13th May 1969 my little story (pre- & post- GE14)

I echo here YB Lim’s advice for all Malaysians, regardless of whichever side of the political divide we stand, to take the opportunity offered to us after the 14th General Election (GE14) to bury the ghost of May 13th forever. But the lessons of May 13th should always be taught to younger generations so that the same will not happen again.

Commentary (May13, 2018):  The inspiration to share my little May 13th story came from a letter by senior politician, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, published in Malaysiakini (the pdf version is available here).

I echo here YB Lim’s advice for all Malaysians, regardless of whichever side of the political divide we stand, to take the opportunity offered to us after the 14th General Election (GE14) to bury the ghost of May 13th forever. But the lessons of May 13th should always be taught to younger generations so that the same will not happen again. We should learn from Northern Ireland (my 2nd homeland!) of what communal distrust and sectarian divide can do to a nation.

We should be proud of ourselves as Malaysians. We have, through the resolution and courage shown the world that ours is a democratic nation. There is something among Malaysians that money simply cannot buy! The message from YB Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal (in one of his videos) perhaps sums up the feeling of many against money politics, “the RM500, RM10,000 or RM1,000 that you’re given will not make you a millionaire….. our dignity is not for sale.”

I think many Malaysians who are in the public service, the police and the military deserve our gratitude for coming out of their comfort zone and voted with their conscience. Without their support, the outcome of GE14 could have been very different.

Together, we have shown the world that Malaysians are no zombies when it comes to expressing our democratic rights!

It is time for reconciliation. A matured democracy shall always accommodate differing political views. Just because someone do not subscribe to your political view does not make her/him less of a Malaysian or a subject of hatred.

The confidence given by Malaysians to the present Pakatan Harapan regime does not mean that we have given the politicians a blank cheque.  This is my response when asked by BFM radio on what I want from the new regime:

(link: https://twitter.com/Everboleh/status/994430242969108482)


First published: May 14th, 2004, edited version published on May 13th, 2018

As a young boy aged 6+ during the May 13th incident in 1969, my memory of this event is still good.

However, a lot of the younger generation today seem to have no memory of this significant turning point of Malaysia’s history. I feel sad about this. (and the local TV, TV3 had an item on this last night).

My little Story about 13th May 1969:

I still remember on this faithful day, everything was ‘normal’, at around 6:45am, my dad cycled to his school to teach (about 4 km away) and I was already up and about (I was attending afternoon session at school) making a nuisance of myself to the adults. Then suddenly, at around 7:00 am, dad cycled back in a hurry and I saw a lot of people rushing back……curfew was imposed.

We were shielded from the bulk of the troubles as Ipoh was relatively unaffected by the events in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. I was too young to comprehend the magnitude and the seriousness of the event. All I remembered of that few days was: the adults were very tensed.

On the first day of curfew, dad and granddad went to the sundry shop (just after dad had cycled back in the morning) and bought a lot of food stuff. I was not allowed out of the house or the garden on the first day. By the second day, things seemed to have calmed down. I was allowed out (I think by then the curfew was lifted for a couple of hours for that day). But I went to the field opposite my house to play. I was warned by dad to get back into the house within the hour but I stayed around the play gound at the field for longer than usual (after all I was caged up for one full day already!)….

Then I saw a couple of police on petrol in the area and off I went jumping into the drain next to the field to hide from them….(I remembered being told that if I were caught after curfew hours outside the house, the police would lock me up).

As I was hiding in the drain, I could hear that the police petrol had passed but I dared not leave the drain for a few more minutes as I was afraid that they might turn back towards me. Then……I felt itchiness and a sharp pain around my groin and then my buttocks. This sensation was occuring at more than one spot!

…..My posterior was very close to the nest of a colony of fire-ants! These little guys then attacked me or more like my sensitive areas to protect their colony. Those days we ddin’t wear brief until you were close to 10 or 11 and of course little boy  all would wear shorts!

I ran from the drain, but dared not cry out loud (for fear of the police) even though the pain was terrible. I screamed when I got home. I only allowed my dad to see the ‘damage’ (mum and the rest of the family were not allowed near me!) My posterior, including my ‘3 pieces of inheritance from my ancestors’ were sore for days…..

I promised myself then that I would never hide in the drain again, even if I was playing with my friends, a promise I kept for the nest 5 days…

That was my personal memory of the whole May 13 incident as a young boy of not-yet 7 in age. But little did I know then, there were many things that happened in that few days that had changed the course of history for my country.

The National Economic Policy and other measures implemented by the government post May 13, 1969, had changed the economic and political landscape for my country forever. This paved the way for Malaysia to withstand the economic challenges of the 1997/98.

For many years this subject (of May 13) has been tabooed for all. But I feel that youngsters should be told what went on and more importantly, what we all have learned from it (or have we?)

In 1979, I was fortunate enough to have parents (who were working as a teacher/a clerk) that sacrificed their pension money to pay for my studies in the UK. There, the first thing I did was to look through the library of my technical college to see if I could find something on this event. After a few months of searching, I located a journal called something like “World Event- day by day” and I had the chance to read up on the foreign reports (foreign perspective) about May 13th, 1969 for the first time and understood some of the causes of this unfortunate episode of our history as a nation.

One thing is sure: we must not allow this to happen again, NEVER! But we must remember and remind our younger generations of this incident to ensure that the lessons learned are not forgotten and more importantly incident like this shall never happen again.

And one small lesson: do not play inside a drain, if you do, watch out for fire ants!

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