15. MAY 13 | The May 13 Tragedy

After the threats and insults they had been subjected to on the preceding days the reaction of some Malays was to converge on Kampong Bharu.

According to Dato' Harun bin Haji Idris,

"On the morning of May 13, 1969 a meeting of successful Alliance State Assemblymen to discuss the formation of the State Government was held in my office at the Selangor State Secretariat. Later, I returned to my residence and stayed home for the whole afternoon during which I entertained many visitors who came to congratulate me on my election victory.

"At about 1700 hours two Chinese were brought to my residence by Tahir Majid. They identified themselves as couriers from Dr Tan Chee Khoon. They intimated to me that the Gerakan would not enter into any coalition with the DAP and urged me to form the State Government. I told the two Chinese that they should go back and inform Dr Tan Chee Khoon to ring me back personally. Both the Chinese left immediately. When they left I received a phone call from V. David. He said that I should go ahead with forming the Slate Government as the Gerakan would not join the DAP to form a coalition Government. I was


taken very much aback by what were said by the two Gerakan leaders as these were more or less contrary to what they have said as quoted in the local press earlier.

"The people who came for the procession first assembled in the compound of Haji Ahmad Razali and on the road in front of the said house. There were very few people in the compound of my residence . . "

By the afternoon of the same day, an announcement was made by Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia that the party would remain neutral in the Selangor State Assembly. This opened the way for the Alliance, the party that had won the largest number of scats, to form the next government in Selangor. At this stage, the Selangor UMNO decided that it would proceed with the proposed victory procession to celebrate the formation of the new Government. On the morning of May 13, the Police agreed to give the necessary permit, since a similar permit had been given to the Gerakan on the previous day. The Police had received an assurance that the procession was to be a peaceful one and, at that stage in the morning, had not received any disquieting intelligence. The proposed procession was organised by the Selangor UMNO, and all its branches in the State were invited to send participants to congregate at the Menteri Besar's residence by 7 o'clock on the evening of May 13. and the procession was to have started at 7.30 p.m.


Some students from MARA College also joined the gathering outside the Menteri Besar's residence since they were also the targets of humiliation and ridicule during the "victory" processions of the DAP and Gerakan parties.

It was observed that the Malay would-be participants were highly emotional on the evening of May 13 as a result of the previous two days of insults and provocations. For some time rumours were rife in Kuala Lumpur that the UMNO procession would be attacked by certain Chinese elements that evening. The Malays were determined to retaliate if attacked. Some of them carried krises and parangs, anticipating a need to defend themselves should they be attacked during the procession. They were mindful of the fact that the procession was to be held in a city whose population was mainly Chinese. Some of those who were unarmed realised that they might need to protect themselves, and quickly improvised weapons such as sharpened bamboos.

While the Malays were gathered at the Menteri Besar's residence in Kampong Bharu, news reached them that some Gombak Malays, would-be participants in the procession, had been attacked by some Chinese in Setapak on their way to Kampong Bharu.


In his statement. Assistant Commissioner Zamani, Commander of the Police Field Force, said that at about 6.30 p.m., just before pandemonium broke along Jalan Raja Muda, "...... a Malay youth, riding a scooter, heading towards the Menteri Besar's residence shouted 'Setapak sudah kena langgar'" (Setapak has been attacked).

According to a Telecoms employee, in a statement recorded by Inspector Abbas "... at about 6.00 p.m. I stopped my car near the Malayan Banking office in Setapak. A Malay youth ran to me and said that a fight had broken out near the Alhambra Theatre down the road . . . shopkeepers in Setapak had started to close their shops in a hurry ..."

In a statement recorded by A.S.P. Chan Hon Keong, a Chinese businessman in Setapak recounted that, "at about 6.15 p.m. on May 13, 1969, I was sitting in my shop when suddenly I heard a big commotion coming from the junction of Jalan Setapak and Jalan Gombak. On looking out, I saw people running helter-skelter. At the same time I heard a Chinese shouting, 'anti-Chinese'. I quickly closed the front gate of my shop. By that time I saw a group of Malay youths passing my shop on the opposite side of the road. They were heading towards Kuala Lumpur. I did not have a close look at them because they were throwing


stones at shop-houses on both sides of the road and smashing the windscreen of cars parked by the roadside.”

Another officer, A.S.P. Thomas Sivanathan, Commander of one of the Federal Reserve Unit troops, was off duty on May 13, 1969 at his house at Seavoy Road, Setapak. In his statement he related that, "at about 6.15 p.m. my children who were playing in the compound informed that there was a commotion outside. I looked out and saw a number of male Chinese on foot, bicycles and scooters running from the main Pahang Road to the squatter area behind my house. Hardly a few minutes later I saw the same crowd rushing out to the main Pahang Road carrying in their hands iron pipes, sticks and parangs. On seeing this, I immediately went on foot towards Setapak town to check the whereabout of my wife who had earlier left the house in my car. On arrival at the junction of Seavoy/Pahang Road at about 6.25 p.m. I saw the road was completely jammed with vehicles and directly infront of the Len Seng Bus Office, there was a crowd of approximately eighty people (about fifty Chinese and thirty Indians) armed with parangs, iron pipes and sticks. They were all facing Setapak town. Whilst I was walking towards the Len Seng Bus Office, several of the armed Chinese who came out of the squatter area passed by me and joined the crowd at the Len Seng Bus Office. Then I saw two cars driven by Chinese weaving through the jammed traffic from the


direction of Setapak town. The screens of both cars were already smashed. These two cars were stopped by the Chinese crowd at the Bus Office and I heard them talking in Chinese. As soon as these two were allowed to pass. I saw two male Chinese on scooters weaving through the traffic coming from Setapak town. On arrival at the crowd, I saw some of the Chinese tried to stop them. They chased the scooters and succeeded in hitting the one in the rear with an iron pipe; The rider fell and ran into the open space by the roadside and disappeared. The other managed to ride fast and disappeared too. At this juncture I approached an armed Indian and asked him in Tamil as to what had actually happened. He told me that the 'MCA was wagging its tail' and they 'wanted to teach them a lesson' . . . "

In a statement recorded by Superintendent Chan Ah Chan, a Chinese businessman in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman said, "at about 6.30 p.m. I was standing in front of my shop and noticed that crowds of Chinese were standing on both sides of the road waiting for the procession. Meanwhile, 2 buses arrived from the town area and stopped at the bus stop nearby. Some people in the 2 buses shouted that a fight had already broken out in Setapak. Whilst some passengers alighted, other Chinese youths rushed up the buses to proceed to Setapak ..."


It is clear, then, that at that time the trouble had not yet broken out in Kampong Bharu for if it had, the youths would not have rushed to Setapak.

Neither the Malays nor the non-Malays involved in Setapak were originally armed. However, when bottles and stones started to rain on both groups, the Malays tried to obtain weapons from the various shop-houses but the majority were denied these by the shopkeepers who quickly closed their shutters. One Indian stallkeeper and his assistant related in an interview to A.S.P. S. Dorairaja and Acting A.S.P. T. Kurugnanam, that the Malay mob "then started attacking the passing motorcars with sticks and stones. Some of them ran to my stall and demanded knives from my stall. When both of us replied we have none they punched both of us. My assistant was badly injured in the face .... The mob then ran along towards Jalan Gombak/Jalan Setapak junction attacking all parked and on-coming cars with sticks, stones and a few of them carried knives."

As Chinese and Indian hooligans rushed to their houses for weapons, as evident from A.S.P. Thomas Sivanathan's statement, the Malays vented their rage on the windscreens of motor cars parked along the road until they reached the Len Seng Bus depot where, by then, armed Chinese and Indian youths had positioned themselves. While a number of Malay scooterists rode their way through to carry the news to Kampong Bharu. the majority of the Malays doubled back to Gombak


to arm themselves. By the time they returned to Setapak it was close to 7.00 p.m. and a Troop of FRU under A.S.P. Low Yew Hong were ready in front of the Chung Hwa Chinese School to disperse them with tear gas. By then two scooters were ablaze on the main road, and several persons were injured including an employee of the Selangor Pewter Works, Gombak branch, who later died in the General Hospital.

It would also appear that some MCA Chinese in Setapak had joined the Malay groups as they proceeded from Gombak, thinking that the proposed UMNO procession was to be an Alliance procession. This would explain why the Chinese and Indian hooligans at the Len Seng Bus depot hit out at the Chinese scooterists. It would also explain the reply given to A.S.P. Thomas Sivanathan by one of the armed Indian youths.

The established fact is that some Malays while proceeding to the assembly point on foot and scooters (as the local bus service had apparently stopped) were taunted in Setapak by groups of Chinese and Indians, and this developed rapidly into stone and bottle-throwing incidents between opposing groups ten to fifteen minutes before the outbreak of violence in Kampong Bharu. It was news of this fight that sparked of the clashes in and around Kampong Bharu. The taunts and insults of the previous two days had only served to generate the explosive atmosphere.

It is clear that violence first broke out in Setapak— an unexpected area at about 6.00 p.m, well before the


procession was scheduled to start in Jalan Raja Muda. Once violence broke out it spread rapidly and uncontrollably to Jalan Campbell, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Kampong Dato Keramat, Kampong Pandan. Cheras and Kampong Kerunchi.

At about 6.20 p.m. on May 13, 1969, A.S.P Tham Kong Weng, Commander of Troop 5B of the Federal Reserve Units, took his Troop to its assigned position opposite the Chow Kit area along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. Enroute. he passed in front of the Menteri Besar's residence at about 6.30 p.m. There was no trouble there at that time and he proceeded without stopping but he passed on an observation to the Selangor Police Control Centre by wireless that "a crowd of four to five thousand" was swamping the roadside in front of the Menteri Besar's residence and spilling over into the compounds of the Residency and neighbouring houses. Some of the Malays carried sticks and banners and "a few were seen to be armed with parangs and kris." He assessed that there would be real trouble if the scheduled procession was attacked and. mindful of this possibility, made a careful survey of the Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Chow Kit area as soon as he arrived there a few minutes later. He even checked "the overhead pedestrian bridge for any likelihood of persons throwing things at the procession when it passed below it ... "


A.S.P. Tharn Kong Wong further recalled, "at about 6.40 p.m. while standing on the turret [of his command vehicle] I noticed a column of smoke in the direction of the Menteri Besar's house and I sensed that trouble had broken out and I moved my Troop forward to the Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman roundabout."

The news that Malay would-be participants in the procession had been attacked in Setapak by Chinese groups whilst enroute to Kampong Bharu from Gombak, had lashed through the Malays gathered on the roadside opposite the houses of the Menteri Besar and his Political Secretary, Haji Ahmad Razali. There was a spontaneous and violent anti-Chinese reaction but who its first victim was has not been positively established.

According to Haji Ahmad Razali, "At about 1840 hours, someone rushed to me to say that there was already trouble outside. I rushed out and saw that right in front of my house along Jalan Raja Muda, a van was burning." According to his enquiries, the occupants were two Chinese who had been killed on the spot. He quickly rushed over to the Menteri Besar's residence and found Dato' Harun already standing on top of a bus appealing to the crowd to calm down but the crowd were shouting back. "Tidak boleh tahan lagi Dato'" (We cannot bear this any more) and getting more restless.

Haji Ahmad Razali then '"climbed up the bus to assist the Menteri Besar in calming down the crowd.


By about 1850 hours I saw about two hundred to three hundred Malays leaving the compound of the Menteri Besar's residence and moving towards Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. It was clear to me that they were out to clash with the Chinese. Our calls to them to stop went unheard."

As soon as this group of Malays left for Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. FRU Troop 1B under the command of A.S.P. Shahriman arrived in front of the Menteri Besar's residence and scaled the area, effectively preventing any more Malays from joining the group that had just left for Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. The time of his arrival was 6.50 p.m. Several vehicles were already overturned, pushed aside or burning. Three dead bodies were lying on the roadside and in one of the vehicles, a Chinese business executive feigned death until the Police party was close enough, when he dashed out and placed himself under A.S.P. Shahriman's protection.

In the meantime, the group of Malays which had left for Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman marched down Jalan Raja Muda towards the roundabout, throwing sticks and stones at Chinese groups which were running for safety. According to a Chinese shopkeeper in the area, he closed his steel shutters as the mob passed in front of his shop-house. However, some of his neighbours started to throw bottles down on the mob from


their second floor windows whereupon some members of the mob broke away, attacked these shop-houses and set fire to them.

The main body of Malays were met at the roundabout by A.S.P. Tham Kong Weng who, firing tear gas shells, turned them back. In his estimation there were one hundred and fifty to two hundred Malays in the group. As they ran back to Kampong Bahru, this group was "hit" by FRU Troop 1B under A.S.P. Shahriman and dispersed in smaller groups into the sidelanes of Kampong Bharu. From then on Troops 1B under A.S.P. Shahriman and 5B under A.S.P. Tham Kong Weng, reinforced by Troops 4C under A.S.P. Pritam Singh and 1C under A.S.P. Low Yew Hong were kept extremely busy dealing with both Malay and Chinese rioters in the Kampong Bharu, Chow Kit and Jalan Raja Laut areas. Numerous arrests of armed rioters were made and scores of innocent persons were rescued and protected. Both Malay rioters in the Kampong Bharu/Chow Kit area and Chinese rioters in the Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman/Jalan Raja Laut area were firmly and impartially dealt with.

Some of the Malays who had gathered in Kampong Bharu for the proposed procession became apprehensive: they were unarmed and unprepared for trouble or worried over the safety of their families in the outlying areas, or were intent on avoiding trouble. Thus they ran or cycled or rode their scooters to their respective kampongs, carrying tales of the racial clashes


back with them. At this time the curfew had not yet been imposed. In this way excitement and frenzy were worked up in unexpected places such as Kampong Pandan. Kampong Dato Keramat, Kampong Kerunchi. Kampong Lembah Jaya. Kampong Petaling. Kawasan Melayu and Kampong Haji Abdullah Hukom.

There was considerable anxiety in the Chinese areas. Rumours were rife by noon of May 13, that the UMNO procession would turn into a rampage. Secret society elements were noticeably busier than usual. Weapons such as parangs, three-pointed spears, bottle bombs, iron pipes, were distributed among members in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Chow Kit, Jalan Ipoh, Cheras, Bungsar, Jalan Campbell, Bukit Bintang and other parts of the Capital.

An Indian assistant dispenser in a medical clinic observed such an activity whilst walking home just after 6.00 p.m. on May 13, 1969. In an interview given to A.S.P. S. Dorairajah and Acting A.S.P. T. Kuru-gnanam he said,

"I saw a red and white bus stop between the Circular Road flats, and a group of Chinese, about twenty to thirty of them, with sticks and pipes boarded the bus with the help of the bus driver and conductor who were also Chinese. They then moved off in the bus along Jalan Pekeliling roundabout into Jalan Pahang towards Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. The bus is possibly the Len Seng Bus, which passes this way daily…”


Thus, at about the time that violence broke out in Kampong Bharu. secret society agents were ready for action, leading forays into Malay kampongs and attacking Malays in China town areas. The first show at the Rex Cinema, Jalan Sultan was stopped when secret society agents broke into the hall. They singled out Malays trapped among the audience and attacked them. At the Federal Cinema near Jalan Chow Kit. secret society members waited for Malays at the exits of the hall at the end of the first show. At about 8.23 p.m. A.S.P. Tham Kong Weng and Troop 5C of the FRU encountered and dispersed about one thousand armed Chinese rioters in the vicinity of the Capitol Theatre in Jalan Raja Laut. They also rescued and sent to hospital several injured Malays in the area.

In Kampong Dato Keramat, the nearest major Malay area to Kampong Bharu, the commotion in the Kampong Bahru area was heard at about 7.00 p.m. by Fan Chon Chuan. a construction worker who lived in the area. He enquired from his Malay neighbour as to the cause. In his own words, "I was told that it was only a fight. My neighbour did not tell me to run or hide." The situation in the Kampong then was normal and peaceful and Fan went indoors. News of the nature of the "fight" soon filtered through to the Kampong and the Malays there armed themselves and huddled together outside their houses in anticipation of a Chinese attack on the Kampong.


At this time someone shouted the sighting of a land rover loaded with male Chinese, and of a Chinese running through the Kampong from the far side, and a chase ensued. The whole village was aflame with rumours of an impending Chinese attack. According to Fan Chon Chuan, at about 7.30 p.m. his house was set on fire. He. and twelve other members of his family escaped to a nearby Army Camp where they were given shelter. His aged father probably perished in the flames.

At about the same time, a Chinese TV repairer was repairing a set in a nearby house belonging to a member of the Royal Malaysia Police Band. When the situation relaxed on the following day, he was dressed up as a Malay, complete with songkok. and smuggled out to the Police Depot.

In Kampong Pandan, Malay youths in a car and on two motor-cycles entered the Kampong at about 7.00 p.m. and shouted to everyone to get indoors and to shut the doors and windows as, "orang kita telah terkorban di-Kampong Bharu." (Our people have been slaughtered in Kampong Bharu). About twenty minutes later the first shop-house was set on fire. According to Police Inspector Mohd. Hatta, he was at the Kampong Pandan Police Post when, at about 7.30 p.m., one "Toong Fong" bus came from Kampong Pandan Dalam and he stopped it and asked the driver, conductor and two passengers, all of whom were Chinese, to take refuge at the post. Ten minutes later another


bus appeared from Kampong Pandan Dalam. He tried to stop it but it proceeded for another 400 yards where it was stopped by a group of youths and set on fire.


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