This is the fourth day of the Low Yat Mob Incident on Sunday, July 12, 2015 and situation is returning to normal.
The term of “Low Yat Incident” which is the official terminology for the rioting on Sunday, reminds me of May 13 Incident, the race riots which took place in Kuala Lumpur after the 1969 general election where official figures put the casualties as less than 200 although different unofficial figures were much higher, even as high as suggesting four-figure numbers.
In my first speech in Parliament in February 1971 when Parliament reconvened after a 20-month suspension, I had called for a Commission of Inquiry into the causes of the May 13 racial riots and to propose a blueprint to reconcile the different races and build a united Malaysian nation.
But this proposal was rejected and up to today, there had been conflicting, divergent and even fictitious accounts about the causes of the May 13 riots 46 years ago.
This “sweeping under the carpet” mentality is still at work, for after the refusal to have a Commission of Inquiry into the May 13, 1969 race riots, there was also no inquiry into the causes and the events of the race riots in Taman Medan 14 years ago in 2001.
This is most unsatisfactory and unacceptable.
I call for a Royal Commission of Truth and Reconciliation into the Low Yat Mob Incident on Sunday, on how a petty crime of theft of a mobile phone could balloon into a race riot involving hundreds of people and to prevent any such recurrence.
We must take the Low Yat Mob Incident seriously, with the emphasis on finding its causes, especially the macro ones, to prevent a recurrence of any racial riot in Kuala Lumpur or any part of Malaysia as we must prevent any recurrence of a petty crime transforming into a race riot in our multi-racial nation as it will have far-reaching and adverse impact on our investment and socio-economic climate for the future.
Surely, we are not waiting for hundreds or thousands to die because we admit there there is a racial riot!
I fully agree with former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir who said that the rioting at Low Yat Plaza on Sunday should not have happened, more so during Ramadan when Muslims must refrain from hunger, thirst, anger and hatred.
He said: “This should not have happened despite the different faiths. The solution to anger is not by rioting as it will make the country unsafe and unattractive for anyone.”
Former Cabinet Minister who was Minister for International Trade and Industry for two decades, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz warned that Malaysia has everything to lose if it ever sees a repeat of the deadly May 13 race riots.
Urging the younger generation to resist dismantling the efforts to heal the nation following the 1969 riots, the former minister said all Malaysians must learn from the “dark period” of the country’s history and free their minds of prejudice, bias, and parochial tendencies.
Expressing sadness over the “mob violence” in Low Yat Plaza that left five people injured and three more arrested, Rafidah also questioned the need to make race the focus of an issue that began over an alleged shoplifting incident.
She said: “I have gone through that sad dark period in our nation’s socio-economic history… triggered by the May 13 1969 riots… it is NOT something to be proud of… it is something from which we need to learn valuable lessons.
“My generation of Malaysian leaders, and Malaysians, have put in much effort to heal the pain of the May 13, 1969 tragedy… to narrow the chasms that had been created, and to rebuild a strong and resilient Malaysia, forged upon the strength of unity in diversity.
“The generations ensuing must refrain from undoing what has been tirelessly forged,” she wrote on Facebook.
There is an urgent need for a Royal Commission on Truth and Reconciliation on the Low Yat Incident whose primary objective is to prevent any recurrence of the incident whether in Kuala Lumpur or elsewhere in multi-racial Malaysia of a petty crime ballooning into a racial riot.
Among the issues this Royal Commission of Truth and Reconciliation on Low Yat Incident should inquire into are:
• Whether the police could have acted pre-emptively to prevent the petty crime of mobile phone theft from being transformed into a race riot involving a few hundred people;
• The attack on journalists;
• The role of social media with Ministers blaming it as a main culprit of the Low Yat Incident;
• Whether one major cause of the Low Yat riots was the incessant incitement of hatred as a result of irresponsible politics of race and religion in recent years.
• Whether the Low Yat Incident is proof of the failure of nation-building policies, particularly the Prime Minister’s 1Malaysia signature policy and decades of Biro Tata Negara courses.
This Royal Commission of Truth and Reconciliation, which should reach as many of those involved in the Low Yat riots on Sunday, should present a blueprint to prevent a recurrence of the Low Yat Incident in future.
Rafidah will make an ideal chairperson for the Royal Commission on Truth and Reconciliation on Low Yat Incident, and there are many eminent and respected Malaysians who could be members of this commission, including Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, former Cabinet Minister Tan Sri Dr. Rais Yatim, former Attorney-General Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, former top civil servant Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, NGO leaders Datuk Seri Ambiga Sreenivasan and Pak Samad and many others.
(Media Conference Statement after a visit to affected traders at Low Yat Plaza with the DAP MP for Bukit Bintang Fong Kui Lun and Pak Samad on Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 11 am)