May 13, 1969 – a child’s perspective

**Note : This is a non-political matter. It is a personal musing.**

I was only 5 years old then. We lived in a kampung in Bayan Lepas, near to the airport. It is a Malay kampung and life was peaceful. We have Indians, Malays and Chinese mixing around happily.

There was no tap water and my sisters would have to take the laundry to the river to wash. We had a well for bathing and general washing. Drinking water was sourced from a main pipe quite a distance away from my kampung. My elder brothers would have to cart the water with their bicycle.

I remember the May 13 incident because every evening, all of us have to be locked in the house. No one can go out. Even during the day, my mom wouldn’t allow us to run all over the kampung.

What I remembered was there were lots of ‘ang thou peng’ (Federal Reserve Unit wear red helmet, hence, red head army) patrolling at night. I peeped through the window and could see they look very stern with their batons.

At that time, the childhood fad was to play 7-stones, guli (marbles) and one more toy that is never seen around anymore. It is sort like a hula hoop, with the hoop put at the ankle. A string is attached to the hoop and a ‘bell’ is at the end. I would put the hoop on the right ankle and then skip with the left leg. Arrgghhh…very hard to explain.

OK, what I want to say is – May 13 shouldn’t never, ever happened again. Each of us as an individual has a part to play. Let’s not just pointing fingers at the gahmen, political parties etc. Let’s teach our children about ACCEPTING** the differences we have as different races and religions.

Oh ya, I also remembered my father has to walk from Bayan Lepas to Methodist’s Boys School, which is very, very far to take my 2nd brother back from school when the curfew was announced. Isn’t that scary? All vehicles were not allowed on the road. The school children were expected to make their way home? Every parent would be worried sick in a situation like that. Now, I can only imagine how my parents felt.

Let us reflect back and thank God that we are now living in a peaceful, harmonious country. Remember our Rukun Negara?

Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan
Kesetiaan kepada Raja dan Negara
Keluhuran Perlembagaan
Kedaulatan Undang-undang
Kesopanan dan Kesusilaan


Belief in God;
Loyalty to King and Country;
Upholding the Constitution;
Rule of Law;
Good Behaviour and Morality

**I learnt that ‘ACCEPTANCE’ is a better word than TOLERANCE. A person can only tolerate so much until he/she explodes. But acceptance is more enduring.

19 thoughts on “May 13, 1969 – a child’s perspective

  1. well said. unfortunately i can’t remember the rukunnegara. did you copy it from the back of your son’s exercise book? :p

  2. Simon – I kena hafal along with the kids, year in year out for their Pendidikan Moral. But it never touched me until one day I attended a doctors’ seminar. This ob-gyn from the Gov. Hospital talked about screening babies with Down Syndrome and aborting them. He reminded the people about our Rukun Negara, first principle is ‘Believe in God’. ‘Cos some parents will abort the fetus even if the chances of getting a special child is slim.

    dsaint – Ya, powDerful hor?

  3. Acceptance must be a mutual process. If one party is made to take an inferior position, that is no longer acceptance but rather, submission. What we have in Malaysia is submission of minority races to one majority race, to avoid a repeat of a massacre. That unfortunately, is the harsh fact and as adults, it takes us no further to remain at a point where only a child’s perspective stands.

  4. i don’t think we’re practising acceptance. a lot of times it’s submission. and it doesn’t help when politicians keep emphasizing their majority race is of absolute power & superiority to other minority races.

    we can all live in harmony regardless of race and colour. it’s the politicians that are stirring the nest.

  5. Oh, I totally forgot. It is May 13. I wrote about Friday the 13th, but forgot this crucial day in Malaysia’s history. okay, then. Thanks for your entry!

  6. I vaguely remember May 13. we were in the East Coast and really heard nothing. When we did finally heard rumours we thought it was just a gang war among few people. All our neighbours were Malays and they told my parents they will look after us no prob. 🙂

  7. ..oh yeah the hoop around the ankle thing— its sold here every summer from the $ store. The attachments might be bell, balls, squeaky toys..etc.

  8. Romantic – They do? Nice! It is a rather nice thing, actually. Better than skipping rope. I wonder why they never have it. Yes, my kampung folks also very nice. Actually, I never heard anything about the thing except to stay in the house.

    Andreas – Hahaha, actually, until today, I never bother to find out what, how, when, who etc. All I remember is the thrill of being curfew-ed.

    Chief – Ya lah, it’s true.

    Hustler – You have a weekend!

    Oli & Ian – oooOOO, I don’t think I want to know about minority/majority too much. I’d rather think simple matters.

  9. not so peaceful in kl la. my dad’s boss car screen was smashed as he was sending them back and they escaped by speeding off and ended up going back to the office for the night. We lived in flats and people would literally lie low just in case of stray bullets. And there were people evacuated and had to put up refugee style at Stadium Merdeka. Me was still snugly in mom’s belly.

  10. On the day I returned to school after the curfew and found out that people I knew had died, my childhood days ended. I began to see people in different colours. Sigh….

  11. Hi May, I am so sorry to hear about the tragedy. I hope history will never repeat itself.

    Mrs B – Certain areas have it bad, I heard. Let’s pray that our children will live in a peaceful Malaysia like we are now.

    Dhana – Many people do not like to talk about it ‘cos it can be sensitive when it is brought up for discussion. I do not really know what went wrong.

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