By Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad
1.While we remember the 40th anniversary of the May 13 tragedy, we should move on. It’s time for closure of the sad, very sad incident.
2.The tragic and vicious incident need not have happened had Tun Razak’s message to Dato’ Harun Idris, the menteri besar of Selangor, reached him 30-minutes earlier or had Tan Sri David Tan Chee Khoon and Tun Lim Chong Eu spoken to Tun Razak 30 minutes earlier relaying their decision not to cooperate with DAP to form the state government of Selangor nor worked together in Perak and elsewhere. I was beside Tun Razak when he took the calls from them late past tea time on the fateful evening of 13 May. I recall clearly what Tun Razak told Harun “…the good news is you will continue to run Selangor. Chee Khoon and Chong Eu had just spoken to me that they want status quo preserved. So tell the people gathering at your house to disperse.” Harun thanked Tun and asked him to convey his gratitude to the two statesmen. Between five-to-ten minutes after that Harun rang Tun Razak to say that it was too late. As he was persuading them to disperse news reached the crowd that clashes had begun in Chow Kit Road and surroundings and beyond.
3.Tun Razak asked Harun to calm the gathering and urged him, in strong terms, to attempt his best to stop the clashes from escalating. The rest, as they say, is history. Though Harun and I were not on good political terms I must be fair. I think he did try, but by then, to no avail.
4.I left for home about maghrib. Informed Musa Hitam what happened and he asked his family to rush to my house. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Musa and his family spent the night at my house in Jalan Bukit Bintang, a very Chinese area, and there was no trouble. I assured my Chinese neighbours and they, in turn, assured me we would together maintain peace and confront whoever the outside trouble makers would be. Thank God, the troubles were localized.
5.This is just speculation: Had communications then were as good and advanced as today, I think two things could have occurred: race riots would not have started or they could have become more brutal and widespread.
6.When the Pakatan Rakyat coalition unseated the BN governments in Selangor, Perak, Penang and Kedah last March (08) there were no tensions, perhaps because every one was in a state of shock but plausibly, too, the incoming governments of PKR, DAP and PAS like the defeated ones, were also interracial. The PKR, DAP and PAS alliance should be preserved. The PKR is about the nearest thing to being a genuine multi-racial party. There shall not be another May 13 like-incident if the ruling party coalition and the Pakatan share power or perceived to be sharing power fairly and the government, whether Federal or State, observes the constitution scrupulously, government policy implemented justly without fear or favour where talent is not only recognized but rewarded irrespective of race or religion. The public as well as the private sector must display and reflect that of the society we live in, not what we want it to be. The Bumiputra must accept unequivocally the others are co-owners of this country as much as the others must also accept, recognise and acknowledge unequivocally the Bumiputra is the biggest demographic group and growing, therefore deserves some entitlements, though not at the expense of fairplay.
7.I am not a soothsayer nor a prophet of doom. I strive to tell what I perceive to be the truth. It does seem the future of democracy in our nation is bright. A genuine two-party system is at last evolving after five decades of Merdeka. If the Pakatan Rakyat state governments deliver what they promised and the alliance stay cohesive and the rakyat see the bond or linkage is sustained the alliance can be potentially potent. However, having said that, please make no mistake of misjudging Najib. He is no Badawi; different educational and social background. Najib is Tun Razak’s son, he is more familiar with the wiles of Malaysian voters; he is positively more Machiavellian, positively more able and aware than his predecessor who was badly advised by his family, cronies and toadies in government and the media.
8.If Najib performs well and the economy recovers he is a tough nut to crack. His 1Malaysia is good and if he is not distracted, and properly advised, you all will face a tough time. You must at least be well-prepared and ready. Najib may falter, which I think is not impossible, for he is not infallible. I am also very conscious how fallible I can be.
9.In politics, a week is a long time and logic doesn’t always work. Always work hard and one must always do what one feels is right. The correct and sensible thing to do is to ensure that all Malaysians are treated justly in the public as well as in the private sector. Our democracy can only flourish if we have a strong, free and independent media.
10.Our future is very bright if Najib can deliver what he promises and the Pakatan its pledges. We aren’t going to achieve what we desire. Worse if a nation is perceived to be untransparent, unjust and draconian. I repeat a strong, free and independent media is critical for the future of Malaysian democracy.
11.The future of 1Malaysia looks well if the PM can deliver what he promises and if the economy thrives. This can be done if we can reconcile the past which none should forget with the present we must face, and the future we cannot avoid.
12.Whatever, the electoral test will be in the next general election.
CONCLUDING REMARKS ON THE MAY 13 FORUM
I was with Dr Mahathir at his book’s launch. His Letters to World Leaders in Mandarin, so, I didn’t know what the other panelists said.
Najib has done well so far – challenging the rakyat’s mindsets, that we are getting more colour blind, that the society wants equality for all. Good. No sane person will quarrel with that: the question is can he deliver or do Malaysians believe he is a reformer? Indeed, what makes a reformer? Najib is a pragmatist, a realist, devoid of any ideology.
He faces many crucial challenges, realities and new pains especially in Perak. It seems change is imminent, some people seem unaware of this.
If any country is perceived to be unstable that would not be good for foreign investment or trade. In 2008, the ruling party polled just 51 percent of the popular votes. In the peninsula it was below 50 percent, I think, it was 49 percent – I stand corrected. The story next time, unless Najib could reverse the trend, isn’t likely to be very different than that of 2008; actually could even be worse.
The Pakatan will remain to be a force to be reckoned with, at least in 2012 or 2013 and in the future too.
All what Najib is trying to accomplish will be for naught if the country goes back to the days when political and social dissenters couldn’t speak freely and peaceful protests are squelched and media managed and muzzled. I do hope Najib means what he says: more political and media openness.
I think a real political battle which vaguely approximates the best tradition has just begun in earnest; a personal battle between Najib and Anwar, BN and Pakatan; DAP and MCA and Gerakan; the MIC, PPP and Hindraf; UMNO and PAS and the PKR bumiputra. The BN can no longer boast it can now be intensely relaxed as previously.
The outcome of which will decide the nature and feature of Malaysian nationhood.
In the last analysis, who wins or loses, will be decided by the voters’ perception of Najib and Anwar, their ideals and visions.
SPEECH BY TAN SRI ABDULLAH AHMAD AT THE “FROM MAY 13 TO 1MALAYSIA – THE FUTURE OF MALAYSIAN NATION BUILDING” – FORUM
8 PM WEDNESDAY MAY 13 AT THE CIVIC CENTRE MBPJ, PETALING JAYA