PETALING JAYA: The racial riots on May 13, 1969 left a black mark in Malaysian history, but many believe it is time to rebrand the day as a celebration of the country’s diversity.
National Unity and Integration Department director-general Datuk Azman Amin Hassan said the riots should be remembered so that such a tragedy is never repeated.
“It was a dark day, but Malaysians of different races, religions and cultural backgrounds should also remember that day by celebrating how far we have come since then,” he said.
Azman Amin added that programmes by the department to celebrate national unity were already in place.
“For example, Unity Week celebrations are being conducted at the state level, the two most recent being in Kuala Lumpur last month and in Pahang just last week.
“The department is waiting for a new minister before initiating plans for Unity Week celebrations at the federal level,” he said. Azman Amin said that students were being engaged through the Rukun Negara Club to raise awareness of the principles of the national ideology, which has a direct bearing on forging unity.
Civil society groups have called for May 13 to be not only a day for Malaysians to reflect on the riots, but also to celebrate the nation’s success as a racially harmonious country with a diverse cultural background.
Malaysian Indians Progressive Association secretary-general S. Barathidasan believed that schools should educate students on the incident and how it changed Malaysians for the better.
“It would be good to have celebrations in schools on May 13, where children can come dressed in traditional clothes and participate in traditional games,” he said.
“This will develop harmony among Malaysians while they are still children, eventually teaching them to reject violence and create kinship with their fellow citizens.”
Pusat Komas non-discrimination programme coordinator Lena Hendry said such celebrations would work well as people would come out and reject racism and violence.
“We need to promote May 13 as a day for unity in diversity, and that Malaysians have been and will always be together,” she said.
A number of civil society groups commemorated the day by distributing flowers in Little India and hosting a candlelight vigil near Pudu Sentral.
Did you find this article insightful?