I wasn’t born then but my dad was. Bidor was nothing but a small mining and agricultural town with scattered Chinese new villages, remnants of the colonial past. Township was situated at an intersection where two rivers meet and just up north of the intersection lies the main federal trunk road of Ipoh-Kuala Lumpur that divides the township into the east side and west side.
The centre of township predominantly Chinese, dwelled in the west and scattered small Chinese new villages including one of Bidor’s largest Malay village was situated in the east.
When the riot broke in KL, all major towns in Malaysia were in curfew and Bidor was unexceptional. In comparison with the size of population back then with other cities, Bidor is nothing but merely made up of a few row of shop houses with adjoining villages that sprang up during the mining boom in the yesteryears but due to the proximity and density of the adjoining population of different races, the police took no chances but to enforce martial law.
My dad used to be a delinquent and he remembered clearly that day, Police Field Force (PFF) all over the place in town. No one was allowed out in the night, and he remembered that evening just when the news starts spreading through the radio, Chinese populated villages in the east side which was neighbouring to the Malay village start to evacuate their houses and, in numbers they were thronging to the west Chinese dominated side of the town to seek refuge from friends and relatives.
Dad told me that he was visiting a friend on the east side when the breaking news was made known . Acting on the behaviour of the public and anxiety to know what’s going on, my dad cycled home amidst the crowd of thronging people moving in haste and hurry. In the town intersection, PFF from nearby police station who happens to be located in the heart of town, march in squads and was immediately garrisoned in their sectors.
Controlling the flow of traffic and people, the PFF behaved professionally offering help and guiding civilians. Malays who were caught up in town abandoned their routines too and rush to the east side where majority Malays dwelled. Everything was quite orderly and friends from different races bid goodbye and good luck hoping to see each other again after the event before go in hiding.
Everyone was on guard. The Chinese young and able volunteered to be on guard, whilst in the Malay villages their men was on with their routine guarding as well. In the middle, where the trunk road lies were the PFF’s who were already there operating. Their presence was not only to keep civil order against mobs from both sides, but also a to deter unforeseeable instigators possibly from the Communist operatives who will try by any means to wreck peace.
Dad recalled an interesting story during that period of tension and confusion where people was divided by unseen corrupt forces of politics; humanity and compassion still exists. This was proved when a Malay youth was swept by the river current that flows downhill from the mountainous range on the east side after a downpour was rescued by the Chinese volunteers who happens to patrol around their encampment on the west side right at the banks of the same river where the youth was swept away.
Responding on the distraught screaming of the drowning Malay youth, the Chinese rescuers descended the river banks where the gushing fierce waters were still raging. They then successfully tagged him and pulled him out of the water, and safely return him to his village headman. That, but one special incident then changed the landscape of racial relations in Bidor almost immediately.
Though divided (as in encampments) and still controlled by curfew, Bidor’s populous people mingled and maintained their race relations so well with the PFF’s unquestionable professionalism alongside to maintain order and security until the tension was eased off in federal level before things gone back to normal for this easy and sleepy town.
Many wouldn’t believe, my dad who lived during those period where race relations was seemingly fragile was able to perpetuate the sense of ‘muhibahness’ among friends with different races only to be officially coined and ’emulated’ in the form of rhetorics by the Barisan Nasional government. They have already long existed by practice and not by political rhetorics like our new generation exercised now!!
I envied him at times when he had a complete set of friends in his circles that represent all races in Peninsular Malaysia; Malays, Chinese, Indians, Sikh and Orang Asli while I only have the “BN-coined-typical-three.”
I hope when Pakatan Rakyat took over, we could reinvent the same classic feel of the ‘real’ muhibbahness like our folks used to enjoy in their yesteryears for a better Malaysia minus the corrupting political rhetorics!
Got this book yet? This is a must-have book for all Malaysians who CARE. Dad told me that riot is uncool, lynching is uncool, martial law is not nice, and being bitter between one another is the worst. Let’s not let this ghost of the past haunts us ever again. Peace Malaysia.
“Powers can corrupt, but nothing is more corrupting than a bunch of corrupted politicians.” – Astrosurge, May 13th 2008