A new Malaysia was created on May 13

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | “Because of that there exist all kinds of assumptions when ethnic ties become strained and unhealthy. This can cause that event and I do not want to mention the particular date,” - Deputy Prime Minister Muyhiddin Yassin, 2014

(Muhyiddin did not mention the date specifically, but Utusan Malaysia inserted May 13, 1969 to his quote in parentheses.)

The quote that opens this piece by the current home minster and former deputy prime minster Tan Sri Muyhiddin Yasin demonstrates that for Malay power brokers, the May 13 riots is just another tool in their political arsenal, to be used when circumstances warrant.

A couple of years back, in discussing the use of May 13 as a political weapon, I wrote: “What really is terrifying of May 13 is the way how the state uses it to demonise Malaysians based on ethnicity. The people making the threats, the aggressors become the victims and heroes of their own narratives, and Malaysians who do not subscribe to orthodoxy become the villains and scapegoats for all that the system has wrought.”

The home minster now says: "What is the point of raising these old stories? These should serve as a lesson, and more importantly, the government should focus on what we are doing now and in the future.

"As the new government, Pakatan Harapan promises to be fair (to everybody). We don't want to see our country in chaos because of racial and religious issues,"

The political establishment has always contextualized the May 13 riots as the culmination of simmering racial tensions between the Chinese and Malay communities. A logical, if unfortunate, consequence of class and race fears which ultimately ended in bloodshed...

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