Friday, May 13, 2011

A Day to Forget



Exactly 42 years ago today Malaysia recorded her first race riot that transformed the social and political landscape of the nation. I was in my 2nd year at the University of Malaya ragging a new batch of students who just joined the new semester. I was in a residential college with some friends collectively teasing some freshies. It was fun to be in control when just a year earlier I was in their shoes. However, being a non-hostelite, meaning a non-residential college student, I escaped the brunt of the seniors. On that fateful night I found myself under curfew in a safe place of the college for the following week or so until the curfew was lifted and I was able to return to my rented room outside.

May 13 is remembered as an evil day like September 11. It is the day many of us Malaysians above the age of 50 would like to forget but still a lesson must be learned especially by the generation who were not there to watch or hear it happen. May 13 is ugly although it was well confined but it can be repeated if the government does not handle the race relationship well. Each year we remember this ignominious event we are ashamed to have happened in our colorful and multi-racial society. We are forgiven if we explain it took place just 12 years after our independence. We can forgive the government for being ill-prepared to handle the riots. But having 42 years of resolving the grave issue of inequality among the various racial components and finding ourselves today actually worse off is a sign of gross failure of the government that has ruled the country since independence. Today we read and hear extremist comments and incendiary remarks made by one race against another, by one religion against another, by one political coalition against another. Polarization has reached breaking point and it is because of the very tolerant nature of the majority of Malaysians that we have survived. But there are hotspots ready to break out much like 42 years ago. We surely cannot risk another repeat.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Yew,i totally agree with what you wrote and i pray GOD that history does not repeat itself,quoting your writings in parts (May 13 is remembered as an evil day) (Each year we remember this ignominious event we are ashamed to have happened in our colorful and multi-racial society)(We surely cannot risk another repeat.)LET US BOTH PRAY THAT WE OUR CHILDREN,OUR GRANDCHILDREN WILL NEVER EVER HAVE TO ENDURE THE SHAME OF MAY 13 AGAIN.REGARDS AL MAL.

Peter Yew said...

Dear AL, it is harder managing a multi-racial nation with sizable population of each major races such as ours. Not many countries share similar demography such as Malaysia. It takes strong will, clear vision and a just government to deliver the transformation we need to restore our beloved country to what we all dream of. Your prayer and our collective voice against extremism will drown out those dissidents against our common good. May God have mercy on us all.

Peter Yew said...

I guess we are still stuck in the primitive mindset of self preservation rather then putting the best man/woman up to do the job. That is why we are losing precious talents to other countries. Malaysians are smart people but we are not retaining many of them.

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