Kua Kia Soong on Tanda Putera

February 24, 2013


Dr.Kua Kia Soong on Tanda Putera

Dr Kua Kia SoongFor the first time after 55 years of domination, UMNO’s hegemony has finally been shaken. Through all these years of Alliance and BN rule, UMNO has been able to sustain it’s relative success and cultural hegemony by presenting their definition of reality to the masses through the mainstream media – newspapers, textbooks, TV and films.

They have tried to create a ‘consensus’ that the reality they have created is the only way of seeing the world and of viewing historical facts. Any groups who present an alternative view are therefore marginalized for after all, “history is written by winners” as Alex Haley said.

Thus, before every general election since May 13, 1969, the official propaganda organs, especially the mainstream press and television, have without fail, saturated their coverage with the spectre of chaos and bloodshed should the opposition win. This has been taken to a repulsive extent when scenes of arson and corpses during the May 13 incident have been used in official adverts by the ruling coalition, for example in the 1990 general election in which I participated as a candidate.

Such adverts have been invariably accompanied by racist commentary on episodes such as the May 13 pogrom, aimed at engendering chauvinistic feelings among the majority Malay population against the Chinese who have been portrayed in official propaganda as the upstart “immigrants”.

Why Always Show Bukit Kepong?

All these years, FINAS (the film corporation paid for by Malaysian taxpayers) has provided only one film that has been shown at prime time before every general election, namely, “Bukit Kepong”. This was the episode during the Emergency when the insurgents – portrayed in the film as wholly Chinese – had attacked the police station at Bukit Kepong. Not surprisingly, all the mata mata were all portrayed in the film as Malays. The rationale for showing “Bukit Kepong” before the general election was never spelt out, although the crude intention to sow racist hatred among the Malay masses toward the “Chinese communists” was crystal clear.

UMNO’s “cultural hegemony” worked well for years, until the contradictions inherent in the Umnoputra-weighted New Economic Policy began to create irreparable fissures in the Malay community. Along came the affable PAS stalwart, Mat Sabu who introduced Mat Indera as the Malay leader in the Bukit Kepong assault to an erstwhile historically naïve public. He further pointed to the elephant in the room – namely, that the Bukit Kepong assault by the Mat Indera-led insurgents was against the British colonial power that controlled the country at the time and should be viewed as a patriotic act!

The even more tragic episode in Malaysia’s history is of course, the May 13 pogrom. The official rendition has been to portray the events as the result of “Opposition” (read “Chinese”) arrogance and insensitivity to “Malay” feelings, as well as being Communist inspired. Thus, “May 13” has been the most frequently used ghost story (in the words of the Tunku) in UMNO’s “soft” arsenal. The message before every general election was that “May 13” bloodshed might recur if the Opposition ever came to power.

Declassified Documents on May 13

My 2007 title was an attempt to bring to light the available documents onMay 13 book the May 13 incident and to provide an alternative to the official version which has now been thoroughly discredited. The declassification of the official May 13th records in the British Archives in 1999 had provided a welcome opportunity to research this painful incident more thoroughly.

I would love to have similar access to the Malaysian Special Branch records for the period, if only they possessed the same integrity for historical records. (Would a victorious Pakatan Rakyat government declassify these records in the name of transparency and freedom of information, I wonder?)

The British Foreign Office records drawn from files of confidential memoranda, embassy exchanges, correspondents’ despatches (banned in Malaysia at the time) certainly debunk the official Malaysian government’s version that the bloodshed was caused by “Chinese provocation” against Malays, that the communists had a hand in it, and that the fatalities only numbered 137.

The thesis in my book is that the pogrom was orchestrated by the emergent state capitalist class in UMNO to secure their interests, which they have succeeded in doing until the present day, not least because of the threats of fascist violence used and reused at suitable junctures since then.

Tanda Putera: For Malay eyes only!

Filem TandaPutra

Judging from the online interview given by the director of Tanda Putera (TP), it is clear that this film had been produced in an attempt to counter the impact of my 2007 title. My authoritatively researched book invited Malaysians to review for themselves, the evidence that debunked both UMNO’s ghost stories and the notion that opposition votes in the 2008 general election would lead to mayhem. The reality was that the political tsunami happened and there was no mayhem.

Unfortunately for the makers of TP, as Abe Lincoln said, “We cannot escape history.” Or as Peter Carey, the writer, has put it:

“History is like a bloodstain that keeps on showing on the wall no matter how many new owners take possession, no matter how many times we paint over it.”

Suhaimi BabaAlso, unfortunately for the Director of the film (left), her film has been unceremoniously put on hold from general release for political expediency. It seems her political masters cannot afford to show this to the Chinese voters or it would be disaster for the 13th general election! Would an artist with integrity put up with such an indignity? Would an artist with integrity tolerate being treated like a mercenary to be used at the whims and fancies of her paymasters for their own narrow ends?

We now know that TP has recently been shown to a select captive audience of Felda settlers who happened to be in Kuala Lumpur for an official function. While journalists were asked to leave, some through their professional persistence, managed to stay and see the film. Thus we can only go by their reviews of the film, viz. that the Chinese are portrayed as the aggressors in the aftermath of the 1969 general election; that the Chinese had gone to Malay kampungs shouting arrogant and insensitive slogans; a scene of Chinese youth urinating on a flagpole at the Mentri Besar’s residence; Chinese youth vandalizing campaign materials; a Chinese crowd shouting “Malays go and die”; A Chinese crowd disallowing two Malay youth on motorbikes to pass through, claiming that Selangor belonged to them; that the communists had a hand in orchestrating the mayhem; that foreign correspondents at the time fielded unreliable despatches… all blood racing stuff to arouse Malay emotions.

May 13 Tragedy, Tanda Putera Farce

Is Tanda Putera art? Will it win any Oscars? Is TP a contribution to Malaysian history? If TP is supposed to be objective, why is it only fit to be shown to a Malay audience and not open to public scrutiny?

Voltaire said that “history can be well written only in a free country.” Our country is not even free enough to screen the film! At the moment, it can only be shown for “Malay eyes only”.

From the review of the film, the webpage of the film and the utterances of the film director so far, I would conclude as Marx did in The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte:

“All great historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice … the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

13 thoughts on “Kua Kia Soong on Tanda Putera

  1. Tok Cik, your take on May 13 and Tanda Putera please. Bean, you have been rather sedate these days and may be this article will jolt you to comment. And you, Semper Fi.–Din Merican

  2. wow.. what a awe inspiring article that debunks the true criiminal, yes makafide and crimninal mind are alike, mind of the UIMNOMelayus of the highest rank. This article should be published and distrubuted through out the country, I am happy to contrubutte part of the cost towards such a an excercise.
    let us send the UMNO rascists to hell .

  3. Tok Cik,
    Just curious! Are you the supporter of Seenivasagam brothers? Being an Ipohite you should have been mesmerised by them. You should have known what happened when PPP has nearly managed to snatch Perak state government.
    Meanwhile, if only BN has reached such skillset…….Hahahahaha….enjoy this movie

  4. Dato, can’t comment on Tanda Putera as have not seen it. May 13 is 43 years ago. Why can’t everybody let go of it. Yes both sides made mistakes, mistakes in interpretation and language used and worst still letting one’s emotion color facts.

  5. By agreeing to direct this film,whereby ” Her ” integrity was questionable,she sure got balls,I mean real got balls???…Oouch!!!

  6. ”Why can’t everybody let go of it” semper fi
    I believe the people who had suffered the most voluntarily forgotten it but those who had an agenda at that time are refusing to let go of this dark cloud over malaysia’s recent history.
    the dead horse (our own malaysian holocaust) will be flogged over and over again particularly before every election to raise the ghost of May13th to remind those who have suffered, what could happen to them if they voted for the opposition.
    for the 14th GE they might even place dressed up corpses at strategic points along Petaling Street to show the people what could eventually happen to them – Malaysia Boleh lah!

    Germany which caused the worst bloodshed in history sixty years ago has learnt from it and have moved on.
    but malaysia, like a dog to its vomit, won’t leave this viscious cycle until the cantankerous umno-bn is booted out.


    would umno-bn be singing this soon?

  7. Semper Fi,
    What we need is the truth & reconciliation to put this May 13th to rest. Plus it would be great that we should revisit many sacred cows in the Malaysian constituition

  8. Looes74
    You can never get the truth out. Remember dead men tell no tales. All the main characters in May 13 are dead or senile. Again if they are still alive they will stretch the truth to suit their agenda. Furthermore each side will have their own version, so how to get to the truth.

    There are no sacred cows in the Constitution only temporary fix which have been interpreted to suit the ruling party’s agenda. Malaysia need to go cold turkey on these “sacred cows” legislation.

  9. No sir, Semper Fi

    1. Modern forensic science allows us to find out what actually happened to the dead and how they were killed. Recent example: Bosnia’s civil war and the bones of victims of massacres.

    2. This is why smart Third World military dictatorships like that of General Augusto Pinochet of Chile “disappear”ed people by drugging them and then tossing them out of helicopters into the Pacific Ocean.

    3. Those whom the Chilean dictatorship did not “disappear” into the Pacific Ocean but killed and buried (such as the progressive folksinger Victor Jara)
    got their revenge through their bones which were dug up and examined by forensic scientists later.

    4. If the federal govt changes, the bones of Mr Teoh Beng Hock can be exhumed, examined once again and Malaysians will get to know the TRUTH. Then there will be real justice for Mr Teoh, his widow, his child and his other relatives.

  10. Similarly, Semper Fi, sir

    The bones of the victims of the May 13 pogrom buried at Sungai Buloh can be dug up and examined, 45 years later.

    A Truth and Reconciliation Commission will also help to reveal what
    actually happened and the neo-fascist plotters of May 13 , 1969 will be exposed, discredited, and history will finally be corrected.

  11. Phua Kai Lit
    I agree with you about the ability of forensic science to determine the cause of death. We are not discussing the cause of death during May 13 but what caused the event leading to the racial violence outbreak. There’s no forensic science involved, it’s just witnesses telling the truth and not coloring their views with their personal preference. If you ask an UMNO veteran the story will be different if you ask a DAP veteran. Even a Gerakan veteran will have a different view of what transpired that few days before May 13 and also what actually happened on May 13 in Setapak (in front of Len Seng Bus Co. HQ) and in Jalan Raja Muda in front of the MB’s house.
    Words then spread out with each person adding some drama when passing on the message. In the end the situation got out of control and the Police lost control and had to declare a state of emergency and the military had to be called in.

    Unfortunately there’s no live TV coverage and no smart phones then to record the happenings.

    Both you and I and many other Malaysians know what is the cause of death in Teoh Beng Hock case, but the judge thinks differently. Even if you present evidence by CSI Miami, if the judge won’t buy it the judgement remains the same.

  12. brothers & sisters, mr & mrs,
    I guess we already knew some basic knowledge about Malaysian history since primary school. Basiclly we know who come first and who come later. No matter when you come, all is human. And I don’t think one should waste the effort by dig deeper into history to find the real truth. This subject will only be played when election is coming,after that it will go away…this is politician works for their own benefit, why should we bother? Many more economics, socials, etc issues need to be focus on. Why bother about past history when many more is coming???????????????

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