Wednesday, May 13, 2009

40 Years Today - May 13!

I was going to set out my thoughts on this anniversary of that fateful day 40 years ago which has since imposed on us a life governed by parameters stemming from the assumptions about that day. But I already had written this a year and a half ago after the BERSIH rally and didn't need to write anything new. So I have decided to reproduce it here. But just some preliminaries...o.k..o.k.o.k My preliminaries can be a posting in itself. Excuse me.

"Assumptions" you might say. Are they not fact, one might ask. Well, I knew as fact that it was a racial conflict. I knew as fact, then, that it was prompted by boisterous celebrations and provocations started off by the Chinese victors after the just ended General Elections. I knew as fact, the antagonists in this battle. I also knew as fact that when curfew was announced over the radio at about 5.30 - 6.00 in the evening, the first and second names of localities they announced were Kepong and Jinjang!! And staying then in Kepong, I heard not a single gun shot throughout this time.

Since then of course many of these so called "facts" have become nothing more than lies or just some small part of the total ingredients that came together to unleash the violence that happened. Indeed it might just be more correct to say that we have all allowed ourselves to be led by assumptions more than facts. Facts don't instill fear as much as assumptions do.

In any case this episode then set the stage for what followed. The NEP that was conceived had honourable objectives to begin with. A smaller share of an enlarged cake can be a whole lot more bigger, heavier, valuable and pleasurable than a silly cup cake. And then there was the Rukun Negara that had as its objective :

Achieving a greater unity for all her people;

Maintaining a democratic way of life;

Creating a just society in which the wealth of the nation shall be equitably distributed;

Ensuring a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural tradition,

Building a progressive society which shall be oriented to modern science and technology

Nice and wonderful. Except that this did not sit well with the simplicity that UMNO's leaders wanted for themselves in achieving a tight hold on political power and the riches that that led to.

Would it be more correct to say that since Mahathir's ascension to power that everything that was done was contrary to everything the Rukun Negara desired?

The May 13 Bogey

Power became the sole currency in the 1980s and today power and money seem to be all that matter. The useful call to keep the sheep within the pen was "May 13. " Just mention it in passing and everything that that date conjured up put us on guard. We let fear lead us. Remind the people what it takes for those in power to run amuk and that alone shuts up the discourse of the day. Mention May 13 two weeks or so before a General Election and you get the desired two-thirds majority despite everything looking against you. GE 1999!! Badawi tried on 7 March 2008. It came out the next day on the front page of the NST. But it did not say May 13. It said there will be chaos and instability. Looks like May 13 was a far more effective label. Chaos and instability has not exactly had any kind of negative in print in our minds as much as May 13 has. So we did not respond to it. And even if he had used the more familiar label "May 13" he would not have achieved anything as by then the May 13 bogey had been called.

On 19 November 2007 I wrote this on my blog. And I'll just reproduce this here to remind me of how I saw the lie of May 13 dissipate at the BERSIH rally of 10/11.

The May 13 Threat Bogey Dissipated!

UMNO leaders when needing to threaten the masses, especially those they have frequently threatened to have their blood bathe in UNMO's drawn kerises, have always relied on the threat of another May 13 to do the honours for them. The 1999 General Election was a case in point. It was then that there was the Barisan Alternative and it all looked formidable and the BN rightfully looked shaken. Then a matter of a couple of weeks or so of the GE, the threat was issued that if the BN did not win as well as always, May 13 could happen.

Now, after all the structural changes that have been put in place since 1969, the ones who would be most intimidated and threatened by such a threat would be none other than the non-Malays; the Chinese and to a lesser extent, the Indians. It worked. The DAP lost bad. Lim Kit Siang and Karpal lost their Parliamentary seats. But this threat was not directed at Malays. Surely not. The Malays were not intimidated. PAS won handsomely. They even won a second state, Terengganu and almost won Kedah.

The 1999 General Election was useful for showing one thing. UMNO needs the non-Malay vote badly, more so than the Malay votes to win. The Malay vote is basically unreliable as it can be equally divided and neutered and therefore of no consequence to UMNO in many of the constituencies, more so in the urban areas.

There are two demons that threaten and therefore can guide a non-Malay's actions, especially at the polling booth. Threat of May 13 and the other is Islamic State.

The 2004 General Elections had the non-Malays shrouded with the threat of Islamic State. After all, after PAS' greatest victory ever, they did come out with their Islamic State Document. This threat was not of UMNO's making. It was PAS. DAP decided to go it alone without the Barisan Alternative that now was made up of PAS and Keadilan.

PAS got hit bad. They lost Terengganu and almost lost Kelantan. Keadilan came off with just one Parliamentary seat. What happened?

Would I be right to say that the Chinese and non-Malays dumped the Barisan Alternative? It might just explain the sizable victories of BN candidates in a number of constituencies. Even a number of Malay/Muslims might have been frightened off the Islamic State prospect. The non-Malay votes would have moved across to the BN. Of course, to some extent the non-Malay voters too may have forgiven DAP, so that DAP ended up with a lot more seats in Parliament and State Assemblies. At the same time DAP should be reminded that their victories were not exactly very sizable victories.

We now read that DAP would not work with Keadilan if Keadilan was to work in any kind of coalition with PAS. Well, good on DAP. DAP has no choice but to stay by that stand. As for Keadilan, working with PAS would certainly not go down well with the non-Malays. Politically speaking they would still be in limbo. Going by the 10 November demonstration, it would seem like UMNO has made a lot of Malays angry as well. Who will be the beneficiary of that anger? If Malay votes have now become unreliable to ensure UMNO's victory, who do they call upon?

The 10 November Demonstration demonstrated one thing to those who were in attendance. There was absolutlely no thought of fear of a May 13 happening. We were Bangsa Malaysia. The PAS' Unit Amal Malaysia in their maroon shirt tops and dark pants caught our awe in their organisation and in the dischrage of their duties. We walked with them while they chanted Allah Hu Akhbar. No fear. No nothing!

Suddenly May 13 did not mean a thing. There was no need for May 13 anymore. Did I worry about May 13 in 1999? Yes. I may not have acted on that fear. But I know many who did. The previous two UMNO General Assemblies saw a number of UMNO Delegates referring to May 13 and a couple of them even unsheathed their kerises. But then the 10 November Demonstration had not happened. Those threats may have had some effect on some non-Malays. But 10 Novemebr has neutered that threat. Those 40 odd thousand people who were there would testify to that fact that none of us held any fear of the other or wished what UMNO has threatened on the other.

This is UMNO's greatest fear. For almost 40 years UMNO has been able to unite all Malays, including those in PAS, that their common enemy were the Chinese and to a lesser extent Indians. May 13 was such a racial riot where the only demarking difference beween friend and foe was the colour of their skin. The Chinese bogey man was a useful enemy to the UMNO elites. Does not matter if they were married to or their children were married to a Chinese. But citing Chinese, May 13, threat to NEP, Education, special rights, Ketuanan Melayu were all enough to conjure up in the Malay mind shadows of the Chinese enemy! That was all that was needed for the UMNO leader to get a sense of unity among the Malays. It worked. It has worked.

UMNO leaders know that all that lie that they had so successfully relied on was exposed to be nothing but a lie on 10 November. 10 November was not successful because a petition was sent to the Agong by some 40 thousand people. It was more successful in calling UMNO's lie. It was more successful in showing to all present that May 13 will never happen again and that it is not in our system or blood to see the other Malaysian who is not like us as an enemy. The May 13 bogey has been shown for what it really is.

Yes, May 13 could happen again. But its only beneficiary would be UMNO. Its only purpose would be to salvage UMNO. Its only purpose would be to rescue UMNO. Its only purpose would be to perpetuate UMNO's leaders. It will certainly not be needed to protect the Malays or to invoke a revenge for the Malays. After all it will be foolhardy for the non-Malays to start one, it has to be started by the Malays. But really? The Malay? Or would it be more right to say UMNO!

10 November could prove disastrous for UMNO because they may not be able to threaten the non-Malays with May 13 as at least for those who participated in that mobilisation we experienced no ill will to our other fellow Malaysians. UMNO could see, that left on its own its citzens saw each other as Bangsa Malaysia. This is just not good for UMNO.

UMNO needs to demonise the 10 November rally. They tried with the statement from the Palace's chamber maid citing the Agong. But that person now after being discredited as an UMNO card carrying member means that story is now shunted from being granstanded. Just like that story by the alleged rape victim of a former Malacca Menteri Besar that she was not raped by him. A one day wonder story to try and improve their standings in the 1999 General Elections.

Let us all unite and see each other as Bangsa Malaysia. As that is what we already are. Just that only some 40 thousand or so saw and expereinced it on 10 November.