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
The move to push Tunku Abdul Rahman aside had started. They needed something to trigger off some form of resentment against the government. They needed the Malays to rise, and what better platform to exploit than a racial platform?
Prior to that, 11 Chinese prisoners were sentenced to death for killing a Malay prison warden in Pudu Jail. This was subsequently turned into a Malay-Chinese issue.
The Malays wanted the 11 Chinese punished. The Chinese wanted their death sentence commuted. And demonstrations were held in the Chinese dominated areas around Kuala Lumpur to pressure the government to pardon the 11. In one large demonstration outside Pudu Jail, the riot police had to be called in the break up the demonstration with teargas. That was my first experience with teargas, and I was only 19 then.
The government had no choice but to back down, thereby angering the Malays.
In another incident, some Chinese demonstrated in front of the United States Information Service (USIS) office and one demonstrator was shot dead by a panicking Malay policeman — interpreted as another Malay-Chinese thing.
The Chinese wanted a funeral procession but the police would not grant them permission as they knew it would attract a huge crowd and the funeral would be turned into a demonstration instead. Tun Razak, however, told the police to grant them permission and ordered the police off the streets. The resulting “giant” parade built up tensions further.
The May 1969 General Elections were held soon after and the Alliance Party won only 40% of the votes resulting in it losing its two-thirds majority in Parliament. It also lost a couple of states to the opposition plus its two-thirds majority in others.
The opposition parties held “victory parades” which turned into a mud-slinging and name-calling session. The Malays were now really angry and decided to hold a victory parade of their own. Dato Harun, the then Chief Minister of Selangor, was given the task of managing this “event”.
On May 13, the entire cabinet withdrew to Frazers Hill while the Malays prepared for trouble. People in the top echelon of the government and commerce were tipped off to get out of town or go home early and, by 3.00pm, the city was quite deserted of the elite except for the unknowing rakyat.
That same evening, racial riots exploded. Parliament was dissolved, thereby saving the Alliance government that no longer had a majority in Parliament, and power was transferred to Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak under the National Operations Council (NOC).
The Tunku was now powerless.
Mahathir then increased his attacks on the Tunku using race as his platform. He also called for MCA’s expulsion from the Alliance to “punish” the Chinese. Instead, Dr Mahathir was expelled from Umno as the Utusan Malaysia newspaper report of 6 June 1969 reveals: