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May 17, 2017

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A landscape view of the exact burial ground location of the 13 May 1969 racial riots victims in Sungai Buloh, Selangor. The burial ground is located opposite the UITM Sungai Buloh campus and sits on a hill behind Masjid Jamek Ibnu Sina.

For nearly five decades a small gravesite, barely the size of two badminton courts, with 114 tombstones – an Indian, two Malays and 111 Chinese (including an unidentified one), all buried courtesy of the Malaysian government - on a slope in the jungle beyond the furthest reach of what was then the Sungai Buloh leprosarium, was largely ignored and unknown.

In those decades years of neglect, lallang and weeds encroached and hid it from view, while the leprosarium declined in tandem with the medieval disease.

A tombstone of an unidentified Chinese at the burial ground of the 13 May 1969 racial riots victims in Sungai Buloh, Selangor.

Until the leprosarium was demolished to make way for the Sungai Buloh Hospital, and a few hundred metres further up the road, the bottom of the slope beneath the gravesite was cleared for the erection of the Masjid Hospital Sungai Buloh.

And nurseries sprouted on both sides of the road, and illegal Indonesian immigrants cleared the land all around the gravesite for vegetable farms.
Coming into view, and with recent talk that the slope may be cleared to make way for a car-park for the mosque, the cemetary is no longer neglected. The weeds have been cleared and new turf was laid recently. Artists have visited it to inspire their creative narratives.

The tombstones at the burial ground for the 13 May 1969 racial riots victims are donated by the government of Malaysia. About more than 100 people were laid to rest on the site.

Its phoenix rise from obscurity is because it holds some of the victims of the racial blood-letting that occurred on May 13, 1969, and the days after.

The racial riots that sparked off on May 13, 1969, six years after Malaysia and a dozen after Merdeka, called into question the racial harmony that was supposedly the unshakeable foundation of our nationhood.

It also left such a deep wound in our psyche that for the longest time it was not talked about, and not just because of government fiat. Nobody wanted to go near it. The priority was mending communal relations and country.

 One of the Malay graves at the burial ground of the 13 May 1969 racial riots victims in Sungai Buloh, Selangor. There are only two Malay graves and the other is mentioned as unidentified.

It became a blank page in our history books, except for Tengku Abdul Rahman’s report on it. Official figures say 196 perished. That figure is disputed by those who would rather believe Western diplomats’ estimate of 600.

Now, at a time when communal relations are abrasive and divisive, the grave site has become a symbol for what must not be forgotten, a reminder of bloody consequences if racial passions are unbridled or ignited. SUMBER