Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Dark May 13

The gigantic earthquake in Sichuan province on May 12 2008 in China may kill tens of thousands of people. The latest official death toll stands at 12,000, and still counting; the figure does not include the figure from the worst-hit Wenchuan county.

Exactly ten years ago, on May 13 1998, racial riot, rumored to have been systematically orchestrated by powerful military men, erupted across Indonesia, where thousands of ethnic minority of Chinese origin were killed, raped, assaulted, robbed, and forced to lay low for many months after.

Yet 39 years ago, on May 13 1969, a similar racial riot between the ethnic Malay and Chinese shattered the long harmonious lifestyle of people in Malaysia. Racial politics formally entered the Malaysian socio-political scene, and never once shows any sign of leaving. For years, the term '513' has become a taboo. Some older people who have lived thru that period wouldn't even bring themselve to say the term '513' .

I used to suspect that the May 13 incident in Indonesia was not a coincidence, but a planned event with many similarities to its neighbour Malaysia.

Incidentally, all three events killed thousands of Chinese people. '513' is given another layer of historical meaning. Although the earthquake took place on '512', the full impact was only realised on '513'. And it went to such an extend to show that the act of mother nature can be so strong that put any man-made events to shame. People will now remember that a day before the dark '513', mother earth gave us a stern signal: that we should cherish our lives and the people around us; that we should respect one another; that whatever we do is nothing compare to the mother earth.

Still, I would fear the many May 13s to come.

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