platform?

Prior to that, 11 Chinese prisoners were sentenced to death for killing a Malay prison warden in Pudu Jail. This was subsequently turned into a Malay-Chinese issue.

The Malays wanted the 11 Chinese punished. The Chinese wanted their death sentence commuted. And demonstrations were held in the Chinese dominated areas around Kuala Lumpur to pressure the government to pardon the 11. In one large demonstration outside Pudu Jail, the riot police had to be called in the break up the demonstration with teargas. That was my first experience with teargas, and I was only 19 then.

The government had no choice but to back down, thereby angering the Malays.

In another incident, some Chinese demonstrated in front of the United States Information Service (USIS) office and one demonstrator was shot dead by a panicking Malay policeman -- interpreted as another Malay-Chinese thing.

The Chinese wanted a funeral procession but the police would not grant them permission as they knew it would attract a huge crowd and the funeral would be turned into a demonstration instead. Tun Razak, however, told the police to grant them permission and ordered the police off the streets. The resulting "giant" parade built up tensions further.

The May 1969 General Elections were held soon after and the Alliance Party won only 40% of the votes resulting in it losing its two-thirds majority in Parliament. It also lost a couple of states to the opposition plus its two-thirds majority in others.

The opposition parties held "victory parades" which turned into a mud-slinging and name-calling session. The Malays were now really angry and decided to hold a victory parade of their own. Dato Harun, the then Chief Minister of Selangor, was given the task of managing this "event".

On May 13, the entire cabinet withdrew to Frazers Hill while the Malays prepared for trouble. People in the top echelon of the government and commerce were tipped off to get out of town or go home early and, by 3.00pm, the city was quite deserted of the elite except for the unknowing rakyat.

That same evening, racial riots exploded. Parliament was dissolved, thereby saving the Alliance government that no longer had a majority in Parliament, and power was transferred to Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak under the National Operations Council (NOC).

The Tunku was now powerless.

Mahathir then increased his attacks on the Tunku using race as his platform. He also called for MCA's expulsion from the Alliance to "punish" the Chinese. Instead, Dr Mahathir was expelled from Umno as the Utusan Malaysia newspaper report of 6 June 1969 reveals:

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KUALA LUMPUR 5 June - Some leading members of UMNO's Supreme Council have voiced their support for the decision by MCA leadership to exclude themselves from the Cabinet. Among them are Tan Sri Syed Jaafar Albar, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad and Syed Nasir bin Ismail.

In a meeting with Utusan Malaysia, Tan Sri Syed Jaafar emphasised his disapproval of efforts made to ask MCA to re-enter the Cabinet.

"I do not agree with the way some Chinese chambers of commerce have stated their confidence and support of Tun Tan Siew Sin and their asking him to reconsider MCA's decision to withdraw from the Cabinet," he said.

According to him, the problem now was not the question of confidence towards Tun Tan Siew Sin as the MCA leader, but whether the Chinese supported the present policies of the Alliance.

"This is the matter that should be considered by these people who are making a big fuss about giving their support to Tun Tan Siew Sin today," he added.

Tan Sri Jaafar Albar also stated that the support given to Tun Tan Siew Sin by the Chinese Chambers of Commerce was not sufficient because support had to come from the majority of the Chinese population.

He stated that discussions about MCA's inclusion in the Cabinet should not be confined to the newspapers or to MCA alone because UMNO, as the backbone of the Alliance party, had not decided yet if MCA and MIC should be included in the Cabinet or if the Alliance should remain as it was then.

He said: "It is not only the duty of MCA to discuss this matter as if it is its own peculiar problem, but it should be the responsibility of all the Alliance leaders from the UMNO, MCA, and MIC."

However, he did not want to give his final views before the party met to discuss the matter.

Mahathir, who supported Tan Sri Syed Jaafar's statement, stressed that MCA leaders had to adhere to their earlier decision of not wanting to be included in the Cabinet.

He said that he agreed with the view of MCA leaders that they could not actually represent the people they claimed to represent.

According to Mahathir, the support given to Tun Tan Siew Sin by the Chinese chambers of commerce and other Chinese organisations could not be taken as support from the Chinese community as a whole to MCA because those organisations did not represent the desires of the Chinese community as a whole.

"If MCA wants to know whether they have the support of the Chinese, they have to wait for the next general election. Since this will take quite some time, it is no longer necessary for MCA to remain in the Cabinet," he emphasised.

Mahathir also said that MIC's position in the Cabinet should also be reconsidered.

Syed Nasir stressed that on the whole, the relationship between UMNO, MCA and MIC had to be reviewed to take in the changes which had taken place after the general elections.

"The people have expressed their needs and desires, and there is little point in pretending that the policies of the Alliance party are the best acceptable to them," he said.

In a Press Statement released by UMNO's Secretary General, Senu Abdul Rahman, reported by the Utusan Melayu newspaper on 6 June 1969, it said:

"Mahathir Mohamad ceases to be a member of the UMNO Supreme Council with effect from today, 12 July 1969.

This decision was taken following the wide distribution to the public of Mahathir's letter to Tunku Abdul Rahman, President of UMNO Malaysia.

Letters containing important matters should first be discussed by UMNO's Supreme Council, especially in view of the present situation in the country.

The action taken by Mahathir is seen to be in breach of the party's etiquette and is capable of damaging party solidarity and the government which the party supports."

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Mahathir replied to this in his letter to the Tengku dated 17th June 1969.

"Your opinions were based on stories you heard from people who surround you, and who tell you only what they think you like to hear or should hear. Permit me to tell you what the position, the thoughts and the opinions of the people are really, so that you can understand my motive for making that press statement.

You yourself told me that you have prevented a riot by commuting the death sentence of the 11 subversive Chinese. In truth this very action sparked the riots of 13 May, which resulted in the deaths of many, many more.

Your 'give and take' policy gives the Chinese everything they ask for. The climax was the commuting of the death sentence, which made the majority of the Malays angry. The Chinese on the other hand regarded you and the Alliance government as cowards and weaklings who could be pushed around.

That was why the Chinese and the Indians behaved outrageously toward the Malays on 12th May. If you had been spit in the face, called dirty names and shown obscene gestures and private parts, then you could understand how the Malays felt. The Malays whom you thought would never rebel went berserk, and they hate you for giving too much face. The responsibility of the deaths of these people, Muslim or Infidels, rests on the shoulders of the leader who holds views based on wrong assumptions.

I regret writing this letter, but I have to convey to you the feelings of the Malays. In truth the Malays whether they are UMNO or PMIP supporters really hate you, especially those who had lost homes, children and relatives, because of your 'give and take' policy.

They said you wanted to be known only as 'The Happy Prime Minister' even though others are suffering. They said that although the country was in a state of emergency you were engrossed playing poker with your Chinese friends. Even the policemen said that you were using official cars and police escorts to contact your poker gang.

Lately, another disturbing factor came to light. The Malays in the Civil Service, from Permanent Secretary downwards, Army Officers and the Malays in the Police Force have lost faith and respect for you. I know that the majority of them voted for the PMIP through mail ballots....

I wish to convey what the people really think, that is that it is high time you resign as our Prime Minister and UMNO leader.

I am fully aware of the powers you still hold and I remember too well the fate of AZIZ ISHAK. But I would be irresponsible if I do not explain what I have said earlier. Even if I am jailed, I have to say what I have already said.

Once more I wish to repeat that the statement I made [on the continued exclusion of the MCA from the Cabinet] is to prevent the Malays from hating the Government more and to stop the Chinese from abusing the dignity of the Malays. A bigger riot will occur if this is allowed. The military itself will be beyond control.

I pray to God it will open your heart to accept the truth bitter though it may be."

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Soon after, the Tengku stepped aside and Tun Razak took over as Prime Minister. The opposition parties were invited to join the government and the Alliance gave way to the Barisan Nasional giving the government back their two-thirds majority in Parliament. Later on, of course, PAS left the BN to stay on as an opposition party.

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