A REPORTER’S ACCOUNT OF AN INTERVIEW WITH TUNKU ABDUL RAHMAN ON THE 13 MAY INCIDENT

The following statement is a factual account of the above-mentioned event given to me by the late Tunku Abdul Rahman (first Prime Minister of Malaysia) during an interview at his residence in Penang in 1972. I requested to discuss the above incident and was surprised when the appointment was given within three days.

His Secretary, a Chinese gentleman, allotted me one hour and advised me not to go into too much detail as this would tire the Tunku unnecessarily. In fact, the interview lasted three and a half hours. Because of the very surprising details provided to me, I think it would be best to report in a first-hand manner based on my notes written immediately after the interview.

“It was clear to me as well as the police that in the highly charged political atmosphere after the police were forced to kill a Chinese political party worker on May 4th, 1969, something was bound to happen to threaten law and order because of the resentment towards the Government by the KL Chinese on the eve of the general election. This was confirmed at this man’s funeral on the 9th May when the government faced the most hostile crowd it had ever seen.

Therefore, when the opposition parties applied for a police permit for a procession to celebrate their success in the results of the general election, I was adamant against it because the police were convinced that this would lead to trouble. I informed Tun Razak about this and he seemed to agree.

Now, without my knowledge and actually “behind my back”, there were certain political leaders in high positions who were working to force me to step down as a PM. I don’t want to go into details but if they had come to me and said so I would gladly have retired gracefully.

Unfortunately, they were apparently scheming and trying to decide on the best way to force me to resign. The occasion came when the question of the police permit was to be approved.

Tun Razak and Harun Idris, the MB of the state of Selangor, now felt that permission should be given, knowing fully well that there was a likelihood of trouble. I suppose they felt that when this happened they could then demand my resignation.

To this day I find it very hard to believe that Razak, whom I had known for so many years, would agree to work against me in this way. Actually he was in my house, as I was preparing to return to Kedah, and I overhead him speaking to Harun over the phone saying that he would be willing to approve the permit when I left. I really could not believe what I was hearing and preferred to think it was about some other permit.  In any case, as the Deputy Prime Minister, in my absence from KL, he would be the Acting PM and would override my objection.

Accordingly, when I was in my home in Kedah, I heard over the radio that the permit had been approved.

It seems as though the expected trouble was anticipated and planned for by Harun and his UMNO Youth. After the humiliating insults hurled by the non-Malays, especially the Chinese, and after the seeming loss of Malay political power to them, they were clearly ready for some retaliatory action.

After meeting in large numbers at Harun’s official residence in Jalan Raja Muda near Kampong Bahru, and hearing inflammatory speeches by Harun and other leaders, they prepared themselves by tying ribbon strips on their foreheads and set out to kill Chinese. The first hapless victims were two of them in a van opposite Harun’s house who were innocently watching the large gathering. Little did they know that they would be killed on the spot.

The rest is history. I am sorry but I must end this discussion now because it really pains me as the Father of Merdeka to have to relive those terrible moments. I have often wondered why God made me live long enough to have witnessed my beloved Malays and Chinese citizens killing each other.”

This was a conspiracy at the highest level and nothing short of a power struggle, with the ‘Young Turks’ then forming the pressure group. To achieve their ends, they very cleverly used race to make the Malays rise and push the Tengku aside.

Today, they are doing it again. This is dangerous politics. It may backfire and, instead, it may make the Malays rise against the non-Malays, like what happened in 1969 — a fire raging out of control with no fire extinguisher in sight.

We must never allow our country to be turned into a racial battlefield again. Let politics be issues concerning policies, civil rights, good governance and justice. Let us not allow anyone to bring race and religion into our politics lest we suffer the fate of many countries around us where mass murders of entire families are made in the name of ‘bangsa’ and ‘agama’.

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