May 13 1969: What I remember…

Anyone who was old enough at the time would undoubtedly have their own recollections of what May 13 1969 meant to them.  Every year around this time, there’s a dull sadness that surrounds the day. When we come to May 13, we seem to have stood still in time, even 41 years later.

A couple of days ago, there was this giant rally that was to have taken place in Terengganu today.  Luckily, good sense seems to have prevailed and the whole thing called off.  At least a couple of columnists have called for more understanding and less hatred.  There is a Truth & Reconciliation blog , which could set the tone for a full disclosure later on, like what has happened in other countries racked by similar social turmoils.

For me though and I suspect those in their 40’s and above, it was a different era. I was 8 years old, and in Standard 2 Blue (yup, we had colours back then for classes too!).  My class teacher that year, Syed Bakri would tease (nicely, I must add) me by going “Hey Jude…. don’t make it bad…” once in a while.  Alas! I hadn’t a clue to what he was saying… being oblivious to the cultural revolution the Fab Four had created at the time. It wouldn’t be until a few years later that I would discover The Beatles and their awesome music.

My father being a “semi-government” servant, had his quarters in Jalan Kilat, Butterworth, where we lived till 1970. That year in 1969, during the May 13 riots in K.L., I remember seeing armoured trucks patrolling the streets where we lived every evening.  I recall playing outside in the yard (yup, we had lawns and yards back in those days!), and every now and then would hear sirens and watch these trucks go by.  I never knew why they were there nor do I remember asking anyone. I don’t know whether any answer would have been forthcoming either even if I had!  I remember the streets being very quiet, deserted in the evenings.  We still had to go to church though (!), and I remember having to get home before the 7 p.m. curfew (if I’m not wrong).

And that’s just about what I can recall. A few memories imprinted in a young boy.  How many more of us young ones then would have kept those images of that day, that period in time in the back of our minds?

Fast forward 41 years after one of the darkest episodes in the history of this nation, I am still unsure of what transpired actually, and whether we believe in conspiracy theories or not, who were the real masterminds.

There are the official versions. Then, there are the independent opinions, which dramatically oppose those official interpretations.  But, I think we have failed miserably in coming to terms with the reality of the underlying issues that led to the riots then.  And, unless there is a hunger – not only from the government of the day – but also ordinary folks, both those who were present there, and those of us in attendance now to seek out the truth, we will never know what really happened.

In the meantime, enjoy The Beatles and The Fool On The Hill.  Make what you will of it! Better still, share here!

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