PREFACE | The May 13 Tragedy

May 13, 1969 will go down in our history as a day of national tragedy. On that day the very foundation of this Nation was shaken by racial disturbances whose violence far surpassed any we had known. It was only the firm and prompt action of the Government, together with the loyal support of the Armed Forces and the Police, which quickly brought the situation under control. Had it not been for the immediate preventive measures, there is no doubt that the whole country would have been plunged into a holocaust.

For some of us the tragedy has a direct and personal meaning. But the significance of that day does not, and should not be allowed to, escape any one of us. On that day we were jolted into a sharp realisation that the racial problem in this country is a serious one and measures taken in the past to cope with it have not proved adequate.

Friction had always existed at the edges of the various communities, but we continued to live in the hope that the heat generated would not reach an explosive level. This faith in the good sense of every Malaysian, and our belief in the virtues of unfettered democratic processes, characterised the conduct of our affairs since Merdeka. We assumed that those who chose to participate in public life would understand the delicate realities of our society and consequently recognise the need for a certain degree of restraint and


maturity in their activities. It does not take much to realise that there are forces existing in our midst—the Communist agents, the secret societies, the communal extremists—who are out to disrupt our way of life for their own ends.

It was deeply saddened, therefore, to see the turn of events preceding the last General Elections. All the destructive forces were out: candidates courting support on racial lines with reckless abandon; Communist agents in the Labour Party turning a funeral into an arrogant Maoist slogan-shouting demonstration: and secret society members working with quiet but deadly efficiency in generating fear, inciting racial feelings and distributing weapons. These three ingredients made an explosive combination, and the Government sought to separate them and did everything possible to avert bloodshed.

During the campaign a number of Opposition candidates attacked the Constitution in racialist terms. They twisted and misrepresented certain provisions in the Constitution, principally Articles 152 and 153. They agitated for the removal of Article 153 which provides safeguards for the special position of the Malays. This caused grave misapprehensions among the Malays. Malay extremist candidates, on the other hand, campaigned on the most far-out and impracticable proposals—of having a purely Malay Government— ignoring the multi-racial realities of our society and thereby caused much worry among the non-Malays.


The General Elections went off smoothly and the Government was returned with a comfortable majority. The Opposition parties were returned with a few additional seats. This unexpected success on their part unfortunately made some of them lose all sense of proportion, and their members and supporters went on a rampage of insults and obscenities. What started as political activity was allowed to deteriorate into race-baiting.

This Report lays out the facts on the disturbances which broke out on May 13. It outlines the historical background of the mood of the people on that day; it relates the day of tragedy and the role played by the Armed Forces and the Police in quelling the disturbances and returning the country under the firm control of the Government; and, finally, it points to the direction that the Nation should take.

The lesson of the recent disturbances is clear. This Nation cannot afford to perpetuate a system that permits anybody to say or do things which would set one race against another. If the events of May 13 are not to occur again, if this Nation is to survive, we must make sure that subjects which are likely to engender racial tensions are not exploited by irresponsible opportunists. We can only guarantee this by placing such subjects beyond the reach of race demagogues, the Communists and other subversives. We need, therefore, to construct a political framework which is realistic and takes full account of the social


and economic conditions of our people and which is based on an unshakable and sound foundation.

This Report has been prepared with the full realisation that important matters must no longer be swept under the carpet and that the facts of May 13 should be made known to the public. Furthermore, it has been written with the conviction that the objective of national unity must be confronted squarely, and the alternatives before us decided upon sincerely and courageously. The course of our Nation so charted must be pursued with the united efforts of all loyal Malaysians resolutely, with courage and confidence.

It is intended after the publication of this Report to invite representatives of various groups in the country— political, religious, economic and others—to serve on a Consultative Council, where issues affecting our national unity will be discussed fully and frankly. In this way it is hoped to reach an understanding and agreement on these national issues that would ensure the future peace, security and unity of our country and that the May 13 tragedy would not recur.

I ask every citizen to give serious thought to this objective so that Malaysia will continue to prosper in peace.

Tun Haji Abdul Razak bin Hussein.
Director of Operations


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