Who Have Looked At
Death In The Eye
In A Foxhole
“When you're left wounded on
Afganistan's plains and
the women come out to cut up what remains,
Just roll to your rifle
and blow out your brains,
And go to your God like a soldier”
“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”
“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”
“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.
“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,
for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.”
“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .”
“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.
“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.
“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.
The Soldier stood and faced God
Which must always come to pass
He hoped his shoes were shining
Just as bright as his brass
"Step forward you Soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?"
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't
Because those of us who carry guns
Can't always be a saint."
I've had to work on Sundays
And at times my talk was tough,
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny
That wasn't mine to keep.
Though I worked a lot of overtime
When the bills got just too steep,
The Soldier squared his shoulders and said
And I never passed a cry for help
Though at times I shook with fear,
And sometimes, God forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.
I know I don't deserve a place
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around
Except to calm their fears.
If you've a place for me here,
Lord, It needn't be so grand,
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand."
There was silence all around the throne
Where the saints had often trod
As the Soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.
"Step forward now, you Soldier,
You've borne your burden well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."
| On May 13, 1969, a Chinese village came under a hail of gunfire by Tham Seen Hau
| Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Malaysiakini : Editor's note: The following article includes troubling details of the deadly riots on May 13, 1969. This dark episode of history is so painful that it is shrouded in secrecy and taboo.
|A near ethnic cleansing|
Fifty years to the day, we are sharing several stories for generations of Malaysians born after the riots. May it serve as a lesson for today and our collective future.
The following article contains graphic description of the violence that took place. Not everything can be independently verified. However, portions which can be corroborated are marked in blue hyperlinks.
Foong Yee was a 24-year-old probationary police inspector when the May 13, 1969 riots broke out.
Fifty years on, his experience driving through the blazing and lawless streets of Kuala Lumpur remains fresh in his memory.
In his account below, he recalls how he managed to save his kin, evacuate his entire village, and rescue his Malay neighbours from being killed by Chinese secret society members.
Along the way, he experienced a brush with death when he drove into a group of army personnel by accident.
Seconds from death, he recalls feeling the muzzle of a gun on his temple.
“If he had pulled the trigger, I would not be telling you my story at this moment.”
In 2000, Foong retired from the force as the deputy police chief of Kuala Lumpur.
This is his story, as told to Tham Seen Hau.
On May 13, I was at Kepong Baru renovating a house that my dad had just bought. The whole afternoon I was there together with my father, my mother, and a younger brother.
Later that day, our neighbour came back and told everyone in the neighbourhood of problems downtown, that the Malays and the Chinese were killing one another.
We had an old TV set that we had just installed. We switched on the TV and there was news about Kuala Lumpur being under curfew.
Read more: May 13, never again
The first thing that came across my mind was that we had to go back to Kampung Limau along Batu Road (now Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman). That’s where our family home was, and my siblings were there. So, we jumped into my car, and we drove off.
Stepping on the pedal as hard as I could, I soon reached a junction where a group of men holding iron rods were stopping vehicles.
The driver of the car in front of me looked Malay. The mob stopped this car and smashed the windscreen with an iron rod, but the car was allowed to move along.
I was next. Seeing I was Chinese, they asked where I was heading. When I told them, one of them said not to go because the Chinese there had been killed, the houses had all been razed.
I could see plumes of smoke rising to the sky from afar, but I told these people, 'No, I have to go. You cannot stop me.'
Along the way, I saw cars burning, things thrown all over the road. I knew things were bad.
By the time I came to the river where the 24-hour Reddy Clinic was, things were so uncertain I had to stop.
Along the river was a coffee shop. A police patrol car drove by, and when it passed the coffee shop, a group of Chinese men stopped the car. Without saying anything, they thrust metal pipes into the vehicle.
‘It was like a war zone’
It was then that I realised that law and order had broken down and I had to make my own decisions. I told my parents I would leave them at the Reddy Clinic and drive on to our home.
My parents pleaded in tears. They said if it was fated that their other children would perish, at least four of us were together. But I said no. I was determined to go despite their pleading, and took my brother with me.
We drove past more burning cars, shophouses set alight, until we got to the Campbell police station (now Dang Wangi police headquarters).
I stopped in hopes of getting more information, but it was just chaotic, people everywhere.
From the police station, you can cut through some bushes behind a workshop to get to Kampung Limau. It was not far, less than 2km.
As I walked behind the bushes, a mob rushed at me raising parangs. I told myself that I was going to have it this time.
Then someone recognised me. They were people from my village. The kampung was not razed as I had feared, but these men were guarding the entrance.
The first thing I did when I got to Kampung Limau was to head home to find my siblings all there.
Nearby was Teck Meng school a private Chinese-medium institution. I asked the caretaker to open the gate so we could evacuate there. He kept saying ‘No! No!’ so I forced the gate open with a crowbar and he fled. I know normally, this would have gotten me into a lot of trouble, but it was the last thing on my mind.
My kampung people flooded into the school. People started coming and coming.
The place was packed. I mean, the scene was like people running away from a war zone.
Some were carrying whatever they had, small little things. Babies and pregnant women. There were a lot of classrooms, and people filled them up. This went on until about midnight or later.
I remember going up to the Teck Meng School rooftop and looking down at the city. I saw everything was burning. I was in tears. I asked myself, “What has happened? Why?”
A gun to my head
Later that night, I snuck back to my car and drove back to Batu Road to where I left my parents. My car was the only vehicle on the road.
As I turned into Maxwell Road (now Jalan Tun Ismail), my headlight shone on a group of people and I saw some of them were wearing sarung. I said to myself, ‘Oh God, these Malays are going to kill me’.
I stepped on the accelerator and I went straight for them. They jumped and I heard them yelling, but I didn't stop.
There was another group of Malay people at the Ipoh Road roundabout. Fearful for my life, I sped on without stopping.
Then my headlight shone on something shiny – the badge worn by army personnel. I slammed the brakes and prayed the car would stop.
By the time the car stopped, I could feel the muzzle of a gun on my temple. My car had no air conditioning and the window was wound down. I took out my police card and showed him. This chap looked at the card and passed it to another soldier. They let me pass.
I was relieved to find my parents still at Reddy Clinic, just as they were relieved to know all their children were safe. We drove back to Teck Meng School.
I was lucky the soldier holding the gun was not certain of what to do. If he had pulled the trigger, I would not be here telling you my story.
‘Why don’t we kill the Malays?’
As the morning wore on, we had to defend Kampung Limau. We went back to the village and stationed ourselves along the river because the Malays were just across.
We were armed because we were facing a mob. Some were holding parang, some were holding water pipes. I held a handsaw. My father was a carpenter, so he had saws.
I thought that I was a police officer and I should not be caught in a situation like this, but what choice did I have?
Suddenly, I heard a gunshot and the guy next to me was shot in the stomach. He collapsed.
A few of us carried him out to Batu Road and flagged down a passing ambulance. I later learned that he survived.
Do you have a May 13 story? Join the conversation - share your stories or read more from others who were there.
When I went back to the riverside, there was too much gunfire. I didn’t know where it was coming from, whether it was the army or the Malay villagers. But we were no match, so we retreated.
We were defenceless.
That was when some gang members from Jalan Sultan came down. Some of them had lived in Kampung Limau.
There were 10 or 11 of them only, not many. Some of them said, “Why don't we kill the Malays? There are a few families here”.
When I learned that was happening, I went to them and said, “Look, that is not a good idea.
“If we keep them alive and hold them as hostages, at least if we are attacked by the Malays from across the river, we can put them in front, and we will tell these people if you touch us, we will kill them in front of you.”
They seemed to like my idea and I had saved these Malays, but how long could I have kept them safe? I knew I had to get them out. But how? There were 20 to 30 of them.
By a stroke of luck, I saw two army trucks at Batu Road – they were in front of me. I took out my police card and stopped the trucks. I told them what was happening and they needed to move these Malay families out.
I ran ahead of the trucks, but at a certain point, I had to disappear because I didn’t want the secret society members to see me leading the army truck to the hostages.
From a distance, I saw all the Malays jumping into the two trucks and they drove off. Then I re-emerged, pretending nothing had happened.
Leaving Kampung Limau
After evacuating the Malay families, I had to think of my own. I was so tired then. I had not eaten, I had not slept. I don't know where my energy or where my spirit and determination came from, but I had to seek help.
I ran to the Campbell Police Station, but the place was just as chaotic as the previous night. I saw an officer standing there trying to do whatever he could. I recognised him.
He was Gilbert Ang.
Ang was the head of the secret society branch. I told him I was a probationary officer and I needed transport to bring my family out of harm’s way.
He looked at me and said, “I'm sorry I cannot help you.”
So, I had to reveal to him what I did before I joined the police force.
I said, “You remember when you were head of the secret society branch, there was this chap who called you and gave you information about secret society activities, and who committed what and so on?
And these people were all from Kampung Limau?”
He said, “Yeah, I remember. He gave us very good information”.
I reminded him how the informant did not want to meet him, but revealed his initials to be 'FY'.
“I am FY. Foong Yee.”
Ang was shocked. He hugged me and asked me what I wanted. I told him I needed to take my family out to Kepong Baru, and there were some people in Kampung Limau who were from Jinjang and Kepong.
Foong Yee survived the May 13 riot and went on to have a long career in the police force, retiring as deputy police chief of Kuala Lumpur.
Ang gave me a bus. It was a Sri Jaya bus. As I drove into Teck Meng School, people began attacking the bus thinking that they were under attack by Malays, but they calmed down once they saw me.
I told them anyone who was staying in Kepong or Jinjang could get into the bus. My family got on, there were about 12 or 13 of us and then there was my sweetheart's family, six or seven of them. There were other relatives, a baby – my nephew Nicholas – and his babysitter who was mute.
I had to leave the others to fend for themselves. I had to take care of my family first.
ANNABELLE LEE contributed to this article.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 9:05 AM