Victims of the May 13 racial riots in 1969 were buried in two burial grounds – one in Gombak and the other in Sungai Buloh.
It is said that the one in Sg Buloh is under threat, that the mosque is planning to create a car park. It could encroach on the burial ground.
May 13, 1969
The 13 May 1969 incident refers to the Sino-Malay sectarian violence in Kuala Lumpur (then part of the state of Selangor), Malaysia. The riot occurred in the aftermath of the 1969 Malaysian general election when opposition parties made gains at the expense of the ruling coalition, the Alliance Party. Official reports put the number of deaths due to the riots at 196, although Western diplomatic sources at the time suggested a toll of close to 600, with most of the victims Chinese. The racial riots led to a declaration of a state of national emergency or Darurat by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong resulting in the suspension of the Parliament by the Malaysian government, while the National Operations Council (NOC), also known as the Majlis Gerakan Negara, was established as a caretaker government to temporarily govern the country between 1969 and 1971.
The event is significant in Malaysian politics as it led to the resignation of the first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, and eventually resulted in a change in government policy that would favour Malays by the implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP).
According to police figures which are disputed, 196 people were killed in the riots.The official figures gave 143 of the dead as Chinese, 25 Malay, 13 Indian, and 15 others (undetermined), although unofficial figures suggested higher number of Chinese deaths. Western diplomatic sources at that time put the toll at close to 600, and John Slimming estimated the number of deaths to be around 800 in the first week, while other observers and correspondents suggested 4-figure numbers.
439 individuals were also recorded as injured according to official figures. 753 cases of arson were logged and 211 vehicles were destroyed or severely damaged.
The Malay nationalist Mahathir Mohamad blamed the riot on the government especially the then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman for being “simple-minded” and not planning for a prosperous Malaysia where the Malays have a share of the economic stake. The Tunku in turn blamed “extremists” such as Mahathir for the racial clashes, which led to the expulsion of Mahatir from UMNO. It propelled Mahatir to write his seminal work The Malay Dilemma, in which he posited a solution to Malaysia’s racial tensions based on aiding the Malays economically through an affirmative action programme.
16 March 2017
16 March 2017
Call for cemetery to be preserved
Tang studying the headstones at the cemetery in Sungai Buloh.
UNKNOWN to many, 48 years ago, victims of the May 13 riots were buried at a cemetery in Sungai Buloh.
It is nestled behind the Sungai Buloh Hospital mosque and is a stone’s throw away from Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Sungai Buloh campus.
The victims’ final resting place in the Leprosy Settlement back then was in a plot measuring approximately 30m x 12m – about the size of two badminton courts.
Today, the cemetery has about 110 headstones, arranged tightly into four rows. Most of them are engraved with only a name and the date of death.
All have the line “By the courtesy of the Malaysian government” inscribed on them.
A number of the headstones simply state “Unidentified Chinese” on the back.
Earlier this month, the residents found out that a forest near the cemetery had been cleared.
This raised concerns among non-governmental organisations that the cemetery might be affected by development.
Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall chief executive officer Tang Ah Chai, who confirmed that the riot victims were buried at the cemetery, urged the Government to preserve it.
“The cemetery marks a heartbreaking tragedy in the country’s history. It must not be erased because we all learn important lessons from history.
“This serves as a reminder that the racial harmony Malaysians enjoy today should not be taken for granted,” he added.
Tang made an appeal to beautify the cemetery and for a plaque to be put in place to commemorate the victims.
Currently, the cemetery is rundown with the peripheral fence torn down and headstones covered by undergrowth.
Tang said the cemetery could be a mass grave because the headstones were placed so near to each other, unlike what was customary in Chinese tradition.
Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) corporate deputy director Ahmad Fauzi Ishak said the council was aware of the land clearing taking place there as well as the area’s sensitivity.
He added that the council had arranged to meet the residents today.
Vital to preserve May 13 cemeteries
By Kua Kia Soong
Not only has the government ignored this call for a Truth and Reconciliation process, we now hear that the burial ground of some of the May 13 victims at Sungai Buloh is threatened by plans to create a car park there.
Honour the victims by revealing their identities
Historical facts and especially relics are a source of collective wisdom on which we must value whether these are about the Bujang Valley 2500 years ago or the May 13 riots less than 50 years ago. The first task then for a TRC is to identify who the victims of the May 13 riots were. What are the names of the victims in these hundred or so graves at Sungai Buluh?
According to official figures, there were 196 fatalities in the May 13 incident even though foreign diplomatic estimates put it at several hundred. The real historical fact of how many and who died can thus be uncovered by a TRC. But even if we take the official figures at face value, how do we account for the other 96 victims? Were they all buried in Gombak? Where is the evidence of this? Can we honour them by revealing their identities and giving them a decent ceremonial burial?
Those who ignore history…
The Qingming (All Souls) festival is about honouring the departed. This festival is a time of reflection and a time to honour and give thanks to the departed ancestors by visiting their graves. Thus, as this year’s Qingming festival approaches, let us honour the victims of May 13, 1969 by vowing to preserve their graves. It is time Malaysians face up to our real history and to understand that if we do not confront the past, we will not be able to move into the future…
Kua Kia Soong is the advisor of Suaram (Suara Rakyat Malaysia).
Car park plans puts May 13 burial ground at risk
Soon after the May 13, 1969 racial riots, the government had picked two places for the victims to be buried – one in Gombak and the other in Sungai Buloh.
However, the burial ground in Sungai Buloh risks being affected by plans to create a carpark.
The burial ground, which is located opposite the UiTM Sungai Buloh campus, sits on a hill behind Masjid Jamek Ibnu Sina.
About 100 people have been laid to rest among the bushes. Some of the tombstones, apart from names and dates, also have the words “courtesy of the Malaysian government” inscribed on them.
The bushes have since been cleared for the parking lot project, and this has sparked off concerns over the fate of the adjacent burial ground.
In view of this, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) chief executive officer Tang Ah Chai urged the authorities to gazette the land and erect a fence to protect the site.
On Monday, Tan and officials from the Gombak land department visited the site to check its ownership.
“Back then, the government buried May 13 victims here. A fence was erected.
“But as time passed, the fence gave way, and now some of the tombs were displaced,” Tan told Malaysiakini.
“Our plan is simple, two steps for now. In conjunction with the Qing Ming festival (when tombs are cleaned), we cut the grass, clean the area and put up a new fence,” he added.