KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: A new book that challenges the official cause of deadly 1969 racial riots in Malaysia may be banned if it is found to disrupt national harmony, officials said Wednesday.
The book, titled "May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969," was released Sunday by author Kua Kia Soong, who says the worst riots in Malaysia's 50-year history were not random acts of communal violence but a coup attempt by a faction within the ruling Malay party.
The book challenges the government's assertion that the violence, which claimed 196 lives, was due to tension between ethnic Malays and minority Chinese. The riots, which started May 13, 1969, and continued for weeks, led to a state of national emergency and suspension of Parliament until 1971.
Zailani Hashim, enforcement chief at the Internal Security Ministry, said officials seized 10 copies of the book from a bookstore chain on Tuesday to review its contents.
"Our experts will study the contents of the book. If we determine the book is hazardous, or undesirable, and can cause havoc to harmony in the country, then we will ban it," he told The Associated Press.
"This is for the good of the whole nation. We don't want the book to create any unnecessary problems in our multicultural society."
Kua, an academic and a rights activist, accused the government of intimidating booksellers.
He said he spent three months studying declassified documents in London, including intelligence reports by British officers, and they showed that Malaysian history books, which blame the violence on Chinese-led opposition parties, were highly distorted.
"My intention of writing this book is to get the truth out and to exorcise the ghost of May 13," Kua told the AP. "My aim is to have national reconciliation on the issue so that there could truly be national unity in this country."
He also said the death toll is likely to be much higher than the official figure of 196, and called for a national commission to reinvestigate the riots.
"We should know how many people actually died. The culprits responsible for May 13 should be put on trial," he added.
The riots were later cited by the government as the main reason for implementing an affirmative action policy — still in effect — aimed at helping the majority Malays close the wealth gap with the wealthier Chinese minority. Indians, a smaller minority, were relatively unaffected by the riots.
The three communities have lived in relative harmony since the violence.
Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak on Monday rejected the call for further inquiry into the mayhem, saying there was no need to "reopen a very sad chapter in Malaysian history."
Three senators earlier this week called for the book to be banned.