17 May, 2007

New book on 1969 race riots in Malaysia may be banned, officials warn

A new book that challenges the official cause of deadly 1969 racial riots in Malaysia may be banned if it is found to disrupt national harmony, officials said Wednesday.

The book, titled "May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969," was released Sunday by author Kua Kia Soong, who says the worst riots in Malaysia's 50-year history were not random acts of communal violence but a coup attempt by a faction within the ruling Malay party.

The book challenges the government's assertion that the violence, which claimed 196 lives, was due to tension between ethnic Malays and minority Chinese. The riots, which started May 13, 1969, and continued for weeks, led to a state of national emergency and suspension of Parliament until 1971.

Zailani Hashim, enforcement chief at the Internal Security Ministry, said officials seized 10 copies of the book from a bookstore chain on Tuesday to review its contents.

"Our experts will study the contents of the book. If we determine the book is hazardous, or undesirable, and can cause havoc to harmony in the country, then we will ban it," he told The Associated Press.

"This is for the good of the whole nation. We don't want the book to create any unnecessary problems in our multicultural society."

Kua, an academic and a rights activist, accused the government of intimidating booksellers.

He said he spent three months studying declassified documents in London, including intelligence reports by British officers, and they showed that Malaysian history books, which blame the violence on Chinese-led opposition parties, were highly distorted.

"My intention of writing this book is to get the truth out and to exorcise the ghost of May 13," Kua told the AP. "My aim is to have national reconciliation on the issue so that there could truly be national unity in this country."

He also said the death toll is likely to be much higher than the official figure of 196, and called for a national commission to reinvestigate the riots.

"We should know how many people actually died. The culprits responsible for May 13 should be put on trial," he added.

The riots were later cited by the government as the main reason for implementing an affirmative action policy — still in effect — aimed at helping the majority Malays close the wealth gap with the wealthier Chinese minority. Indians, a smaller minority, were relatively unaffected by the riots.

The three communities have lived in relative harmony since the violence.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak on Monday rejected the call for further inquiry into the mayhem, saying there was no need to "reopen a very sad chapter in Malaysian history."

Three senators earlier this week called for the book to be banned.

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is concerned that the Ministry of Internal Security has confiscated copies of a book on the riots of May 13 1969, using section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984 (PPPA) which allows for control of "undesirable publication".

On May 15 online news site Malaysiakini.com reported that the Ministry's officers confiscated 10 copies of the book, titled "May 13" from a major bookstore in Klang Valley. The bookstore was also reported to have been advised by ministry officers not to sell the book.

When contacted by CIJ, the ministry confirmed that the books were seized but declined to elaborate whether it will be banned. The official said that the ministry is in the process of studying the book.

Academic and former opposition politician Dr Kua Kia Soong wrote the book which he says is based on declassified documents at the London's Public Records Office. It refutes the official explanation of the riots which attributed the violence to provocation by the opposition party and claims, instead that it was a planned coup to topple the then Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman from power.

Elizabeth Wong, spokes person for the publisher, Suara Komunikasi, claims that the books were illegally seized.

The ministry's attempt to prevent access to the publication is part of a consistent pattern to curb alternative interpretations of history. It reflects intolerance and discourages open discussion.

We call upon the government to respect the people's right to know. Forced imposition of the official view is against the Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's promise of transparency and integrity, and is unlikely to contribute to the intellectual growth of the nation. We call on the Government to review all laws suppressing freedom of speech, expression and information through setting up a select committee on communication rights.

The Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia (CIJ) is a media organization that aims to improve current Malaysian journalism practice and independence through advocacy, research and analysis, training and practical work. Started in 2001, CIJ has initiated various projects in developing grassroots communications skills through training, infrastructural support and direct action.


Issued by

Sonia Randhawa
Executive Director

A new book presents the view that 1969 race riots were instigated by ambitious Malay politicians. Now it seems the book will be banned by the government.

Thirty-eight years on, the traumatic ethnic riots of May 13, 1969 in Malaysia remain as much a subject of official censorship as the events of June 4, 1989 in China. Now a new book by a Malaysian Chinese academic is on the point of being officially banned for suggesting that May 13 was the occasion for what amounted to a coup against the independence leader and Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman by his United Malays National Organisation colleagues who were pushing pro-Malay policies. Officials of Malaysia’s Internal Security Ministry Tuesday confiscated 10 copies of the book from a Kuala Lumpur bookstore, advising the store not to sell it as it may be banned. According to a letter issued by ministry officials, the book is suspected of being an “undesirable publication.”.....more on Asia Sentinel.

Meanwhile, Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said, Copies of the book "May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969" were taken from a bookshop for checking purposes.

He told theSun today it was normal for the ministry to check on the contents of books to determine if they were suitable for sale.

"Once (a publication is) published for sale, (if we get a) complaint or information, we make inspections by taking samples back for checking to see if the books contradict the Printing Presses and Publication Act (PPPA) 1984.

"We have only taken some copies for checking, it is normal procedure. Any other book gets the same treatment," he said, adding that bookstores were free to sell it while its contents were being reviewed.

More details on Susan's "Malaysiakini unveils book on May 13 riots"



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