Sarawak business organisation wants 51 pct Bumi ownership requirement for forwarding companies scrapped

The Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Sarawak (ACCCIS) hopes the Ministry of Finance’s (MoF) requirement for freight forwarding companies to have 51 per cent Bumiputera ownership would be abolished.

Secretary-general Jonathan Chai said the MoF’s announcement yesterday that it would postpone the requirement’s enforcement for a year was not satisfactory.

“ACCCIM (Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Malaysia) has followed up on the 51 per cent Bumiputera equity issue, and the MoF has agreed to postpone the enforcement to Dec 31 next year. Initially, it was to be implemented by Dec 31 this year. But after getting feedback from the business community, MoF has agreed to postpone the enforcement to Dec 31 next year.

“But this (postponement) is not what we are satisfied with. We want it abolished, of course. Anyway, the postponement shall give us some time to allow ACCCIM to deal with the issue,” he said when responding to a question raised by an ACCCIS member during a virtual press briefing today.

MoF said in a letter sighted by Free Malaysia Today that the enforcement of the 51 per cent Bumiputera equity for freight forwarding companies had been postponed to Dec 31 next year.

The letter, dated yesterday, was addressed to the secretaries-general and directors of various ministries and agencies – such as the Customs Department – and was also sent to freight associations and companies.

Syed Saddiq: Some politicians may be getting RM100,000 in monthly pension

KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 29): Former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has called on the government to set up a committee to review the pension entitlements of assemblymen, Members of Parliament (MPs) and ministers as the entitlements for some could exceed RM100,000 per month.

Speaking in the Dewan Rakyat, he recounted his experience as a minister, receiving RM55,000 in salary each month.

“Ministers get a luxurious house in Putrajaya, cars, drivers and even expenses for their daily meals can be claimed back from the government. They get plate numbers which can be sold for hundreds of thousands of ringgit and two APs (approved permits) to bring in luxury vehicles,” he said.

He added that ministers also get a gratuity of up to RM1 million to RM2 million, which is based on their years of service as MPs.

The independent MP for Muar, who was debating the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP), pointed out that throughout the changes in government in Malaysia, some ministers remained in the Cabinet.

“There are ministers that have remained in Cabinet positions over three governments — are their gratuities only paid out once or is it a RM1 million payment every time the Cabinet is dissolved?” he asked.

Moreover, pensions of politicians are very attractive, said Syed Saddiq, which may incentivise politicians to maintain their lucrative positions despite having served for decades.

He explained that there are separate pensions for assemblymen, MPs, senators, the Speaker, deputy ministers, ministers and the prime minister, which means that an MP who previously served as an assemblyman as well as held a ministerial position would be entitled to the separate pension entitlements.

“If you were to combine the different entitlements, the amount could exceed RM100,000 per month, especially if the person has served in several different capacities.

“I propose that the government set up a committee to discuss this matter. This discussion must take place, especially as the rakyat have to be frugal amid the challenging environment, while those of us in Parliament and government are receiving lucrative salaries,” he said.

The Edge

NEP=Never Ending Policy

Whole world condemns "inhumane practices, human rights violations and oppression to minorities" in countries like Israel, China, Myanmar, SriLanka etc!  But, in Malaysia, are we in line with UN human rights principles, i.e.Icerd? 

Are all citizens treated in fair and equal manner?? Pemimpin cakap besar, tak serupa bikin! 'Keluarga Malaysia' still have 2 different classes of citizens and rights?? Special bumi class and special privileged clauses in federal constitution accepted by forefather of freedom fighrers in good faith!

 Its supposedly used for affirmative actions to certain extent that should not be disadvantage or oppress other non bumi classes of citizens. Give and take, sacrifices and tolerances prevail all the while. 

As the result of misused of power and discrimination policies, poor 'rakyat marhaen', from both classes were affected, disadvantaged in getting fair benefits as the rights of citizens provided under constititution too. 

So called  Institutional racism continue ruining nation building and harmonious coexistence. If we don't stop, it will never end, could go even up to doomsday/kiamat to destroy nation! 

All races should have self respect, dignity to play in same level of playing field. Malaysia will not be respected if inequality and such a  discrimination continues forever. 

Say No to ' Tongkat' culture! Go against ' Dedak culture'.

Are there any original Malays around?

 I wonder how many real indigenous people are in the Bumiputra category - orang asli, east Malaysia indigenous peoples. Most of the Bumiputeras now are Melayu celup - Indian, Pakistani, Arab, Indonesian and even Filipino and Bangladeshi decedents whom are Muslims. 

Our country have been looted by the ruling class Malay through UMNO and their collaborators for the past 60 years.  The looting is done in the name of Malay and Bumiputras equity and continue to show statistics that the wealth distribution is not even. 

It will be interesting to check the wealth distribution of the Bumiputra classes - actual Malay Semananjung, Orang asli, Sabah & Sarawak indigenous people. 

The top 10 riches people in Malaysia are all non-Bumiputras and interestingly all non-Muslims. The list don’t have any of our politicians or Sultans. Not even Sultan Johor or Taib from Sarawak. These guys car collection itself outdo the richness of the people listed in the list. Do these guys declare their wealth; and do they even pay taxes. 

They keep on using statistics that Bumiputra is low equity - actually the one whom are in deplorable state are orang asli, the east Malaysia indigenous people and of course displaced Indians from the estates. 

The NEP’s original objective of “membasmi kemiskinan tanpa mengira kaum” has been side stepped. The wealth distribution policies - scholarships, equity distributors in businesses, business grants - who are the actual people who gets all these benefits?

Narendra Modi's sole aim is to make India a better Country

 If he is not stopped, in the future, India will become the most Powerful Nation in the World.. It will surprise even  the USA, the United Kingdom, and Russia..Japan.

Narendra Modi is moving towards a specific goal. No one knows what he wants to do....and his intentions, strategy, cannot be predicted.

Behind the Smiling face, he is a dangerous Patriot. He uses all the Countries of the world for the benefit of his Nation......India.

First he destroyed US ties with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Next Narendra Modi has created an alliance with Vietnam, shattered China’s Superpower dream and made use of the three Countries.

The long-running dispute over oil extraction overseas between Vietnam and China has benefited India. With India's support, Vietnam began producing Oil in China's Southern Seas.

Vietnam now supplies all of its Oil to India. The United States has different support for this. He made Pakistan a poor Country without going into a war.

He brought the Port of Iran under his control.

He has set up an Indian Military base on the border with Afghanistan, very close to the area that divides Pakistan.

In order to increase Indian trade, he has also built a route through Iran (leaving Pakistan) to Afghanistan.

Narendra Modi’s desires are going Up one by one. Sections 370 and 35A have been repealed.

One day he will completely capture Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Pakistan will fall into 4 pieces in the coming seasons. This will happen on the warning of Narendra Modi.

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan's traditional ally, will also play a Key role in the Partition of Pakistan..

In Asia, this man who finished China and the United States, has  canceled the SAARC Summit and shown his power to the World.. Narendra Modi has succeeded in maintaining India's superiority over Asia..

He made UAE fine the Foreign minister of Pakistan on landing in UAE & sent the minister back. Malaysia took over a Pakistan airplane to recover debts owed by Pakistan.

Russia and Japan, 2 of Asia's Major Powers, have done nothing to say.

He held both Countries in his hands with great precision. In the case of China's Vietnam Oil issue, China will ask for Oil... Then he will ask Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. 🤟

What he would ask was, "I'll take it.. You have Hair in your Mouth," and tease China's Vietnam issue..

Nothing can be done by China. This person is taking Indian Politics to a totally different level.

Many Countries think and act as if each Country has many Enemies.. But India has no Enemies other than Pakistan. India is almost certain to be a friend to all Countries of the World.

This man is doing more harm to Pakistan than the real War.. By using Muslim Countries against Pakistan, Narendra Modi has proven himself to be one of the Best leaders in the World.

Even if Pakistan goes for War with India, there will not be so much loss.. But now Pakistan is suffering more than that.

In all negotiations with all Countries, this person's Honesty must be taken into account.

India's progress will be difficult for the rest of the World.

With the current astounding growth of India, all the Countries in the United Nations will experience the consequences..! 

Singapore Police Force Has Confirmed That Malaysia Zeti Husband Received Money From Jho Low – Flipping of The RM5 Billion 1MDB Bonds

According to documents and correspondences sighted by The Edge, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) of the Singapore Police Force had in 2015 and 2016 shared information with Bank Negara Malaysia about suspicious transactions involving Iron Rhapsody Ltd, which had a bank account at UBS in Singapore.

Tawfiq and a son are beneficial owners of Iron Rhapsody, according to CAD.

In reply to a query, Bank Negara said it was unable to respond, as it was “bound by the international protocol for sharing of financial intelligence”.

The Edge also emailed a question to Zeti but, as at press time, had not received a reply.

Zeti was still Bank Negara governor in 2015 and retired only in April 2016.

The bank account by itself was not the issue.

It was several inflows of money into that account that triggered the suspicious transaction report (STR) alerts. These transactions took place in 2008 and 2009 and the STR alerts were flagged to Bank Negara only in 2015 and 2016 by CAD, after investigators there, together with those in Malaysia, Switzerland and the US, launched probes into the theft and laundering of billions of dollars that belonged to 1MDB.

The probes were triggered by exposés published from March 2015 by The Edge, Sarawak Report and The Wall Street Journal.

Documents shared by Singapore’s CAD with Malaysian investigators showed that Iron Rhapsody received a total of US$16.22 million from companies/bank accounts of Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low:

1) June 18, 2008: US$7.42 million from Butamba Investments Ltd’s bank account at RBS Coutts Singapore. Jho Low is the beneficial owner of Butamba Investments, which was involved in a May 2008 RM3 billion land deal with Khazanah Nasional Iskandar Malaysia (see The Edge Malaysia, Issue 1057, March 9 to 15, 2015: “How Jho Low made RM400 million by quick flip of Iskandar land deal”);

2) May 21, 2009: US$0.732 million was received from Jho Low’s US law firm Shearman & Sterling’s account in Citibank in the US. The US Department of Justice has named Shearman as a firm that Jho Low used to launder money stolen from 1MDB;

3) June 1, 2009: US$0.567 million from Acme Time Ltd’s account at RBS Coutts Singapore. Jho Low is the beneficial owner of AcmeTime;

4) Dec 17, 2009: US$6.25 million was received from Jho Low’s US law firm Shearman & Sterling’s account in Citibank in the US; and

5) Dec 18, 2009: US$1.25 million was received from Asset Central Holdings Ltd’s account at RBS Coutts, Singapore. Jho Low is the beneficial owner of Asset Central.

Singapore CAD has confirmed that the source of the money in transactions 2, 3, 4, 5 originated from profits made by Jho Low and cohorts from the flipping of the RM5 billion 1MDB/TIA (Terengganu Investment Authority) bonds arranged by AmBank in May 2009.

Jho Low and others, via Aktis Capital Pte Ltd, Acme Time and Country Group Private Securities Ltd, made more than RM600 million in profits from the flipping of the 1MDB bonds.

Aside from the above dealings between Tawfiq Ayman and Jho Low, the two were also believed to be partners in a company that Jho Low set up in July 2007, called Abu Dhabi Kuwait Malaysia Investment Corp (ADKMIC) (see The Edge Malaysia, Issue 1071, June 15 to 21, 2015: “Jho Low plays puppet master to 1MDB to get billions for his deals”.)

Documents sighted by The Edge showed that the BSI banker Yak Yew Chee — who was jailed in Singapore for abetting Jho Low in 1MDB-related criminal transactions — had told CAD that “when ADKMIC was incorporated (July 17, 2007), there were six to seven shareholders, including Jho Low and Datuk (Tawfiq) Ayman — husband of Dr Zeti, governor of Bank Negara”.

CAD investigations also found that, between June 2011 to September 2013, a total of US$153 million was transferred to ADKMIC’s bank account in RBS Coutts Singapore from Good Star Ltd’s bank account in RBS Coutts, Switzerland.

Good Star is owned by Jho Low and had, in September 2009, illegally received US$700 million from 1MDB. The US$700 million came from the RM5 billion bonds that 1MDB issued in May 2009 with the help of AmBank.

The government-guaranteed bonds paid a hefty coupon of 5.75% and were sold at a discount by AmBank to Jho Low and collaborators via companies in Singapore and Bangkok and then immediately flipped to institutional investors in Malaysia for a profit estimated at more than RM600 million (see The Edge Malaysia, Issue 1271, June 17 to 23, 2019: “Two Malaysians, besides Jho Low, benefited from 1MDB bond flip”).

Source : The Edge

Discrimination of non Malays killing Malaysia's economy

 Kedah Bersatu information chief Khairul Anurag Ramli please give us one good reason why should anybody regardless of bumi or non bumi should give up his/her share of his/her company to someone else after putting in years of blood, sweat, and tears building it?

Why should the government “introduce” an act or a regulation to favor one particular race when clearly the workings of this is dissimilatory?

So, are you claiming that as bumiputra you have the right to take over business without putting in any effort, investment to build it from scratch and you don’t have an iota of shame in doing so?

This is the agenda from the very onset of the bumiputra policy. I don’t have to dwell into other businesses but the public transport omnibus business is a very clear example how forced participation of bumiputra has driving the public transport omnibus business to the ground.

I grew in KL and was very familiar with the many omnibus operators’ yesteryears. Seri Jaya, Len Seng, Thong Fong, Lian Hoe, Len, Selangor Bus, and etc. They were rust buckets but they ran a good measure of service within KL and all around the out-skirts of KL and Selangor even as far as Tanjung Malim at the border between Selangor and Perak.

There were other similar omnibus companies operating in other cities as well.

Then came the mini busses which challenged the hegemony of these omnibus company’s yet these companies remained a float by running and managing a tight ship and maintaining a low operational cost by having in house workshops and cannibalizing parts from older busses and investing on new ones only if/when necessary.

Then came the grand plan by the government to corporatize (more pirate-ize) the entire Klang Valley public transport system and the mini busses were phased out and a new service of Intrakota was introduced. Later the old omnibus operators were also “forced” to give up their equity with the threat that failure to do so will result in their licenses not being renewed or revoked altogether. These operators were left with little option but to oblige to the “new deals” and later “selling out” altogether as time goes by. The legacy of their family businesses came to an end.

Today the so-called grand plan has evolved to become a public burden in the name of RAPID xyz. Tax payer’s money being use to keep these public transport systems afloat and its senior office bearers being paid fat remunerations whilst the public are burdened with car installments to own a car which they cannot afford to pay. Why one owns a car? Because the public transport is that pathetic.

There is a saying, history is a good indicator of what is going to happen in the future. It does not need a rocket scientist nor a crystal ball to predict what is going to happen to this round of so called bumiputra equity chest thumping.

From a reader 


 At the time of independence in 1957, the Malays were 55 percent of the population, the Chinese 35 percent and the Indians 10 percent. This balance was altered by the inclusion of the majority Chinese Singapore, upsetting many Malays. The federation increased the Chinese proportion to close to 40 percent. Both UMNO and the MCA were nervous about the possible appeal of Lee's People's Action Party (then seen as a radical socialist party) to voters in Malaya, and tried to organise a party in Singapore to challenge Lee's position there. Lee in turn threatened to run PAP candidates in Malaya at the 1964 federal elections, despite an earlier agreement that he would not do so (see PAP-UMNO Relations). Racial tensions intensified as PAP created an opposition alliance aiming for equality between races. This provoked Tunku Abdul Rahman to demand that Singapore withdraw from Malaysia, which it did in August 1965. [Source: Wikipedia]

 The most vexed issues of independent Malaysia were education and the disparity of economic power among the ethnic communities. The Malays felt unhappy with the wealth of the Chinese community, even after the expulsion of Singapore. Malay political movements emerged based around this. However, since there was no effective opposition party, these issues were contested mainly within the coalition government, which won all but one seat in the first post-independence Malayan Parliament. The two issues were related, since the Chinese advantage in education played a large part in maintaining their control of the economy, which the UMNO leaders were determined to end. The MCA leaders were torn between the need to defend their own community’s interests and the need to maintain good relations with UMNO. This produced a crisis in the MCA in 1959, in which a more assertive leadership under Lim Chong Eu defied UMNO over the education issue, only to be forced to back down when Tunku Abdul Rahman threatened to break up the coalition.

 The Education Act of 1961 put UMNO’s victory on the education issue into legislative form. Henceforward Malay and English would be the only teaching languages in secondary schools, and state primary schools would teach in Malay only. Although the Chinese and Indian communities could maintain their own Chinese and Tamil-language primary schools, all their students were required to learn Malay, and to study an agreed “Malayan curriculum.” Most importantly, the entry exam to the University of Malaya (which moved from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur in 1963) would be conducted in Malay, even though most teaching at the university was in English until the 1970s. This had the effect of excluding many Chinese students. At the same time Malay schools were heavily subsidised, and Malays were given preferential treatment. This obvious defeat for the MCA greatly weakened its support in the Chinese community.

 As in education, the UMNO government’s unspoken agenda in the field of economic development was to shift economic power away from the Chinese and towards the Malays. The two Malayan Plans, and the First Malaysian Plan (1966–70), directed resources heavily into developments which would benefit the rural Malay community, such as village schools, rural roads, clinics and irrigation projects. Several agencies were set up to enable Malay smallholders to upgrade their production and increase their incomes. The Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) helped many Malays buy farms or upgrade ones they already owned. The state also provided a range of incentives and low-interest loans to help Malays start businesses, and government tendering systematically favoured Malay companies, leading many Chinese-owned businesses to “Malayanise” their management. All this certainly tended to reduce to gap between Chinese and Malay standards of living, although some argued that this would have happened anyway as Malaysia’s trade and general prosperity increased.

Chinese and Malay Riots

 In 1965, there were mass killings in Malaysia and Chinese were often the targets. After that tensions were very high between Malays and Chinese. In 1967 there were rumors that the Muslim Malays had poisoned pork eaten by the Chinese and many Chinese men came down with a mental disease called koro in which they believed their penises were being sucked into their bodies.

 Zainon Ahmad wrote in The Sun, “In fact, even as early as the 1959 general election when there was much racial tension within the Alliance and outside of it, some observed that the country’s worst enemy was not the communists in the jungles but communalism in the cities. Bloody incidents were also not new to the country. Beginning with the January 1957 incident in Penang where four people were killed, there were minor clashes between small groups of Malays and Chinese long before 1969. But the foretaste of the communal violence to come erupted in November 1967 in Penang where political demonstrations eventually spread to Perak and Kedah, resulting in 25 people being killed. [Source: Zainon Ahmad, The Sun, July 26, 2007]

 A kampong dweller near Singapore said: In 1961, “a racial riot happened when I was about five or six years old. The Malays and the Chinese were killing one another. The Malays wanted to kill the Chinese. When I was young, I was not very sure what racial riot was. People told me that it was racial riot. When I heard that the Malays were coming, I would run for the other way. When the Malays were coming from this way, I would run that way. The direction I ran depended on which direction the Malays were approaching...One or two people. I heard that one or two Chinese were killed by the Malays...My legs turned jelly when I heard about it and was supposed to run for my life. Actually, I did not have not much feeling because I was too young at that time. Hence, I only felt frightened. [Source: Evelyn Chua Sok Huang,]

May 13, 1969 Riots

 There were bloody race riots between Chinese and Malay on May 13, 1969 that nearly ripped Malaysia apart. Dozens were killed and 4,000 were arrested. Some say at least 63 people were killed. Most sources say at least 200 people were killed. They occurred after a hotly contested general election in which the ruling party lost many seats to the opposition and the parties tried to win voters by making racial attacks at one another.

 Philip Bowring wrote in in the Asia Sentinel: “ The official Malaysian government version of events was that the riots were sparked by opposition parties “infiltrated by communist insurgents” following huge opposition gains in the election. Although the UMNO-led Alliance, the predecessor of the Barisan National, retained an overall majority, it lost its two thirds majority and its control of Selangor state was threatened. Certainly there was much celebrating among the mainly Chinese opposition parties at the election result, which angered Malay politicians who sensed their political dominance was under threat. By the time the riots were over, official figures said 196 people had been killed, 6,000 made homeless and more than 700 buildings destroyed or damaged. [Source: Philip Bowring, the Asia Sentinel, May 16, 2007 /~/]

 “Non-Malays in particular have long believed that though there was violence on both sides, it was a mostly one-sided affair with some Malay politicians, notably Selangor Chief Minister Harun Idris, encouraging mobs to attack Chinese areas and that the security forces initially did little to prevent violence. This is largely confirmed by contemporary reports such as those of Far Eastern Economic Review correspondent Bob Reece.” /~/

 Zainon Ahmad wrote in The Sun, “While it is a dark blot in the nation’s history, Malaysians – old and young – will never be allowed to forget May 13. Mostly, it is used to scare people away from public discussions and debate on such subjects as citizenship, education, culture and religion. We are constantly reminded of the incident so that we will refrain from questioning the regime in place, from saying things about it or doing things that may be construed as undermining racial harmony and national unity.” [Source: Zainon Ahmad, The Sun, July 26, 2007]

Events During the May 13, 1969 Riots

 Zainon Ahmad wrote in The Sun, In 1968 the UMNO ruling coalition “began preparations for a renewal of its mandate which was due to end in 1969, little did it suspect what the results would unlock. As far as it was concerned, the 1969 general election was to be a routine affair, and there was no doubt in the mind of Alliance leaders that it would win as decisively as it did in 1964. After all, the cancer that was Singapore had been cast off in 1965, the economy was happily humming, the Indonesian confrontation had just ended and diplomatic relations with the Southeast Asian giant re-established, and the opposition was weak and fragmented. The Alliance boasted that it could easily win more than two thirds of the 144 seats in the Dewan Rakyat or about two thirds of the 104 Peninsular Malaysia seats, capture Kelantan, and retain control of all the other state legislatures. But that confidence was shattered in the early hours of May 11, 1969 when the results of the May 10 elections were known. [Source: Zainon Ahmad, The Sun, July 26, 2007 ***]

 “The Alliance had won only 66 seats, down from the 89 it won in 1964. It also lost Penang, failed to capture Kelantan, and came close to losing Perak, Selangor, Kedah and Terengganu. The Opposition was surprised, too. The DAP, which reconstituted itself from the People’s Action Party (PAP), won 13 seats when the Singapore-based party had only one in 1964. PAS got 12 seats, an increase of three; PPP won four, an increase of two; while the new party Gerakan won eight. Even though the Alliance had not lost power – and Sabah and Sarawak had yet to decide – the Malays were alarmed. They felt that the government they had dominated all this while was going to collapse.” ***

 “During the Alliance meeting held to assess the results, a number of Malay representatives blamed the losses on the MCA (Malaysia Chinese Association) which saw 20 of its 33 candidates defeated. Hurt and weak, the MCA announced on May 13 that it would not participate in the government at federal and state levels. What appeared as punishment of the MCA by UMNO became an additional factor contributing to further racial tensions and anxieties. Opposition supporters, especially the Chinese and Indians who had voted for the DAP and Gerakan were jubilant. And they showed it. ***

 “The victorious opposition celebrated by holding a motorcade on the main streets of Kuala Lumpur with supporters holding up brooms as a signal of its intention to make sweeping changes. Fear of what the changes might mean for them (as much of the country's businesses were Chinese owned), a Malay backlash resulted, leading rapidly to riots and inter-communal violence in which about 6,000 Chinese homes and businesses were burned and at least 184 people were killed. [Source: Library of Congress, 2006]

 “They celebrated their “victories” by marching through Kuala Lumpur and in their exuberance shouted insulting epithets at Malays living near the city fringes. They even showed vulgar gestures at Malay women. On May 12, Gerakan got police permission for 1,000 party members and supporters to hold their own demonstrations that evening. Word got around quickly and the number swelled to 4,000 which later broke up into smaller groups that conducted their own “demonstrations” away from the restrain of party leaders. They, too, taunted the Malays with insults, using similar words that had been hurled by the previous day’s demonstrators, such as: “Melayu balik kampung, kita sudah berkuasa sekarang” (“Malays, return to your villages, we are now in power”) and “Hey Sakai bolih balik ke hutan” (“Hey Sakai, you can return to the jungle”). Meanwhile, groups of Malays from outside Kuala Lumpur gathered at Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Harun Idris’ house in Kampung Baru. They urged Harun to lead a victory demonstration to show they had not lost power. Before long, it was announced a demonstration would begin from Harun’s house at 7.30pm on May 13. ***

Violence During the May 13, 1969 Riots

 The riot ignited the capital Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding area of Selangor – according to Time, spreading throughout the city in 45 minutes. Many people in Kuala Lumpur were caught in the racial violence – dozens were injured and some killed, houses and cars were burnt and wrecked, but except for minor disturbances in Malacca, Perak, Penang and Singapore, where the populations of Chinese people were similarly larger, the rest of the country remained calm. Violence concentrated at urban areas. The infuriated Malays lashed out and murdered eight Chinese. According to police figures which are disputed, 196 people died and 149 were wounded. 753 cases of arson were logged and 211 vehicles were destroyed or severely damaged. [Source: Wikipedia]

 During the campaign period, Zainon Ahmad wrote in The Sun, “Police shot dead a Labour Party member for resisting arrest in Kuala Lumpur. The party applied for a police permit to hold a funeral procession on May 10 – polling day. Permission, however, was granted for May 9.About 10,000 people took part and they flouted every police instruction, including the routes they were supposed to take. They passed through the heart of Kuala Lumpur and clogged up traffic on almost every street. They carried the Red Flag and portraits of Mao-zedong and sang The East is Red. They provoked Malay bystanders with shouts of “Malai si” (“Death to the Malays!”) and “Hutang darah dibayar darah” (“Blood debts will be repaid with blood”). It was to the credit of the Royal Malaysian Police that nothing ugly happened that day. But it set the stage and primed the mood for what was to happen following the “celebrations” on May 11 and 12.

 On May 13,Zainon Ahmad wrote, “Violence started at about 6pm that day when about 100 Malays from Gombak made their way through Setapak – the scene of the previousevening’s demonstrations – carrying banners and shouting slogans. Soon, street clashes broke out between them and Chinese and Indian youths. Parang, sticks and iron pipes were used. Most of the Malay demonstrators made it to Harun’s house where exaggerated versions of what happened had already reached the 5,000 people gathered there. They were in an ugly mood. When some Chinese and Indians in a passing bus made some taunting remarks at them, the vehicle was attacked. By 6.40pm, the first three Chinese lay dead beside the road. Word of what happened in Setapak and Kampung Baru spread and within hours the whole city was engulfed in communal rioting the size of which had never been experienced by the country before. The worst of the rioting burned itself out during that first night. [Source: Zainon Ahmad, The Sun, July 26, 2007 ***]

 Time reported: “ Malay mobs, wearing white headbands signifying an alliance with death, and brandishing swords and daggers, surged into Chinese areas in the capital, burning, looting and killing. In retaliation, Chinese, sometimes aided by Indians, armed themselves with pistols and shotguns and struck at Malay kampongs (villages). Huge pillars of smoke rose skyward as houses, shops and autos burned. Firemen drew sniper fire as they attempted to douse the flames, and outnumbered police watched helplessly at times as the street gangs rampaged. One man, trying to escape from his burning car, was thrown back into it by a howling mob, and died. By the time the four days of race war and civil strife had run their course, the General Hospital's morgue was so crowded that bodies were put into plastic bags and hung on ceiling hooks. Government officials, attempting to play down the extent of the disaster, insisted that the death toll was only 104. Western diplomatic sources put the toll closer to 600, with most of the victims Chinese. [Source: Time, May 23, 1969 ^^^]

 “The trouble began two weeks ago, when newly formed Chinese opposition parties cut heavily into the Alliance's majority in parliamentary elections. It became suddenly apparent that many Chinese were no longer satisfied with just economic hegemony, but wanted a protective share of the political power as well. Nothing was more surely calculated to frighten the Malays, in particular the Malay "ultras" (right-wingers), who have long preached the doctrine of Malaysia for the Malays. Alarmed, the ultras began to discuss ways of retaining control. At a Malay post-election meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Chinese onlookers began to taunt those in attendance. Infuriated, the Malays attacked. At least eight Chinese were killed and within 45 minutes fast-spreading riots forced the Tunku to clamp a 24-hour curfew on the capital. ^^^

 “Struggling to restore order as the fighting mushroomed, the Tunku and Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak took power into their own hands. Parliament was suspended, as were constitutional guarantees. Total administrative power was taken by the newly formed, all-powerful National Operations Council headed by Razak, which proceeded to suspend publication of all Malaysian newspapers for several days. Arrests began. Ninety-three alleged terrorists were bagged in a swoop on a Chinese apartment building in Kuala Lumpur, and Razak reported that all Communists and known sympathizers were being rounded up. Razak and the Tunku blamed all the troubles on Communist China, which, they charged, had funneled large sums of money to Communist agitators in Malaysia. Later, however, the Tunku backed off slightly, and praised "loyal Chinese elements," adding that he had been mistaken when he blamed Chinese Communists for all the troubles. As tensions eased late in the week, curfews were lifted long enough to allow householders to go out and buy food. The fires burned on, however, and there were still occasional racial clashes. ^^^

 On May 14, a state of Emergency was declared and Parliament was suspended indefinitely. On May 16, Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman set up the National Operations Council (NOC) to rule the country by decree with his deputy, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, as director of operations. Sporadic small clashes continued after May 14 and they fizzled out only after about a month. The last serious outbreak was between Malays and Indians on June 28 in Kuala Lumpur in which five people were killed. ***

Lead up to the May 13, 1969 Riots

 After the separation of Singapore and Malaysia, ethnic issues continued to simmer between Malays and Chinese. In the elections of May 1969, the Alliance was opposed by the Democratic Action Party, which had a predominantly Chinese following and advocated the abolition of Malays’ special status. After a bitter campaign between the two sides, the Alliance maintained power but lost a significant share of the total vote. Opposition party supporters held public demonstrations to celebrate their election gains, and violence broke out between opposition supporters and Malay bystanders. Riots ensued for two weeks, mostly in Kuala Lumpur, and resulted in hundreds of casualties, primarily Chinese and Indians. The government declared a state of emergency and ultimately passed laws against questioning governing institutions and Malays’ special status. [Source: Library of Congress, 2006]

 The collaboration of the MCA and the MIC in these policies weakened their hold on the Chinese and Indian electorates. At the same time, the effects of the government’s affirmative action policies of the 1950s and ‘60s had been to create a discontented class of educated but underemployed Malays. This was a dangerous combination, and led to the formation of a new party, the Malaysian People’s Movement (Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia) in 1968. Gerakan was a deliberately non-communal party, bringing in Malay trade unionists and intellectuals as well as Chinese and Indian leaders. At the same time, an Islamist party, the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) and a Chinese socialist party, the Democratic Action Party (DAP), gained increasing support, at the expense of UMNO and the MCA respectively. [Source: Wikipedia]

 At the May 1969 federal elections, the UMNO-MCA-MIC Alliance polled only 48 percent of the vote, although it retained a majority in the legislature. The MCA lost most of the Chinese-majority seats to Gerakan or DAP candidates.

Consequences of the May 13, 1969 Riots

 The government declared a state of emergency, and a National Operations Council, headed by the Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, took power from the government of Tunku Abdul Rahman, who in September 1970 was forced to retire in favour of Abdul Razak. It consisted of 9 members, mostly Malay, and wielded full political and military power.

 Using the Emergency-era Internal Security Act (ISA), the new government suspended Parliament and political parties, imposed press censorship and placed severe restrictions on political activity. The ISA gave the government power to intern any person indefinitely without trial. These powers were widely used to silence the government’s critics, and have never been repealed. The Constitution was changed to make illegal any criticism, even in Parliament, of the Malaysian monarchy, the special position of Malays in the country, or the status of Malay as the national language.

 Philip Bowring wrote in in the Asia Sentinel: “The Tunku effectively stepped aside as emergency powers to rule by decree were (temporarily) placed in the hands of a National Operations Council headed by his deputy Tun Abdul Razak – father of current deputy prime minister Najib Abdul Razak. The Tunku remained prime minister until September 1970 but had little authority any more. In 1971 he also stepped down as president of UMNO after virulent criticism by the Malay “Young Turks,” headed by Mahathir Mohamad, the future Prime Minister. The same year the government enunciated the New Economic Policy and began aggressive affirmative action programs to advance the economic and educational level of Malays. [Source: Philip Bowring, the Asia Sentinel, May 16, 2007]

 In January 1970, Tun Razak set up a National Consultative Council to find ways to promote and strengthen racial harmony so that normalcy would return and Parliament restored. On Sept 21, the Tunku retired as prime minister, depressed and sad that the racial harmony he had devoted much of his political life to strengthen had collapsed under his watch. Tun Razak succeeded Tunku as the country’s second prime minister, and eventually the NOC came to an end after 21 months, and Parliament convened again on Feb 23, 1971.

Causes of the May 13, 1969 Riots

 Cheah Boon Kheng of the National University of Singapore wrote: The May 13, 1969 communal riots have been attributed to many factors. Although Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman would blame the communists for causing these riots, 24 not many studies have confirmed this. A greater number of specialists have concluded that the riots occurred because of Malay dissatisfaction over Tunku Abdul Rahman’s liberal policies towards non - Malays and non - Malay challenges to Malay rights and privileges. In fact, the failures and weaknesses of multi - ethnic and non - communal parties like the socialist parties in Malaysia 25 allowed the forces of communalism to grow stronger. The negligible participation of socialist parties in the May 1969 general elections, for instance, indicates that they had allowed the communal parties, by default, to dominate the field. After the riots, communalism, not communism, began to be in the ascendancy. [Source: Cheah Boon Kheng, National University of Singapore, New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 11, 1 (June 2009): 132]

 Zainon Ahmad wrote in The Sun, “Much of the underlying causes could have been resolved early, and some of the symptoms could have been heeded to nip the problem before it conflagrated. In fact, even as early as the 1959 general election when there was much racial tension within the Alliance and outside of it, some observed that the country’s worst enemy was not the communists in the jungles but communalism in the cities.” Communalism reared its ugly head prior to the 1955 general election, during the drafting of the national constitution, and prior to the 1959 elections. [Source: Zainon Ahmad, The Sun, July 26, 2007 ***]

 “The various rights – Malay special rights, citizenship rights, language, culture and education – were publicly debated when the People’s Action Party (PAP) participated in Malaysian politics after Singapore joined Malaysia in 1963. Because the Alliance participated in the Singapore elections in 1963, the PAP participated in the federal elections in 1964 and told the Chinese not to vote for MCA for betraying them to the Malays. Preparations were made to defeat the PAP in the Singapore elections scheduled for 1967. Malaysian radio and televisions accused the PAP of undermining racial harmony, while Singapore radio and television called for a “Malaysian Malaysia”, meritocracy and the removal of quotas. ***

 “Following the 1965 ouster of Singapore from Malaysia, much of the discussion on these issues were somewhat muffled. But all stops were pulled during the five week campaign period before polling day on May 10, 1969. Meanwhile, the DAP and the newly formed Gerakan grew into formidable rivals. Where the Alliance thought the general election was a walkover, it suddenly had to contend with these two parties which attracted Chinese and Indian voters in droves. ***

 “During the long campaign period, the DAP spoke quite unreservedly about a Malaysian Malaysia. It targeted the MCA for letting down the Chinese with the passing of the National Language Act 1967 and for accepting the use of Malay as the sole medium of instruction in school. Gerakan felt strongly that the special Malay rights and the language policy in schools were inequitable to other races. ***

 “The MCA and MIC had to defend the Alliance stand, while Umno had to fend off PAS’s allegations that it was “selling out the Malays to the immigrant races”. The Labour Party, allegedly communist infiltrated, did not participate in the elections but were busy organising demonstrations against the government. Just a fortnight before polling day, an Umno member was murdered, allegedly by a Labour Party member. Tensions ran high but was quickly contained.

Did the Ruling UMNO Orchestrate the May 13, 1969 Riots?

 Philip Bowring wrote in in the Asia Sentinel: “A book by a Malaysian Chinese academic is on the point of being officially banned for suggesting that May 13 was the occasion for what amounted to a coup against the independence leader and Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman by his United Malays National Organisation colleagues who were pushing pro-Malay policies. Officials of Malaysia’s Internal Security Ministry confiscated 10 copies of the book from a Kuala Lumpur bookstore, advising the store not to sell it as it may be banned. According to a letter issued by ministry officials, the book is suspected of being an “undesirable publication.” [Source: Philip Bowring, the Asia Sentinel, May 16, 2007 /~/]

 “Declassified Documents on the Malaysian riots of 1969” by Dr. Kua Kia Soong, the principal of New Era College, is based not directly on Malaysian sources but on now-open British documents held at the Public Records Office in Kew Gardens, near London. These consist of contemporary British diplomatic and intelligence reports which suggest that the riots were not spontaneous acts of communal violence, as is constantly alleged by UMNO, but were fanned by Malay elements, with support from the army and police, wanting to discredit the accommodating prime minister and impose a much more rigorous Malay agenda. One British document concluded that the goal was to “formalize Malay dominance, sideline the Chinese and shelve Tunku. /~/

 “Kua’s thesis suggests that there was a grander political design behind the episode, which from the beginning was intended to create a new political agenda and new leadership. He attributes this to a younger Malay group dissatisfied with the aristocratic, pro-British the Tunku. However, while the consequences of May 13 may be clear, there are disagreements about Kua’s thesis even among those who attribute the riots to Malay politicians. For example, Dr Syed Husin Ali also a respected academic and deputy head of the opposition Keadilan Party, has suggested that while some UMNO figures used the events as an opportunity to sideline the Tunku and set out a pro-Malay agenda, it was not planned as such. In other words, Razak and others took advantage of the situation which arose after the election and the appearance of Malay mobs to grab the reins of power from the Tunku, with whom they were dissatisfied, but that it was not premeditated. Syed also takes issue with Kua’s view that they represented an aspirant Malay capitalist class when most had traditional and feudal links.” /~/

New Economic Policy: Malaysia’s Affirmative Action Plan

 The New Economic Policy (NEP) is an affirmative action plan implemented in the 1970s in response to the ethic riots of 1969 to counter the economic dominance of the country's ethnic Chinese minority and improve economic position of naive Malays. The policy has helped indigenous Bumiputras (native Malays, literally "sons of the soil") improve their positions by giving them preferential treatment in education, business and government, and setting quotas that limited the number of Chinese and Indians in universities and public jobs. Malays were given preferences in housing, bank loans, business contracts and government licenses.

 The policy is backed by a special clause in the Constitution guaranteeing preferential treatment for Malays. It imposes a 30-percent bumiputra equity quota for publicly listed companies and gives bumiputras discounts on such things as houses and cars. Money is provided by banks and investment firms to Malays and indigenous people to start businesses. Businesses are required to have a bumiputra partner, who would hold at least a 30 percent equity stake.

 The policy was adopted when Abdul Razak, the father of current Prime Minister Najib, was Prime Minister. Shamim Adam of Bloomberg wrote: “ The 1969 riots started in part because the Malays felt the Chinese controlled the economy. To raise the share of national wealth held by Malays and indigenous groups to at least 30 percent, Najib's father crafted a policy that gave them cheaper housing as well as priority for college enrollment, government contracts, and shares of publicly traded companies. For the most part, the pro-Malay policy has kept the peace. "Malaysia has done very well, and affirmative action was a strong contributor to the stability that allowed for such development," says Masahide Hoshi, a director at Phalanx Capital Management HK in Hong Kong. "However, these same policies could impede Malaysia in the long term.[Source: Shamim Adam, Bloomberg, September 09, 2010]

 The policy worked quite well for the Malays. Over they years Malays have taken over many business run in the past by Chinese and Malays prospered without destroying Chinese business. By the 1990s, Malays controlled the nation's major businesses and achieved more prosperity while it seemed relatively few Chinese and Indians resented the quotas. One minister of Chinese descent told National Geographic, "I've been quite critical of some specific cases when Chinese people got blatantly unfair treatment. But the situation we had at the end of the sixties, where the distribution of wealth was so skewed—it couldn't last. It made for an inherently unstable society. Because of NEP, there is less racial resentment now, and more a feeling of Us—you know, Us Malaysians."

 The Malay privileges stem from a "national social contract," drawn up by various races at the time of independence in 1957, which put the majority community on a higher footing in exchange for sharing political power with minorities and giving them citizenship. According to Associated Press: “Today the policy is considered by most Malays as their birthright. No notable politician of any race has ever suggested scrapping it for fear of alienating Malays. [Source: Associated Press, August 6, 2005]

Criticism of the New Economic Policy

 Many people feel the New Economic Policy has outlived its usefulness. The Malays have made great advances and are no longer a marginalized people like they were when the policy was adopted in 1970. According to Associated Press : “The policy is widely acknowledged to be only a moderate success, benefiting largely a few Malay elite and taking away from others the incentive to excel. Although Malays form 60 percent of the country's 26 million population, they control only 19 percent of the corporate equity and most of the country's wealth is in the hands of the Chinese. Indians are about 7 percent and are at the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

 Thomas Fuller wrote in York Times: “The government's apparently indefinite extension of an affirmative action program for the Malays, a policy that has been in place since 1971, has stirred impatience among the country's Chinese and Indians. Terence Gomez, a Malaysian academic who has written widely about Malaysian politics and the ethnic Chinese, and who is now a research coordinator at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development in Geneva, says the notion that one race should have supremacy is an anachronism in a country where ethnic identities are becoming less important in everyday life. "The idea of being Malay or being Chinese or Indian is not something that is part of their daily thinking or discourse," Gomez said. The political elite, he said, "seems to be caught in a time warp."[Source: Thomas Fuller, New York Times, December 13, 2006 \\\]

 “The government says the affirmative action program is still needed to narrow the overall income gap between the Chinese and Malays, the original justification for the policy. But determining which race has the highest ownership levels in the country is also now a point of contention, involving disputes over how assets should be calculated.” \\\

 John Burton wrote in the Financial Times, “There has been a debate whether the policy should remain in place since it is seen as obstacle to Malaysia's international competitiveness. A study by a local think tank suggested that Malays had exceeded the government's goal of owning 30 percent of domestic businesses, which called into question the continuation of the affirmative action policy. The government this week revealed its own statistics on Malay corporate ownership, saying the Malays owned 37 percent of listed companies but only 24 percent of all registered companies. [Source: By John Burton, Financial Times, November 9, 2006]

 “Economists warn that the NEP represents a barrier to improving Malaysia’s economic efficiency when the country is facing increased competition for foreign investment from regional rivals such as Vietnam. Mr Abdullah has sought to ease some affirmative action provisions in response to those concerns. But when he announced last year that the government would waive such rules for a new economic zone near Singapore, he was criticised by hardliners in his own United Malays National Organisation, Malaysia’s dominant party.” [Source: John Burton, Financial Times, January 9, 2008]

May 13, 1969: Truth and reconciliation

 Closure: ‘A bringing to an end; a conclusion... A feeling of finality or resolution, especially after a traumatic experience,’ ( Well, May 13, 1969, was truly a traumatic experience for Malaysia. Yet 39 years later, there is still no proper closure. Instead, the incident has haunted the nation these past four decades. Just the mention of ‘May 13’ invokes shudders and nervous glances. It is our national ‘code’ for violent racial meltdown, especially among the older generation. Isn’t it time to finally break the code?

WHEN news of the March 8 general election results broke, Opposition supporters were understandably jubilant at what was their best showing in the nation’s 51–year history. Yet, the sentiment on the ground was very much one of restraint. Supporters were urged not to go out and celebrate, but rather to maintain a low profile.

The reason for such caution: The racial riots of May 13, 1969, of course.

Truly, those were dark and terrible days. My father, a retired diplomat, told me that after the riots, many prophets of doom even predicted the end of the then newly–formed Malaysia.

According to a Time magazine report on May 23, 1969, ”Malaysia’s proud experiment in constructing a multiracial society exploded in the streets of Kuala Lumpur last week. Malay mobs, wearing white headbands signifying an alliance with death, and brandishing swords and daggers, surged into Chinese areas in the capital, burning, looting and killing. In retaliation, Chinese, sometimes aided by Indians, armed themselves with pistols and shotguns and struck at Malay kampongs. Huge pillars of smoke rose skyward as houses, shops and autos burned.”

That was an outsider view of what happened. Yet, almost four decades later, that is the same graphic image associated with May 13 – violence, mayhem, killing – which haunts Malaysians.

As a nation we have not moved or completely healed from the incident simply because we have been afraid. As PKR information chief Tian Chua opined in an interview with StarMag: “In Malaysia, we grow up and live in a culture of fear in the shadow of May 13. That fear has been built into our political system and has remained a part of our psychology.”

That fear is, in part, rooted in ignorance: no one has been able to come up with a full and authoritative account of what happened.

What's known are the facts. In a nutshell, a day after the May 10, 1969 general election which saw sweeping gains for the Opposition, thousands of Chinese marched through Kuala Lumpur, parading through predominantly Malay areas hurling insults.

Umno Youth members then gathered at Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Harun Idris’s residence in Kampung Baru in KL on May 13 for their own counter victory celebration since the Alliance had maintained its majority in Parliament, albeit a reduced one, and had retained Selangor with the support of the single independent assemblyman.

That led to outbreaks of violence in parts of Kuala Lumpur that continued over the following days. Houses, shops, vehicles were torched, people killed and injured. Official figures put the death toll at less than 200 but many commentators put the figures at between 800 and 1,000.

On the day the riots broke out, Star Deputy Op–Ed Editor Johan Fernandez , then 21, was watching a movie in the heart of KL.

“Suddenly the screen went red and the words ‘Emergency Declared’ in large black letters were flashed. There was a mad rush to lock the cinema gates just as an armed gang tried to break in.

At first I joined many who were hiding in the toilets but I didn’t want to die there so I walked out again just as the gang broke through, ready to kill. But I heard them say among themselves that they weren’t targeting my race, so I plucked up my courage and walked out of the hall. I know that people were killed after I left.

“I took refuge in a nearby police station for about five or six days until the killings stopped.”

Many Malaysians living in KL at that time have similar tales to tell or know of someone who suffered losses.

After so many years, the question that is often murmured or thought about is: Can another May 13 recur? Certainly it was considered a possibility after the March 8 general election as the results bore an uncanny resemblance to that of 1969.

Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Khoo Kay Kim says that the circumstances surrounding May 13 were different.

“I believe that this time around there was a greater determination to preserve the peace. I think the security forces were a little confused in 1969, which is why (then Home Minister) Tun Dr Ismail had to bring in the Sarawak rangers.”

Given Malaysia’s status then as a young nation with developing ethnic relations it was easy for politicians to exploit the divide, adds Dr Khoo.

“A focal point of May 13 was communal divisions. Even though the Alliance had lost Kelantan to PAS, many contests were largely pitched as Malay versus non–Malay. It was the non–Malay vote that swung very sharply to the then Opposition parties of Gerakan, DAP and PPP.

“In the case of March 8, the support for the Pakatan Rakyat parties came from all three major races so the situation therefore was far less explosive.”

The historical background

Many tumultuous events happened in the years leading to May 13. Malaya gained independence in 1957 against the backdrop of a guerrilla war conducted by the Communist Party of Malaya (the Emergency which lasted from 1948–1960).

In 1963, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak joined Malaya to form Malaysia, against the objections of the Filipino and Indonesian governments of the day. Indonesian President Sukarno was particularly incensed and carried out underground military action during this period (known as the Konfrontasi).

Meanwhile in Brunei, an election was held but its results nullified when the leftist Parti Rakyat Brunei (which advocated union with Indonesia) swept all the seats, resulting in the brief Brunei Revolt.

In 1965 Singapore seceded from Malaysia, thanks in part to two separate rounds of race riots in 1964 (on July 21 and Sept 3) during which nearly 50 people died in Sino–Malay clashes.

Dr Khoo explains: “During that time when Singapore was part of Malaysia, Chinese outnumbered Malays. This led the Malays to fear displacement in their own homeland. The brand of politics that Lee Kuan Yew practised further frightened the Malays. The Sino–Malay riots of 1964 were a big thing and one reason why Tunku took steps to cut Singapore off.”

The 1969 general elections were therefore conducted under highly emotional charged circumstances.

The theories

In May 13 Before And After, a book penned by Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman within months of the riots, he laid blame largely on communist agitators as well as their leftist sympathisers within the Labour Party of Malaya. LPM chose to boycott the 1969 general election but nonetheless showed off their strength at the funeral march of a member, Lim Soon Seng (who was killed in a clash with police), held in Kepong on May 9.

Tunku also accused supporters of two opposition parties fighting their first general election – Gerakan (a multi–racial party which included former Labour Party leaders Tan Sri Dr Tan Chee Koon and Dr V. David) and the DAP (a splinter party of Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party) – with carrying out provocative celebrations in Malay areas like Kampung Baru.

Other factors cited by Tunku in his book are the power struggle within Umno itself and the emergence of Malay “ultras”.

Prof Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, founding director of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies, says the most common misconception about May 13 is that it was caused by a single factor.

“In reality, it was the result of multiple factors. Like the movie Vantage Point which presents eight viewpoints from eight persons on one event (the attempt to assassinate a US President), there can be many vantage points to May 13: official, personal and even conspiratorial ones,” he adds.

Dr Kua Kia Soong, author of May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969 released last year, is of the view that the May 13 riots were not a spontaneous uprising but an orchestrated coup against Tunku by disaffected members of his own party.

Former Inspector–General of police Tun Hanif Omar, in his Sunday Star column on June 3, 2007, rejected this claim.

He pointed out that the National Operations Council (NOC) Report, The May 13, 1969 Incidents, gave other reasons why and how the outbreak started and its consequences.

“Is the NOC Report accurate without touching on the plot to topple Tunku? To me it is. The unhappiness that some Umno members had with Tunku by 1969 was real but it did not feature as a cause of the May 13 incident.

“The incident, however, sharpened the unhappiness of the Malays with Tunku and fuelled the movement to replace him with his deputy, Tun Abdul Razak.

“As the coordinator of the Special Branch investigations into the incident, and having read all the statements from eye–witnesses which formed the basis of the NOC Report, I am convinced of its accuracy,” wrote Hanif.

Still, what Ahmad Mustapha Hassan ,who was an Umno Youth exco committee member at the time, saw first–hand seems to lend some credence to the Tunku conspiracy theory.

He explains: “I was part of the Umno Youth committee that held a meeting on the morning of May 13 and our plan was clear. We would hold a counter victory celebration, to remind people that even though we had a smaller majority we were still victorious.

“However, when we assembled at the Selangor Mentri Besar’s house shocking incidents happened. We were handed headbands and weapons were produced. It was definite that there were some elements in Umno who were opposed to Tunku’s leadership and who had come with an ulterior motive and planned something more sinister.”

In his book, The Unmaking of Malaysia, Ahmad describes his grief and horror at the events that unfolded: “I witnessed a killing of an innocent coffee shop boy. ... We were unaware and unprepared for such a situation ... A crazy mob had taken over ... and I and fellow Umno Youth (members) were helpless.”

Ahmad, who went on to serve as press secretary to Prime Ministers Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, believes the attacks “appeared to be planned by some group because hidden weapons and headbands were distributed” but maintains he does not know who was responsible.

It is Dr Kua’s contention that unless “the truth is out”, there can be no real national unity. But Hanif countered that what happened in 1969 “was too ‘ancient’ an animosity to be allowed to hold national unity to ransom.”

In an interview last week, Dr Kua argues that “May 13 is part of our history and is consistently trotted out by politicians who want to play the racial card, to show us what will happen if the privileges of the ruling class are threatened. We need to have a process of truth and reconciliation. This is what happened in South Africa after apartheid; it doesn’t bring back the dead, but it lets the healing process begin.

“At the moment the blame is put largely on the back of the Opposition, but questions must be asked about the role of the military, the police and certain ruling party officials who represented the emerging capitalist class. We don’t need to trot out the gory details which will inflame passions, but the truth must not be covered up.”

DAP veteran leader Lim Kit Siang, who was detained under the Internal Security Act for more than a year after the riots, agrees, adding that 40 years is not too late to discuss what happened.

“We should stop sweeping it under the carpet. May 13 is a ghost that must be exorcised. As long as it remains a hidden, censored part of history then it hinders our maturing as a people and a nation, and will continue to haunt us.”

This desire for closure is shared by others.

In a letter to The Star, (Bury ghost of May 13 once and for all, March 27) Lt Kol (R) Mohd Idris Hassan took to task a “seasoned politician” for appearing on TV and ”saying that if the Opposition parties continue to fan communal sentiments, another May 13 will happen, adding with a raised index finger ‘Dan jangan salahkan kami’ (Then don’t blame us).”

Mohd Idris went on to say “please spare us the threat of another dreadful May 13” and that “After 39 years, it is time to bury deep the ghost of May 13 once for all, so that it never raises its ugly head again.”

He added: “For one, it is a well–flogged threat used by some politicians for their own agenda, and two, it does not work any more. All it does is that it raises painful memories of the black chapter in our history of our otherwise harmonious relations between all races.

“On that fateful day, I was a young officer serving in the army. I witnessed first–hand the carnage as it unfolded. People were attacked because they were of the wrong race, at the wrong place at the wrong time. Everyone suffered.”

Responding to Mohd Idris’ letter, another reader, Daniel K.C. Lim, wrote that “rather than trying to decipher the truth from the official version, if one exists, or from listening to unofficial or underground versions, or simply putting every rumour on hold until living memories fade away and are replaced by mere myths and legends, why not have the events of May 13, 1969, properly and definitively recorded and reviewed?

“Reconciliation must start first with the truth; only then will we be able to lay matters well to rest once and for all.”

Teoh Feh Leong, a 55–year–old engineer, feels that closure can only come through acknowledgement and forgiveness.

“We don’t know anything about what happened because the Government has closed this entire chapter of our history. The incident happened too far back for us to hate or incite anger anymore. But we need to know what happened factually, accurately, once and for all.

“Our young Malaysians have no idea what’s May 13 while the older people remain bitter. Unless we acknowledge and confess to what happened, the spirit of May 13 will continue to be present each time the Malays feel threatened or when the Chinese feel cheated or outraged. It will never end.”

Among the younger generation, May 13 may hold little fear for them but there is a certain curiosity about it.

Abby Wong, 38, merchandising manager for a KL leading bookstore believes that was what fuelled the good sales of Dr Kua’s book.

“It sold like hot cakes when it came out last year. Most of the buyers were working adults in their 30s. When I asked them how they knew about it since there was little publicity in the press, they told me they found out about it on the Internet and were curious to know more.

“I remember one buyer described the book as ‘Valuable history at a cheap price’ as it was sold at only RM20,” says Wong.

Student Chak Tze Chin, 23, says she heard stories of it from her grandmother.

“She still thinks there can be another May 13 incident so during the last general election, she advised me to stay home. To me, it’s important to understand past events so that we can work together better in the future.”

To Diana Afandi, May 13 is often used to remind the people of Malaysia not to stir up racial tensions. “But now, it is used so widely for political parties and leaders to pursue their objectives. I remember being nervous when I heard the stories from my parents and I am still worried now,” said the 21–year–old student.

Other flashpoints

Perhaps what should be made known is that May 13 was not the only major racial clash in the country’s history.

Dr Khoo explains: “The first racial riots were in August–September 1945 and were caused by the Communist Party of Malaya going around punishing Chinese and Indian collaborators after the Japanese Occupation ended. But when they punished the Malays, especially the Banjaris in the Batu Pahat area, they fought back. And this spread to other Banjari areas like Batu Kikir in Negri Sembilan and Sungai Manik in Perak.”

Prof Shamsul agrees: “May 13 has been given special attention in our media, history books and realpolitik, but the Sino–Malay ethnic riots in 1945 were bigger and bloodier. They were more widespread and continued for a longer period (for two weeks with a toll estimated at more than 2,000 lives).

“Why is this conflict never mentioned every time we talk about racial riots in Malaysia? It reminds me of what French historian Ernest Renan once said: ‘History is about remembering and forgetting.’

“It is historical, therapeutic and awareness–raising to talk and analyse these conflicts (between 1945 and 1969) in a rational and reasoned manner, and not use it as a threat to incite racial hatred or fulfil an ethnicised political agenda.”

Observes Dr Khoo: “People try not to talk about May 13 because they don’t know how to handle it. You cannot start by blaming one side or another. The procession through Kampung Baru was certainly unfortunate, but it did not justify such a wave of killings.

“After 1969 we became vulnerable. Each race is told that it is somebody else’s fault. We expect our leaders to play a part in defusing tensions, but instead there are many who thrive on constantly fuelling the fears of the people.”

Moving on

Still there are positive signs of a maturing society, such as how the March 8 general election results were accepted without any violence.

Admits Dr Kua, “The recent elections just put paid to my theory that such riots might recur if the government lost its two–thirds majority.”

Dr Khoo concludes: May 13 is not just a story. It tells about our society and its relationships. We must reach a stage where we understand each other’s fears, where cultural diversity is accepted and not be the cause of conflict.

“Everybody should also realise, especially our politicians, that you can never solve sensitive issues by confrontation.

“People should be reminded that Barisan Nasional was formed after May 13 after the Alliance Party (of Umno, MCA and MIC) was broadened to include former opposition parties, the reason being that the huge coalition would help reduce inflammatory politicking.

“Ethnic champions should always be disapproved of in a multi–ethnic society.”

Timeline 1969–1973


Late April – campaigning period sees clashes in Penang with an Umno worker killed.

May 9 – Funeral of Labour Party member in Kepong turns into show of strength by leftists.

May 10 – General Election is held resulting in Alliance Party losing its two–thirds majority, as well as the state legistatures of Kelantan and Penang. Perak and Selangor state assemblies are hung.

May 11&12 – Supporters of Gerakan and DAP go on victory processions, during which racial taunts are made.

May 13 – Umno organises counter procession beginning at the residence of Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Harun Idris. Racial killings begin. Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman addresses the nation. Curfew imposed in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

May 14 – State of Emergency declared as retaliatory killings continue. Officially 196 people are killed during this period, but unofficial estimates put the figure closer to 800–1,000.

May 16 – National Operations Council headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak is appointed by Yang–Di–Pertuan Agong to carry out executive duties in place of suspended Parliament. Tun Dr Ismail is appointed Minister of Internal Security.

June 28 – Five people are killed in Malay–Indian clashes in KL.

1970 June/July – Elections in Sabah and Sarawak are held.

1971 Feb 21 –Parliament reconvened and National Operations Council dissolved. New Economic Policy launched to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth among the races.


January – Gerakan and PPP agree to work with Alliance in running Penang and Perak state governments respectively.

1973 January – PAS joins the Alliance, leading to formalisation of new coalition as Barisan Nasional.

• Source: May 13 Before And After; May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969; Wikipedia

Choosing to live or die together

by Datuk Mahadev Shankar

MAY 13, 1969. On that day I had finished with a case at Court Hill and returned home a little earlier than usual. My wife and children were out and got back just before sunset.

By twilight, all hell had broken loose. A shouting mob seemed to be coming from the junction of Princess Road (now Jalan Raja Muda) and Circular Road (Jalan Pekeliling and Jalan Tun Abdul Razak) which was less than half a mile from our house on the corner of Jalan Gurney Dua and Satu.

We were well within earshot of the commotion. We were out on our badminton court when a young Malay, face ravaged with shock, ran past us, intermittently stopping to catch his breath and then run on.

The panic he radiated was very contagious. A few moments later, my neighbour Tuan Haji Ahmad shouted from across the road that a riot was in progress at the Princess Road junction and that we should immediately get back indoors.

Soon afterwards as the darkness set in, we saw red tongues of flame crowned with black smoke go up from the direction of Datuk Kramat. From town there was a red glow in the sky of fires burning. The acrid smell of smoke was coming from everywhere. Fearing the worst, we locked ourselves in and huddled around the TV set. Then I heard this high–pitched wail: “Tolong, buka pintu, tolong. buka pintu!” (Please open the door!)

A diminutive woman with a babe in arms was desperately yelling for shelter, obviously not having had much luck with the houses nearer the Gurney Road (now Jalan Semarak) junction. Without a second thought, I ran out, unlocked the gate and let her in. She was wide–eyed with terror and the baby was bawling away.

Once inside, she slunk into a corner in our dining room and just sat there huddled with her baby. It was now evident that she was Chinese, spoke no English, and was quite unwilling to engage in any conversation except to plead in bazaar Malay that she would give us no trouble and that she would leave the next day.

Our attention soon shifted from her to the TV set. A very distraught Tunku Abdul Rahman came on to tell us that a curfew had to be declared because of racial riots between the Malays and the Chinese, caused by the over–exuberance of some elements celebrating their election victories. He gave brief details of irresponsible provocations, skirmishes and fatalities. He stressed the need for calm whilst the security services restored law and order.

I remember his parting words to us that night, “Marilah kita hidup atau mati sekarang” (Let us choose to live or die now). As my attention once again shifted to the tiny woman and her tinier baby, let me confess, to my shame, that the thought crossed my mind that living in a predominantly Malay area, I had now put my whole family in peril by harbouring this Chinese woman. It was evident from the TV broadcasts that her race had become the target of blind racial hatred.

None of us were in the mood to eat anything. We all just sat and waited, not knowing quite what to expect. Hours later there was a loud banging at our gate accompanied by a male voice shouting. I realised then my moment of truth had arrived

In that half–light, I saw the most enormous Malay man I had ever set eyes on. With great trepidation I asked him what he wanted.

“You have got my wife and child in your house and I have come for them,” he said in English.

Still suspicious I asked him, “Before I say anything, can you describe your wife?”

“Yes, yes, I know you ask because I am a Malay. My wife is Chinese and she is very small and my baby is only a few months old. Can I now please come in?”

I immediately unlocked the gate.

In he came and we witnessed the most touching family reunion. He thanked us profusely and without further ado they were on their way. In the excitement we did not ask his name or address.

If that baby who sheltered in our house that fateful night has survived life’s vicissitudes, he would be 49 today. All the major ethnic races which compose our lucky nation were fully represented in our house that evening when the Almighty brought us together for a short while.

With our hopes for racial unity so much in the forefront of our minds, may I leave it to my readers to ask themselves whether there is a point here for all of us. Folded into our experience of the night of May 13, 1969, was there not the glue that binds all of us with the message that we must love each other or die?

Datuk Mahadev Shankar, a lawyer in 1969, retired as a Court of Appeal Judge in 1997. The full version of this article was first printed in The Sun on Aug 22, 2007.

One day in 1969

by Ho Kay Tat

IT was around 4pm, May 13, 1969. I was taking my usual leisurely walk home from St John’s Primary School on Bukit Nanas in Kuala Lumpur to nearby Kampung Baru. It seemed like any other day except that we were let off early. I didn’t know why, but as a 10–year–old I didn’t care.

On the bridge that divided the then Jalan Ampang commercial heart of KL (where British trading houses like Inchape and Wearne Brothers were located) from Kampung Baru, I saw my mother.

Surprised, I asked: “What are you doing here?”

She grabbed my hand and said: “I was going to take you back from school. Hurry, hurry, go home. There is going to be trouble.”

After seeing me home, my mother, who by then was in a state of panic, rushed to the other end of Kampung Baru to get my sister from the Jalan Temerloh school near where Istana Budaya is today.

I had no clue what was happening. Some of our neighbours had already packed and left. I remember my father telling someone off: “Spread rumours and I will report you to the police. There won’t be trouble. Just stay home.”

When my mother returned, she told everyone there were hundreds of people out on the streets at the Jalan Raja Muda/TPCA stadium junction but there was no trouble yet.

We were seven Chinese families living in four wooden houses just off the bank of the Gombak river, surrounded by Malay homes. Across the river, where the Renaissance Hotel now stands, was a small Chinese enclave where most of the Chinese in the area lived.

Born and bred in Kampung Baru, my five older siblings and I are first generation Malaysians. Our parents and our paternal grandmother who lived with us came from China after the War.

Kampung Baru was where I learnt to catch spiders, play guli–guli, watch joget at Malay weddings, enjoy sambal belacan and eat with my hands. My best friend was Atan, a chubby boy who lived just opposite us. I spent hours playing with him, ate and slept over at his house.

For a 10–year–old, it was bliss, although we were dead poor and all six of us slept in one room with our parents.

But our world would be shattered that one day in 1969.

By dusk, all but two families had left, including the family living in the same house with us. We decided to go indoors. Just as we were locking up, one of my sisters said, “Let’s go over and join Kimi Chi.”

Those words saved our lives.

Kimi Chi, our nickname for her, was a kind woman in her early 30s and we treated her like an older sister.

When we went over, she and her family – husband, amah, three kids, including a baby – were about to hide themselves in a Malay house separated by a narrow lane from hers. Fearing trouble, the makcik and her family had decided to leave but not before suggesting that we take shelter in her house.

The Malay houses were all on stilts. The Chinese homes were not and would be easily identified as all of them had altars in front.

Virtually minutes after we entered the house, they came, scores of them. They had come from the direction of Gurney Road using the riverbank. Soon, we could hear them smashing things up in Kimi Chi’s house.

This went on for a while and throughout that first night people were running up and down that lane shouting. We heard many gunshots from a distance.

I was not scared initially because I didn’t know what was happening. I thought it was just some bad hats running wild. But the adults and older kids knew it was more serious than that. It was a racial clash – sparked by politics and bankrupt politicians – and we were caught in the heart of it.

Throughout the time we spent in hiding, we had only water and biscuits. Amah would quietly boil water to make milk for the baby. I was mostly hiding under the bed together with the other males. The women had decided that the attackers, if they were to break in, would go after the males first so we should be hidden away. We spoke rarely and only in whispers for fear of being heard.

There were two close calls. One evening we heard two men talking outside the house. The baby cried. One man said: “What’s that”? The other replied: “Just a cat!”

Another time, someone said they should check the house. From their footsteps we knew they came right to the door, but stopped when one of them said: “Rumah Melayu–lah.”

After three or four nights in hiding we started to wonder how we were going to get out safely.

Then one afternoon, we heard light knocks on the side of the wooden house from outside and a male voice said softly in Malay:

“Hello, is there anyone inside?”

We maintained silence.

He knocked a few times again and said: “Hello, don't be afraid, I am a soldier. If you are in there, please knock back.”


“Don't be scared, I am here to help you.”

Was he genuine? We were truly frightened.

Finally, out of desperation, someone answered him.

“Yes, we are inside.”

Within hours, the good soldier, who later told us he had heard the baby cry, brought in a rescue team.

We were taken to an army camp where we stayed for a few weeks. On the way there, I could see burnt cars and there were still scores of people with weapons roaming the streets. At one point, they tried to stop the army truck to check who was inside.

The army camp was luxury compared to our next place – the refugee centre at the Shaw Road flats school opposite Victoria Institution. There we slept on floors or desks combined into makeshift beds. There were at least 40 to 50 people crammed into each classroom. From the school we could see soldiers patrolling the streets, and an armoured car was positioned all the time at the roundabout (now an underpass) opposite.

It was a couple of months before we were relocated to a low cost flat to enable us to return to normal life and for me, school. I remember my school friends – Malays, Chinese, Indians, Eurasians – asking me what happened on my first day back at school. They knew I was a victim by the tattered donated school shirt I wore.

Almost four decades have passed and, as someone who went through the horror, I say it is now time for us to exorcise the ghosts of that one day in May, 1969.

The people, regardless of race and faith, are ready. In fact, the people were never the problem. There were many instances of one race helping others during the riots. Mine was only one of them.

May 13, 1969, was about politicians, politics and power.

So, are our politicians ready for a fresh start?

Ho Kay Tat is editor–in–chief of The Edge.

Driving into trouble

by Datuk Abdul Wahab Majid

WE had just launched the Malaysian news agency, Bernama.

I joined on March 15 to head the Malay editorial, recruited from Nanyang Siang Pau where I was a reporter.

On May 13, I noted how the atmosphere seemed bleak on the streets. There were rumours of disturbances and some people were seen sharpening parangs on Jalan Raja Muda, KL.

I had to attend a cocktail reception at the American information attache’s residence in Jalan Conlay that evening with my wife. People were talking about the tense situation. Around 9pm, we left. My car was running low on fuel and I was trying to locate a petrol station.

Around the Pekeliling flats and Petaling Street area, people were scrambling around kelam–kabut. Many petrol stations were closed.

As we turned into the road near the Information Ministry, I realised there was no streetlights but there was a roadblock ahead.

Seconds later, a flowerpot was hurled through the window. The broken pieces cut my wife’s lip.

Suddenly I saw several chaps wielding parangs running towards our car. They were shouting Allahu Akhbar (God is great). I quickly rolled down my window and shouted the same and they stopped.

I was fortunate to be given curfew passes so I could move about freely. We organised communal cooking at the Bernama building for the 100–odd staff.

I bought food for my Chinese and Scandinavian neighbours who could not leave their homes. My late mother–in–law grew vegetables in our backyard so we had sweet potatoes.

I saw few clashes on the streets. The police and military ensured order was restored. No particular group of people was allowed to attack another, and if it happened, it was dealt with immediately.

The hot spots of Batu Road (now Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman) and Gurney Road (Jalan Semarak) were under constant watch. Of course, it was very tense for the first two weeks.

To me, May 13 is a lesson for everyone. Nobody can benefit from such an incident, especially those who had perpetrated and incited the ill feelings that started it. – as told to CHIN MUI YOON

Datuk Abdul Wahab Majid, 74, was Bernama news editor in 1969.

Helping in the aftermath

by C. Kamalantran

I WAS on the way home from Bukit Bintang Boys’ School when I saw youths on the bridge at Kampung Kerinchi overlooking the Federal Highway throwing rocks at passing cars. It was about 6pm.

Once home, I was glued to the television as the incident unfolded. I wanted to help since many were made homeless after their houses were burnt down. In the aftermath of May 13, the Malays were temporarily sheltered at Stadium Negara while the Chinese were at Stadium Merdeka.

The Education Department gave me two months off. I volunteered at the Emergency Relief Centre under (the retired judge) Datuk Mahadev Shankar.

We distributed blankets, gas stoves, rice, sugar and milk powder and rehabilitated the victims to the new Pekeliling Flats along Jalan Hang Tuah. Many of the families were living in Princess Road's (now Jalan Raja Muda) mixed community. Their faces spoke of their shock at the horror of what had happened. Many were caught by surprise and were devastated.

I helped record their statements and assembled information on their family members who were killed, injured or missing. I heard many stories of how Malay families helped to shelter the Chinese running from the frenzied mobs chasing them. One man hid in the drain for three days before a Malay helped to hide him in his home. – as told to CHIN MUI YOON

C. Kamalantran, 72, is a retired English teacher.

The shot that changed her life

by Lee Hung Poh

Everyone old enough to remember it has tales to tell. Here are the stories – sad, touching and inspiring – of five individuals who lived through May 13.

I WAS 17 when a bullet changed my whole life. I started working at 13 as my family was poor and there were 10 of us. On that day, I went to work at the F&N factory in Sungei Besi, Kuala Lumpur.

Around 7pm, factory workers arriving for their shift spoke of fights in the streets. I decided to go home. After dinner, I stood at the doorway to see what was happening. Many people were standing outside their houses. We heard shouts and then a police patrol car came by and the men inside started firing shots at our houses.

I saw two bullets hitting our walls. Another bullet hit my sister’s shoulder. I felt a sharp pain in my stomach and the impact threw me to the floor. I could hear my sisters screaming, “Ah Poh chung cheung!” (Ah Poh has been shot!).

I bled so much that it looked as though a pail of blood had spilled across the floor. Neighbours grabbed a passing car and sent me to the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital.

I was semi–conscious when I reached the hospital. I was sent to a room where there were many dead or badly wounded people. Nobody attended to me until the pain was so great I managed to scream, “Hoi toe!” (Surgery!).

I heard a voice saying, “She is still alive” and then I was wheeled to the operating room.

The bullet had entered through the right side of my belly and exited across the left side of my back. It had cut through the L345 bone of my vertebrae, which controls movement of the lower body.

The doctors told me I would be paralysed for life.

My stomach wound required 21 stitches. A few days later, it became infected and I went for a second surgery. I had over 10 surgeries and suffered from bedsores.

The real damage was not visible. I could not laugh or shout because any exertion caused incontinence. I was terrified to go out and had low self esteem. Fever broke out frequently and the pain in my legs was so intense that only morphine helped.

I constantly thought of my future. What would I do? Who would want me? My parents cried constantly. In those days, it was shameful to be a cripple.

My father and I were very close; he was badly affected by what happened to me. He started drinking heavily. He’d sit on my bed and cry.

The next year, a disabled organisation held a fund–raising campaign to send me to China for treatment. The Star did a story on me and helped raise RM3,000 for the trip.

I carried all my hope to China. But I returned without any.

Acupuncture helped strengthen my legs which were as thin as matchsticks. But after 10 months in Beijing, I did not even recover 50% of what I’d hope for. I was so disappointed that during the five–day boat trip back to Malaysia, I’d thought of jumping overboard. I had little education and no skills. What could I do for my future?

Then in 1972 a doctor at a Hong Kong Hospital heard about my story and invited me for treatment. I took a RM500 loan to fly to Hong Kong. A metal rod was inserted into my back to enable to stand. But to this day I am unable to walk unaided.

I discovered later that the doctor had performed the surgery for free. I will always be grateful to him for his kindness.

When I came home, I learnt that my home had been demolished and my family scattered. I was determined to be independent. I set up a stall selling fruits along the five–foot way in Sungei Besi. I also sold popcorn and soya bean along Jalan Hang Tuah and sewed clothes and curtains at night.

After 10 years, I saved enough money to open a small sundry shop in Taman Segar, Cheras, with a friend.

I even got my driver’s licence and I deliver goods in my secondhand Proton. A few years later, I bought a nearby flat.

My father died in 1979. In 1996, my mother moved in to live with me until her death last year.

They say time heals but it’s not true. Every year on May 13, I feel the need to hide in my room. I just can’t face this date.

Today I live independently. I have many friends. I harbour a dream of visiting Venice, a city built on water!

But I do feel bitter –there has been no acknowledgement of what happened to me. But then, no one can give me back my health, or my years. What can ever compensate what I’ve lost? – as told to CHIN MUI YOON

Lee Hung Poh, 57, lives in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.