Tomorrow marked the 39th anniversary of the fateful race riots that happened on May 13, 1969. If you are a Malaysian, then you will definitely be aware of the significance of this date. For until today, the mere mention of May 13 still manages to illicit fear.
We often hear it being use by politicians to threaten us from questioning certain policies. We were led to believe that if we did not keep a certain party in power, then the whole nation will descent into chaos just like what happened 39 years ago.
In fact, immediately after the political tsunami of the March 08 general election, supporters from the opposition parties, who won a lot of seats were told to refrain from holding victory rallies lest it is use as an opportunity to cause unrest. This was due to the ruling coalition being denied a 2/3 majority, which was one of the catalysts for the last riots.
My dad upon knowing the full impact of the results asked me to stay at home for the next few days fearing that riots will broke out. He had lived through the terrible events of the 1969 riots and many others like him too had such fears ingrained in them.
But people like me, who belong to a generation born after the incident may not share the same sentiment. We learned about May 13 in schools but what was written in our text books are just simplistic portrayal of the event. Although we still learned about May 13 in 'Hubungan Etnik' at university level, the subject remains a taboo. The complex incident was explained in just a few paragraphs & we gained no new insights into it.
Threats of another May 13 do not frighten the younger generation but instead had an opposite effect as seen from the recent general elections. Politicians who threaten to create instability if they lost power shouldn't have been voted into power in the first place.
A detailed account & understanding of the dark events of May 13 is needed or it will continue to lurk beneath the harmonious race relations portrayed on the surface. It is time to bury the ghost of the past & move on. The incident should serve as a reminder of our fragility instead of being used as a political tool to instill a climate of fear.
Frankly, after 39 years why should we still be fearful?