KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 — A repeat of the May 13, 1969 race riots could still occur if the country’s ethnic communities continue to criticise one another, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muyhiddin Yassin said.
Speaking during a Ramadan even in Pagoh, Johor yesterday, he said ethnic tensions that were allowed to simmer would lead to unrest when the various communities start to eye each other with suspicion.
“Because of that there exist all kinds of assumptions when ethnic ties become strained and unhealthy. This can cause that event and I do not want to mention the particular date,” he was quoted as saying by Malay language daily Utusan Malaysia.
Muhyiddin did not mention the date specifically but Utusan Malaysia inserted May 13, 1969 to his quote in parentheses.
The Umno deputy president also said he has been receiving text messages from those expressing concern about the welfare of the Malays, the country’s dominant racial group, and Islam.
“Why are these things happening and it is worrying to us. We must find a way back to the right path,” he was further quoted as saying.
Malaysia professes to be a multi-racial and cultural country but has seen increasing racial and religious tensions in recent years.
Muslims and Christians have been pitted against one another due to the government’s decision to prohibit the Catholic Church from using “Allah”, the Arabic word for God, in its weekly newsletter.
The Catholic Church this month lost a six-year battle to contest the ban, when the Federal Court declined to hear its appeal against the prohibition.
Although the matter is theoretically limited to the newsletter, the decision has affected other aspects of Christian worship and led to demands by Muslims for “Allah” to be exclusive to Islam.
Malay concerns over the Bumiputera special privileges have also bubbled to the surface in recent months after Putrajaya’s National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) proposed three draft bills to replace the Sedition Act.
Among others, the laws and the members of the NUCC responsible for drafting them have been accused of being anti-Malay.
Hundreds of Malaysians are believed to have died during the May 13, 1969 clashes between the Malay and Chinese communities. Although ostensibly triggered by the results of Election 1969, it was rooted in ethnic tensions between the two communities.
Pro-Bumiputera affirmative action programmes such as the New Economic Policy (NEP) were introduced in its aftermath but ,decades later, these policies have led the non-Malay communities to complain of inequality.