Little enthusiasm for May 13 truth commission


Rahmah Ghazali | May 19, 08 4:00pm

Pakatan Rakyat’s proposal for a truth and reconciliation commission to uncover the facts behind the May 13 racial riots has found no support among older Malaysians.

Deputy premier Najib Abdul Razak said yesterday that this should be left as an episode in history that must not be repeated, and that review of the incident would only create an adverse polemic and benefit no one.

Pakatan leaders had said last week that the commission would uncover the facts behind the May 13 incident, which remains shrouded in secrecy.

Historian Dr Khoo Kay Kim reflected Najib’s notion that the review could only lead to the blame-game all over again.

“It could only lead to more confrontation as society is still not mature enough to revisit May 13,” said Khoo, a professor in Universiti Malaya.

He also pointed out that younger Malaysians have not been exposed to what happened then. If they are to be taught now, it should be done responsibly.

“It should not be taught to young Malaysians unless the history books are written accurately and carefully,” he added.

ramon navaratnamTransparency International Malaysia president Ramon Navaratnam said “the past is the past and we should not be looking back”.

“We have a vision ahead to fulfill, not a nightmare to look back on,” he said.

denison jayasooriaDr Denison Jayasooria, who heads MIC think-tank Yayasan Strategik, said Pakatan should focus on its priorities, including the strengthening of relationships in society.

“The rakyat voted for opposition not because of May 13 issue, but they wanted change,” he said.

Lone supporter

However, social activist Dr Farish A Noor described the call for the commission as “important and timely” because the issue is constantly being raised by politicians.

“It is done so with the apparent reason of instilling fear in the public,” he said, noting that the riots are often used as a means to silence the public.

“The commission would help society to have an open debate (and) identify those responsible for the riots regardless of which party (they are from),” he said.

At the same time, Farish rejected the constant discussion of the issues in the national political arena.

“The May 13 incident took place over three or four days and we have talked about this ‘national catastrophe’ for years. Malaysians have been living peacefully for 500 years, why don’t we talk about this instead?” he argued.

The riots took 196 lives, according to official figures, and have been a frequent source of public debate in view of the absence of full disclosure on the incident.

The official version has portrayed the riots as being triggered by ‘provocation’ by supporters of the Chinese-dominated opposition while celebrating their electoral victory in 1969. This has been rebutted by the opposition parties.

Last year, an academician contended that the riots were an attempt at a coup d’etat within a faction in Umno to oust then premier Tunku Abdul Rahman.

The author, Dr Kua Kia Soong, based his findings on newly-declassified documents.


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