MICHAEL CHANG and Teh Jit Siang were "direct" victims of the May 13 tragedy, having endured the frightening nightmare together with their families. They also lost property to mobs which had gone berserk that evening 43 years ago.
To me, both have the "locus standi" to talk about May 13. Their take on the subject does matter.
Both strongly believe what happened was "pre-planned", citing how weapons were made “easily available” to the mobs. And Chang “most definitely agrees” May 13 was about politics.
“Substantially about Umno’s internal politics at that time, geared to toppling prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman by impatient and overly ambitious Umno leaders, using Chinese economic strength and (the Alliance’s) defeat at the May 10 general election as convenient justifications. The scale of violence which ensued was a case of plans gone wrong,” he said.
As for the resurrecting the “ghost” of May 13 for political mileage, Chang had this to say: “Senior politicians from Umno have not failed to regularly raise the spectre of May 13 disturbances during Umno AGMs. I think theirs is a struggle for their personal survival from being prosecuted (for what he see as their wrongdoings), than it is a struggle for Malay rights, which were never eroded nor even threatened to be eroded.”
And to Chang, the “potential" for May 13 Ver 2.0 to happen is getting "more and more distant as time passes”.
He went on to say: “In my view, it will happen again only if the corrupted leaders become so desperate (that they are willing) to sacrifice the safety of the country to escape punishment for all the mega scandals and corruption they have benefitted from.”
Harsh words. Angry even. But the anger is not aimed at the Malays. Both Chang and Lim say they do not “despise” or “hate Malays” despite the bitter experiences they went through during May 13. This I can personally vouch for.
“Our Malay friends came and protected us when the trouble started. It was not Malays in general that caused trouble. Only a section,” said Teh .
Chang’s sister Ng Moi pointed out that “it was our Malay neighbours who came and warned my father of an imminent attack by the mob”.
Her father and another sister then fled to take refuge at Chin Woo Stadium which was used as a relief centre. That “warning” saved their lives.
To Chang, when May 13 happened he was just on the threshold of “gaining emotional and mental maturity".
“So I was too young to fully comprehend the reasons for May 13 at the same time not too young to see and remember visually the signs of hardship, destruction of property and losses to livelihood. I saw also people’s insecurity, the fears of aftershocks to the main quake of May 13. Thankfully there were no real aftershocks.”
He said pre and post-69 he had the opportunity to attend “a great school” – St John’s Institution – subsequently to work in various places where we had Malay colleagues at all levels and ranks and “I personally have not seen any individual Malay colleague who had given me reason to hate".
Now all he has is hope. “That more Malays will see non-Malays not as threats but as brothers and also vice versa.”
Not too long ago Umno politician and MP for Jerlun Datuk Mukriz Mahathir was reported to have said in Parliament that May 13 “was a blessing in disguise“ in an obvious reference to the “birth” of the New Economic Policy after the disturbances.
Many had expressed “sadness” to say the very least that a bloodbath could be “likened” to a “blessing”.
Equally sad that Malays have been constantly told they were the “winners” of the May 13 fight. The reality is we – Malays and Chinese – were all losers that day in ‘69.