‘Another May 13 only if orchestrated’


Anisah Shukry | August 23, 2012
Free Malaysia Today

While decades of socio-economic advances have lessened the likelihood of another racial riot, analysts say the threat of racial riots, although small, still exists.

PETALING JAYA: The threat of another May 13 incident is minimal but real, political analysts said, pointing fingers at “right-wing groups” they claim would be eager to instigate such riots.

On May 13, 1969, violence broke out between the Malays and the Chinese, sparked off by an election setback for the Malay-dominated ruling alliance. The riots lasted several weeks, with the death toll said to be 196.

Politicians often raise the tragic incident to cow Malaysians into maintaining the status quo – one that had seen the ruling government in power for 55 years.

But while analysts did not rule out the possibility of another racial riot, they said it would only occur if manufactured by certain quarters.

“The threat of May 13 repeating itself is real but only if there are people manipulating the incident,” Prof James Chin of Monash University told FMT.

“It is not likely to happen spontaneously,” he stressed, adding that unlike other countries, violence was not inherent in Malaysia’s political culture.

“There are lots of right-wing groups, for example, certain Malay groups – you know what I’m talking about – who will be happy to have such riots take place,” he said.

Analyst Ong Kian Ming echoed this sentiment, saying that the incumbent government might be desperate enough to orchestrate a riot if the results of the general election were not in their favour.

“There are efforts by some quarters to create this fear-mongering in order to achieve political ground.

“If this continues, it is possible that if the election results are close, the incumbent government may feel desperate enough to manufacture violence in order to hold on to power,” he said.

But the USCI lecturer said that if any group attempted to use violence as an excuse to stay in power, it would most likely backfire.

“The Malaysian electorate is more mature now. If the incumbent government uses these dirty tactics, it will only hasten their departure. There will certainly be a backlash,” he said.

Malaysia has changed

Ong cited the many changes between Malaysians today and those four decades ago as proof that it was unlikely that another racial riot would manifest itself on its own accord.

“The Malaysian electorate is much more mature compared to the electorate in 1969. We can see that in the 2008 general election, where there was a peaceful transfer of power in five states.

“I think that is a testament that Malaysians have matured politically and will not fall into the racial bait trap,” he said.

Ong also said the rise of the Malay middle class would also make Malays less likely to engage in violence with their Chinese counterparts.

“The Malay middle class is much larger compared to that of 1969 and they would have a lot more to lose if the racial riots were to take place.

“That means many will do all they can to prevent something like this happening,” he said.

He added that there now existed a strong middle ground in civil society which would decrease the likelihood of racial rioting, citing the recent Bersih 3.0 rally for free and fair elections as an example.

“The Bersih movement, in which Malaysians from all ethnic groups took part in it, carried on without any incidence of violence. It was only until the police fired tear gas that violence arose,” he pointed out.

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  1. #1 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 23 August 2012 - 9:37 pm

    What analysts say is cliché and not necessarily true. In first place, to argue that a May 13 happening today would have to be a ‘manufactured’ and ‘orchestrated’ one – as there’s substantial middle class of all races today adverse to violence- implies that the May 13 riots 43 years ago were spontaneously sparked, not orchestrated and ensuing violence erupted because of absence of middle class having a stake. Then in 1969 its true that there were not so substantial a middle class as today but people of all races were then living in harmony and peace. There was more integration then than now! The riot had nothing to do with the general populace whether comprising sizeable middle class or not or inclined to violence or not. It is the size number and the power of extremists that counts! They were the culprits 43 years ago. They could be the culprits again today. And there are more extremists today than 4 scores and 3 years ago on that fateful day! What are these analysts talking about???

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 23 August 2012 - 9:58 pm

    “The Malaysian electorate is more mature now. If the incumbent government uses these dirty tactics, it will only hasten their departure. There will certainly be a backlash,” said the USCI lecturer. Now (1) who cares about dirty tactics “hastening departure” when without dirty tactics one is already departed/gone??? (2) What back lash? “Ong cited the many changes between Malaysians today and those four decades ago -Malaysian electorate is much more mature compared to the electorate in 1969- as proof that it was unlikely that another racial riot would manifest itself on its own accord.” This is again wrong when it implies that the people/electorate then in 1969 were not as matured or middle class and hence were somewhat responsible for the then riots that are less likely to happen today! This is simply not true. People then of all races were then even more integrated and less race/religious conscious than now. Were the riots in 1969 a spontaneous eruption of racial antagonisms amongst certain sections of populace? No. It’s the deliberate and calculated stratagem of few extremists, and there are arguably more extremists today than 43 years ago “We can see that in the 2008 general election, where there was a peaceful transfer of power in five states” (Ong) but that’s because its Pak Lah at the helm! Is everyone like him?

  3. #3 by PoliticoKat on Thursday, 23 August 2012 - 11:32 pm

    I’m just wondering if UM.N.O’s business interest can afford another May13.

    Malaysia is no longer in a unique position in the global economy. Many of our once poorer neighbours have infrastructure that is as good or even better than what we have. Their work force is also cheaper too. (Not to mention our command of English is now rather poor) If things become unstable here, the few international companies we have left will just move shop.

    As already mentioned, the population dynamics have changed as well as the business environment.

    Larger population of middle class Malays. Not to mention a larger class of tower rich Malays with their many business interest. A large Malay population which is urbanised.

    And thanks to the 40 years of NEP, many companies owned by non-malays actually have silent Malay partners.

    So, yeah, run riot in the streets of KL and see what happens.

  4. #4 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Thursday, 23 August 2012 - 11:38 pm

    I concur.

  5. #5 by monsterball on Friday, 24 August 2012 - 1:49 am

    Bottom line….UMNO B is a poor loser or cannot afford to lose.
    May 13 ’69 riots were about an idea to make Tunku resign and so he did.
    If a similar scenario occurs after 13th GE..and UMNO b is defeated….it is about Najib must hold onto power for the massive corruptions and murders….all unsolved.
    Top of the list…more than 7 billions on the purchase of the 2 Scorpene and Mongol model brutally C4ed…..
    I don’t think the Military and Police will go that far to ridiculously protect Najib or UMNO b to that extend to risk innocent lives to protect corruptions and murders.

  6. #6 by monsterball on Friday, 24 August 2012 - 1:58 am

    13th May ’69 was about power struggle within UMNO.
    If a similar scenario is staged after 13th GE…and BN is defeated…it is about Najib’s struggle to stay in power..for reasons we all know why.

  7. #7 by boh-liao on Friday, 24 August 2012 - 3:32 am

    No need another May 13 2 hang on 2 power lah, easier 2 just eliminate those who on d verge of grabbing political power or against UmnoB/BN
    Remember Double 6 1976? 44 (sounds ominous) days after TFS bcame Sabah’s 5th CM
    PR politicians, b careful whenever travel in group, easi target, mysterious plane crash possibe 1

  8. #8 by Jeffrey on Friday, 24 August 2012 - 7:15 am

    I’m wondering if UM.N.O’s business interests can afford a regime change with PR taking over. Besides that I’m also wondering whether this has anything to do with the majority of people in the country or for that matter majority of any particular community or even majority of a specific political party whose interests are identified with stability and by virtue thereof are argued to also have an interests to stop any mischief makers. As always one needs only a few extremist mischief makers who have the power to cause mischief and stir sh*t.

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Friday, 24 August 2012 - 7:20 am

    Its more to do with whether mischief makers have power – the power to plan mischief, execute it and most important to get away with it; whether there’s power to stop those in charge of security of the nation to stop them; whether there’s power over those in charge of security itself.

  10. #10 by Jeffrey on Friday, 24 August 2012 - 7:55 am

    Besides the very word “orchestrate” suggests to arrange/direct a certain event/stage show. It need not be a full blown conflagration with all dire consequences. It can be self contained one off incident. All that is required is an orchestrated incident to provide an excuse to blame someone else and a justification to take certain measures (ostensibly to prevent larger disorder). The ability to do that is a function of power more than anything else.

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