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Cabinet should establish a Commission of Inquiry to ascertain the causes and events of May 13, 1969 riots instead of allowing biased and tendentious accounts by university lecturers


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

, Tuesday) It is sad and most unfortunate that we are  having  this urgent debate by the DAP MP for Bandar Kuching, Chong Chieng Jen on the biased and tendentious Ethnic Relations guidebook by two University Putra Malaysia (UPM) lecturers, Jayum Anak Jawan and Zaid Ahmad, which aggravate racial polarization instead fostering race relations.


This is because Parliament should be focusing on how we can restore academic excellence and eminence of our universities, but instead, we are bogged down with this issue of the misleading and biased guidebook on Ethnic Relations, which has become a compulsory subject for university students.


This is not a debate on whether  the May 13, 1969  Incidents were caused by the DAP,  the Taman Medan riots of 2001 caused by Indians, or whether the 1999 Election Appeal of the  Malaysian Chinese Election Appeals Committee (Suqiu) were extremists – all of which areirresponsibly claimed by the Ethnic Relations guidebook.


The short time we have for the present debate is not adequate for any proper debate on the causes of May 13, 1969 riots, as there are many versions and published accounts.  The guidebook named DAP,  while other political parties like Gerakan and UMNO had been blamed.


Bapa Malaysia and the Prime Minister during the May 13, 1969  riots , Tunku Abdul Rahman in his book “Looking Back” (1977)  which reprinted his article of 1st March 1976, said:


“I refer to the tragedy of May 13, 1969 which caused the loss of many hundreds of innocent lives.


“To know who manipulated the violence outside the part played by the Communists, we have to find out who it was who gave permission for the funeral procession of a dead Communist to pass through the streets of Kuala Lumpur.”


Suffice for me to say that among those blamed for the May 13, 1969 Incident ( the official number of deaths was 196 but Tunku later spoke of “many hundreds of innocent lives”) were Tun Razak, Harun Idris and even the former Prime Minister.


It is in the public domain that the then Australian Deputy High Commissioner W.B. Prichett had at the time noted:


“…there can be no doubt that UMNO was solely responsible for the riots.  Its members ran the communal campaign or allowed it to happen.”


This debate is not the occasion to establish who had caused the May 13, 1969 riots but why a subject purportedly to foster ethnic relations is so insensitive and irresponsible as to make baseless allegations, including:


  • Condemning  as “extremist” the 1999 Election Appeal of the  Malaysian Chinese Election Appeals Committee (Suqiu), which was endorsed in principle by the Barisan Nasional parties, including the Prime Minister at the time, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad before the general election;


  • Blaming Indian youths for the 2001 Kampong Medan incident;


  • Blaming DAP for the May 13, 1969 riots;


  • Biased and unbalanced account of the “social contract” on the achievement of Merdeka in 1957.


  • Biased and unbalanced account of the 1963 Malaysia  Agreement bringing   Sabah and Sarawak into  the formation of Malaysia.


I agree that we should not  run away from history. I call on the  Cabinet tomorrow to establish a Commission of Inquiry to ascertain the causes and events of May 13, 1969 riots as we should not allow biased,  tendentious and irresponsible  accounts to be given by certain university lecturers.


The guidebook by Jaya Jawan and Zaid Ahmad is a most sloppy work.


For instance, in page  83 the guidebook said: “Perlembagaan Malaysia juga memperuntukkan DYMM Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di Pertuan Agong sebagai Ketua Agama Islam Negara Malaysia”.


There is just no such constitutional position of the Yang di Pertuan Agong as Ketua Agama Islam Negara Malaysia.


The guidebook has also given an unbalanced account of the “social contract” reached by the forefathers of the major communities on the attainment of Independence of Malaya in 1957 on the cardinal principles of nation-building, viz that this is a multi-racial, democratic and secular nation with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State.


Just now in Parliament, the Home Minister claimed that the Constitution provided for Islam as the official religion. In actual fact, the Constitution does not provide for Islam as the official religion as what is stated is that Islam is the religion of the Federation.


The non-Muslims have taken a very positive attitude in agreeing to Islam as the official religion but this does not mean that they have agreed for the provision to be stretched to mean that Malaysia is not a secular but an Islamic State.


There is also the unbalanced account of the Malaysia Agreement on the formation of Malaysia with Sabah and Sarawak, such as the position of the indigenous bumiputras in the two states, who had been left out of the mainstream of development in the past four decades, as well as the problem of the influx of illegal immigrants such as the Project Mahathir resulting in the foreign illegal immigrants exceeding local Sabahans in the state population.


Equally objectionable are the untruths about the Kampong Medan riots putting the blame on the Indians and the Suqiu  incident.


Why had the guidebook failed to mention that the Suqiu electoral appeals were endorsed by the Barisan Nasional and the then Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad before the 1999 general election in order to get the Chinese votes – only for Mahathir to accuse Suqiu and the Malaysian Chinese who supported it as  acting like communists and Al-Maunah after the polls, with deplorable incidents like the threat by UMNO Youth leaders to burn down the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall?


Among the Suqiu appeals listed in the guidebook is “Penghapusan system kuota untuk kemasukan ke universiti”.  The government now claims that it has done away with the quota system for university student intake (although a genuine system of meritocracy has yet to be adopted) – but if such an appeal was “extremist”, does it mean that the government is also guilty of extremism in implementing it?


I am very disappointed by the Higher Education Minister, Datuk Mustapha Mohamad’s reply yesterday defending the guidebook as “historic facts” when they are actually  “historic lies”.  The May 13 Incident, the Taman Medan riots and the Suqiu Incident are “historic facts” but the various claims about them in the guidebook are historic lies.


The Ethnic Relations guidebook must be withdrawn immediately, or it will be a ticking time-bomb aggravating racial polarisatrion not only in the university campuses  but also in the larger Malaysian society.



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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