The first in a series of letters from LoyarBurokker Pepper Lim, to his daughter Paprika.
You were born in 2009, in the most beautiful country in the world: Malaysia. Yet, there are those who are willing to destroy what our forefathers worked hard to establish, for their own selfish gain.
From time to time, you will hear of “May 13”. The May 13 Race Riots happened in 1969 when the Opposition parties gained Penang and Kelantan, and almost gained Selangor, Perak, Kedah and Terengganu. To celebrate their victory, they were given permission for a victory march. But they turned unruly caused a group of Malays to retaliate. Soon, the situation turned into a tit-for-tat riot.
Many people died, property was damaged, and thousands had to flee their home. Gangs of Malays went from home to home, beating them and torching their property; and gangs of Chinese did the same. It was a terrible time of fear and suffering.
Your daddy was only 6 months old.
The incident was not nationwide. Rather, it was confined mainly in pockets of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. But you will hear of today’s politicians warning of this incident happening again for various reasons; usually incited for their own political gains. After the horrific riots, there was an almost-unspoken-rule all races in the country followed viz. do not let racism rear its ugly head again.
When the riots happened, your Ah Kong and Ah Ma gave me to their fellow teachers, Uncle Majid and Auntie Zubaidah. If the gangs came to terrorise the kampong, they would claim I was one of their children. This was the extent of friendship between the races at that time.
Mr Ho Kay Tat (Uncle Marcus van Geyzel’s uncle) and his family hid in a Malay makcik’s house. Datuk Mahadev Shankar’s family took in a scared Chinese woman and her baby. She was the wife of a Malay man. Datuk Abdul Wahab Majid bought food for his Chinese and Scandinavian neighbours who could not leave their homes. Mr C. Kamalantran who helped survivors of the riot heard many stories of Malays sheltering the Chinese and vice versa. A man hid in the drain for 3 days before a Malay man helped hide him in his home.
I wonder what you will hear as you grow up. I wonder if it will be similar to my experiences:
Do not be afraid. Our fellow countrymen are a wise lot. They know better than to let another “May 13” happen. If a riot was to happen, it would most probably be against discrimination of races rather than race-against-race.
When you do speak up, you will be met with resistance and name calling. When Uncle Syahredzan Johan pointed out Islam’s position in the Constitution, he was called a “pengkhianat kepada Islam“ (Muslim traitor).
When the pig heads were thrown into mosques, some churches were set on fire in retaliation. Guess what happened next? Malays, Chinese and Indians went to protect each other’s places of worship.
It seems to me, as long as the politicians keep the races on tension, they can get away with almost any shenanigan, corruption, incompetence and more. At the sign of them losing power or being found out, the “race card” is played, over and over again. If the country is to move forward, we must not let race be a factor in our daily life. We must focus of the greater good; working together as a nation for the betterment of every Malaysian. Would any Malaysian be proud if only a handful of Malaysians were wealthy while the majority were poor? Would you?
The standards of a country is measured by the standards of its people. We must make our standards on par with the top countries of the world. As long as there are unscrupulous people who are willing to take advantage of others, we must make a stand against them.
Be proud of who you are. Be proud to be a Malaysian.
Your loving father,
Pepper is the father of two adorable children named Paprika Lim and Saffron Lim. “Dear Paprika” is a series of letters written for posterity. When Paprika is 20 years old, he will be 61. If he does die before his time, he hopes these letters will be there for her, so she knows what her father wants her to know, but could not tell her in person. His family lives in beautiful Malaysia, a country rich in natural resources and unlimited potential. He has plans to make his family proud.