More than four decades have passed since the darkest hours of 1969. For many years after that, Malaysians have been spooked by memories of fear, blood and death.
Tomorrow marks the 41st anniversary of the May 13 incident when ferocious violence ravaged the streets of capital Kuala Lumpur.
But time has come to move on, the people tell Malaysiakini.
Politicians have frequently resorted to scare tactics, bringing up the threats that such racial riots could reappear and disrupt the nation’s unity and harmony.
In one way or another, this led to the strengthening of oppressive laws such as Sedition Act, Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) and Internal Security Act (ISA).
It also marked the birth of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1971 which was presumably a solution to the racial tension triggered by the unequal distribution of wealth among the races, particularly between the Chinese and Malays.
But time goes on and integration and cooperation between races are quite different from what they were years ago, said a May 13 eyewitness, who was in his teens at that point of time.
“The opposition parties have joined forces and inter-race relations have become stronger,” said the 59-year-old businessman who now runs a restaurant adjacent to Masjid Jamek at Kampung Baru.
Citing an example of the cooperation between PAS spiritual guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat (left) and the DAP, he said:
“He can sit down and eat with the Chinese. His example affects the community and the shows that racism is gone.”
Another factor why a May 13 won’t reoccur is because the younger generation are simply not aware of it.
“Even if they are, they are not sentimental about it because they lack patriotism and nationalism. They are just want to work and earn money and luxuries,” he said, stressing that a knowledge of the country’s history is needed.
“Therefore May 13 should not be politicised for selfish gains. This issue no longer affects people. Umno people who raise this issue are just griping away. They want something but cannot have it.
“Now, people can think and read. They can get what they want on the internet. Young people now can differentiate what is true and what is wrong.”
Similarly, 67-year-old Teo (right), who is working for a spare part shop located on Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, felt that May 13 was no longer relevant.
“It is a part of our history but all things have changed ,” said Teo, however, adding that he could not remember much from the incident.
School leaver Mohd Hafizin, 17, who has only learnt of it in history lessons expressed that fury of the riot was fueled by ignorance and intolerance.