On 15 March 1981, the New Straits Times published the following letter from Maarof Bakar, who described himself as a labourer:
'Many young people, now in their twenties, were eyewitnesses to the race riots of May 13, 1969. They will never be able to forget what they saw.
'They were children then, aged between 10 and 15. But they were old enough to understand what was happening, young enough to be observers rather than participants.
'The images of buildings on fire, soldiers carrying guns through the streets, racial violence, racial hatred and prejudices were magnified in their eyes.
'Today, they are young adults. They feel they have an important mission. They feel they have a responsibility to always remind themselves and others of the time they saw the power of destruction that can be unleashed when emotion defeats reason.
'They search for answers to the questions that disturb them. They search the past, the history of this nation. No group of people are so intense about finding reasons for the riots they witnessed as children. No group of people in this land show greater interest towards race-relations as they do.
'I call them the children of 13 May, and I am proud to be one of them.'
This study, then, is dedicated to the 'children of 13 May' in the hope that it will help them to understand the questions which still haunt them. It is based on an acquaintance (and fascination) with Malaysia extending over thirty-five years, when the author who was then a young staff officer on 34th Indian Corps headquarters, first landed on the west coast of Malaya near Port Swettenham in September 1945 with the 'Operation Zipper' invasion force. However, the actual research and writing was spread over two years or so, and was originally presented as a dissertation in part fulfilment of the degree of MA in Comparative Asian Studies at the University of Hong Kong.
13 May 1969
I am particularly indebted to Dr. Mary Turnbull, Professor Peter Harris, Dr. Leigh Wright, Professor Khoo Kay Kim, Professor Syed Hussein Alatas, Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, Dennis Bloodworth and Leonard Rayner for help in various ways.
I would also like to record my indebtedness to Rupert Emerson's classic study, Malaysia, A Study in Direct and Indirect Rule, and other works listed in the Bibliography, without which this book could not have been written.
Thanks are due to the following authors and publishers for permission to reproduce copyright material from the works indicated: Ooi Jin-Bee and Longman Group Ltd., Peninsula Malaysia; R.K. Vasil and Oxford University Press, The Malaysian General Elections of 1969; Rupert Emerson and The University of Malaya Press, Malaysia, A Study in Direct and Indirect Rule; New Straits Times of 15 March 1981; Government Printer, Singapore, The Economic Development of Malaya: Report of a Mission organised by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development; and Government Press, Kuala Lumpur, Mid-Term Review of the Second Malaysia Plan 1971 —1975.