Wednesday, March 16, 2011

All Men Are Equal

I’m halfway through this book about an Indian family who lived in the Big House somewhere in Ipoh. The story spans several years (from pre-Merdeka) and the reader gets to meet many very interesting characters.

This is not a book on politics but the author describes vividly the May 13 incident, the racial riots that shook the nation in 1969. No, let me rephrase that…the racial riots that shook Malaya in 1969. We in Sabah passed the days—it wasn’t just one day—in blissful ignorance. In fact, I knew nothing about the riots until I heard Malayan classmates (in college) talk about the horrific things they saw with their own eyes.

Great book!
The riots we had in KK (about sixteen years later) weren’t racial riots at all but were instigated by disgruntled politicians who could not admit defeat gracefully.

I’ll never forget what those senseless politicians put us, the common people, through and how they endangered the lives of innocent people and that they imported thugs from a neighbouring country to create fear among the people and they made the elected representatives bow to their demands. In simple words: the vanquished wanted the elected to hand over the mandate to form the government to the former or else…

… all hell would break loose.

I was in school when I saw black smoke bellowing skywards from the direction of KK some ten miles away. Soon nervous parents were at my school. They said: “The warehouses at Sadong Jaya are burning. Vehicles parked along the roads are set on fire. There is a demonstration. A bomb has exploded in Tanjung Aru. Some people have been killed. We must take our children home.”

Fearing for the students’ safety, the Senior Assistant—it was the afternoon session—could have told them to go home with their parents. I don’t really remember because I was near hysterical. My own daughter was in Primary Two and her school faced Sadong Jaya, the place going up in smoke.

I managed to drive to St. Francis’ primary amid all the chaos. The first time I drove up the school, I saw a few girls outside the classrooms but behind closed gates. My daughter was nowhere in sight. I didn’t dare leave the car for some thug to destroy so I drove another big round, past Sacred Heart, up the hill, round the big girls’ school, down Raintree Road, past the kindergarten and I was in front of the school again. It was a huge relief to see my child waiting for me. She was crying but she was safe.

All around were frightened people in a hurry to get home. The vehicles along the roads fronting the shops and warehouses were still burning. We left the scene of devastation and went home to find Mr. Hubby enjoying a nap. I shook his shoulder roughly.

 “Stupid you,” I hissed at him even before he was fully awake. “Your daughter frightened out of her wits and the whole of KK is in chaos and you can still sleep?”  I know I was being unfair. It wasn’t his fault that KK was in turmoil.

For several days after that, on my way to school, I had to drive past the mosque where the  thugs were given food and shelter. I saw rubbish gradually collect on the grounds. I saw the white crosses drawn on the concrete entrance to the mosque, drawn in paint by some nincompoop but the deed was attributed to some Christian fool. (Only a fool would dare go where thousands were sheltered in the house of prayer.)

If you think I had it bad, you haven’t heard my SIL’s story. On the way home from the airport, she had to pass the area on that fateful day.

“There were hundreds of them near Sabah College,” she said. “All dressed in black with a red band tied around the head. Wild-eyed, they were everywhere, shouting, and kicking, hitting passing cars caught in the hellish jam. Suddenly they were around my car. I couldn’t move forward. I couldn’t reverse.”

They lifted her car and tried to turn it up-side-down. She prayed and she cried. There was nothing else she could do. After what seemed an eternity the men-in-black-with-red-around-their-heads gave up. Her Carina was too heavy. They went for the next car.

Dear reader, maybe you don’t remember this black patch in our history. Perhaps you were too young then, or this happened before you were born. Seemingly harmless men, people we look up to as leaders, are capable of causing grievous hurt to his fellow men. One day they could be the charismatic leaders who vow to fight for your rights and interests and the next day they could be the devil himself.

I’m telling you this, and all the young people like you, because it looks like there are people who are planting seeds of disharmony and manipulating religious beliefs to create mistrust, ill-feeling and racial conflicts among the people of our country. We don’t want what happened in Malaya to take place in our beloved Sabah.

Be careful when people shout from the rooftops, "All men are equal but I am more equal than others."

Beware. There are wolves masquerading as sheep.

Pictures from Google Images


  1. I'm sorry you and your daughter had to go through those traumatic experience. I was too young to remember that day but I could picture it from the story told to me by one of my colleagues back in BG Backpacker (KK).

    According to her, on that fateful day, a group of armed people dressed in black and red invaded her school in Tanjung Aru(Stella Marris I guess), ordering all muslim students to leave while detaining the christians. She left the classroom in hurry to walk back to her home in Sembulan. On her way home, she witnessed hell a lot of horrible things happened. That day changed her life forever, for she never went back to school again.

    It's saddening isn't it, that some leaders are not ashame to use race and religion to stay in power.

  2. Yes, Gunaqz, it's a shame we have the leaders we have.
    Read the book if you haven't yet. I'm sure you'll agree with a lot of the things the author says.

  3. Hi Tina, love your this posting and your very stylish eloquence.
    Like reading a book. Outstanding! I am impressed with your memory and knowledge.
    Regret read about those sad days of history. I know, because I was there.
    In KL.....
    Love your welcome profile.
    Tina, you sure have style.
    Have a nice day and keep a song in your heart.
    Best regards.

  4. This is part of sabah history that I never knew.. Thanks for sharing...

  5. Hi Mr. Lee! Thanks for the compliments. You have a good week,too. Yes, we all need that song in our hearts!

    Hi Karulann! Thanks for dropping in. Glad to be able to help you fill in some blanks.