Penang’s forgotten protest: The 1967 Hartal


For almost two months in 1967, Penang erupted in violence and bloodshed. To many, the incident has been largely forgotten, but what inspired the 1967 Hartal, and how did it descend to chaos?

The word “hartal” refers to a cessation of work or businesses in protest against a political decision. While the 1947 hartal, organised by the Pan-Malayan Council of Joint Action against the constitution of the Federation of Malaya, is widely quoted on paper today, there is little mention of a hartal that swept the island of Penang for two months in 1967.

Originally intended as a peaceful protest, it escalated into a bloody situation of heightened racial tension. Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee, the state’s first Chief Minister, even cited the protest as one of the events which might have prepared the ground for the 1969 racial riots.

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