Human Rights And The Law: Time For The Truth On May 13

An article entitled “It need not remain a black day” which appeared in the Sunday Star (May 11) called for the establishment of a truth commission on May 13.

There should only be a rational acceptance of the events of May 13, 1969 upon full and frank disclosure of every detail of what had happened on that tragic day. We are living to remember and not to forget. The blood of the defenceless; the bitterness of the survivors are unforgettable.

Closure can be achieved, but history should not be distorted. The truth of what catalysed the incident must be properly and accurately presented and disseminated to all Malaysians and to the world at large. Most essentially, disclosure ought to be done for the memory of the victims of May 13.

The government should set Time for the truth on May 13 up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the May 13 riots to call for uncensored and definitive accounts from eye-witnesses of that fateful day.

Proper protection should be accorded to witnesses to ensure that they are not afraid to tell the truth or are pressured to stay silent. Time is not on our side.

The number of people who know of and can convey personal accounts of what transpired before and during that day is fast dwindling. Most Malaysians were not even alive when the incident occurred.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission could debunk the various myths surrounding the tragedy and put on record definitively as to what caused the racial riots and what exactly happened. This day should not be totally wiped out from the records of our history, neither should it be improperly written.

The Japanese government’s narration and handling of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre has received worldwide condemnation. For the benefit of the next generation, history ought not to be fabricated but should be correctly recorded and narrated according to the personal accounts of eyewitnesses.

We should strive for an open and transparent government where citizens have the right to information and human rights are respected.

The government must have the courage to face the facts and reality of the events of May 13 so steps can then be taken to ensure that such events are never repeated. Malaysians are mature enough to evaluate and accept the truth, however bitter it may be, and not to blindly accept any version of the tragedy unsubstantiated by the facts and evidence.

It is only with full and frank disclosure and the courage to let the truth be known to the public can the government gain the respect and confidence of its citizens.

Despite the far-reaching implications, many among the younger generation or even the world are unaware of the tragedy. Hence, we need people to voice out and let the truth be told to increase public awareness of the tragedy and to educate the younger generation, regardless of race, religion, belief and ethnicity.

This will serve to enhance race relations, understanding and tolerance in Malaysia.

It will also serve as a warning to politicians so as not to arm themselves with the weapon of racial rhetoric in politics. We all must learn the right lessons from the tragedy. It is only when this is done that the wounds will be properly healed and the ghosts of May 13 will be laid to rest, once and for all.

by Ong Lee Fong. Ong Lee Fong is a member of the Bar Council Human Rights Committee (www.malaysianbar.org.my/hrc). Complaints of rights violations may be forwarded to oysim@malaysianbar.org.my for consideration of the committee. However, we make no assurance that all cases will adopted for action.

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