They say those who forget history are doomed to repeat its mistakes. In light of the recent sabre-rattling by those in Umno and the warning by the Armed Forces Chief, Malaysia Today feels compelled to republish an old article by Raja Petra Kamarudin that was published in Harakah on 24 September 1999.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin
This is Part One of an article I wrote almost nine years ago, which was published in Harakah, the official media organ of the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS). History is not something that should remain buried. History is something that should be a lesson to all or us so that we do not repeat the mistakes made by those before us.
In 1968, Umno fanned racial sentiments in a bid to ‘unite’ the Malays under its banner. Umno realised that the Malays were abandoning it in droves and it needed an issue to reunite the Malays. Further to that, the Prime Minister was being blamed for what Umno perceived as a loss of Malay support and the Young Turks in Umno wanted to also use this issue to pressure the Prime Minister into resigning.
Twenty years later, in 1988, Umno again went into turmoil with the emergence of Team A and Team B, which eventually split into Umno Baru and Semangat 46. Again, just like twenty years before that, the Malays had become disillusioned with the Umno leadership and there was a danger that Umno would suffer the same fate it did in 1969 if the general election was called.
The Umno leadership very cleverly got the Umno Youth and MCA Youth leaders to raise racial issues and bring the country to the brink of another ‘May 13’. This was when that infamous gathering at the TPCA padang in Kampong Baru was held and when Najib Tun Razak, the Umno Youth Leader, raised the keris and threatened to bathe it in Chinese blood.
Of course, this second ‘May 13’ never happened. What did happen instead was that Operasi Lalang was launched and more than 100 opposition leaders and activists were detained under the Internal Security Act. Najib and the MCA Youth Leader, Lee Kim Sai, however, were spared detention, although they were the two main players in the whole episode.
The ploy did not quite succeed though. In the 1990 general election, half the Malays swung to the opposition and Umno lost most of the Malay heartland to Semangat 46 and PAS.
Twenty years on and history is, again, being repeated. It appears like every twenty years Umno takes the country to the brink of a race riot in its effort to ‘unite’ the Malays and to ensure that it does not lose Malay support. And the 8 March 2008 general election, as well as the recent Permatang Pauh by-election, is proof that Umno has lost Malay support.
“The current situation is a repeat of 1969,” said Umno in its brainstorming session held at the Umno headquarters to conduct a post-mortem of the election results. “Therefore, a 1969 ‘solution’ will also be required.”
This is very dangerous talk indeed. And Umno has been doing nothing but talking dangerously since March 2008, as evident in the recent episode in Penang. Maybe the culprit has since been punished. Yesterday, Umno’s Supreme Council decided to suspend Ahmad Ismail for a period of three years. But the damage has already been done and the suspension can’t turn back the clock. Racial sentiments have already been fanned and Malaysia, again, is being pushed to the brink of a race riot.
Malays, Chinese and Indians need to know how May 13 started. They must be made aware of what May 13 was really all about. They must be made to realise that the current sabre-rattling is nothing but the same ploy that Umno used back in 1968 and 1988 whenever it felt that it was losing Malay support. May 13 was not about race although it is being touted as so. May 13 was about ‘reuniting’ the Malays and about ousting the Prime Minister from office.
To forget history would be to repeat its mistakes. Let us not be taken in by Umno’s shadow-play (wayang kulit). They know they are rapidly losing power and they want to retain power through foul means by raising the spectre of May 13. Malaysians need to be matured and clever enough to reject this ploy. Umno can try, but whether it can succeed will all depend on whether we get suckered into this very dangerous race game.
Let me take you down memory lane and recap what I wrote nine years ago so that we may learn from this dark history and not repeat what went wrong. As follows is what I wrote in Harakah on 24 September 1999.
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