Thirty Nine Years Ago This Day

On the tragic night of May 13, thirty nine years ago, scores of us lost a bit of our blood but for a different reason. We were trying to fill up the fast depleting blood bank at the University Hospital in Petaling Jaya. In the ensuing confusion, it didn’t occur to us to enquire whether our blood would go to a Malay, or to an Indian, or to a Chinese. Neither did it bother us. So long as it would help save a life, it was worth the while to give our blood. Among us were also Ibans, Kenyahs, Dusuns “dan lain lain lagi” or others. The funny thing is that all our blood had the same colour.

We were all freshmen then at the Campus next to the teaching hospital and had just checked into our respective hostels the day before. On the fateful evening, in the midst of the welcoming party at our hostel, students’ union officials suddenly stormed in and stopped the partying. It was only then that we realised what had just happened. Many of us rushed to the hospital to donate blood. Some joked that there’s too much beer from the party in their blood and wondered if it would be of any use.

At the blood bank it was a riot of a scene as overworked nurses and staff tried desperately to organise the blood donation in some orderly fashion. As most of the staff were caught by the curfew imposed following the riots, the hospital was acutely short of workers, so again we went there the following day to help out in any that we could; at the laundry, the kitchen, or some janitorial work that had to be done.

As I sit and stare at my blood donation card from the hospital dated 13 May 1969, I wonder if we could ever learn anything from May 13. Thirty nine years on we still hear blood curdling screams of racism in the name of one’s race. They sound ever so self-righteous.

Sadder still is when I hear such racist slurs uttered by those who were not yet even born in 1969 and thus did not experience the trauma of the tragedy. There is the suggestion from some quarters that May 13 was engineered by power-crazed people to seize political power regardless of how many innocent lives that had to be sacrificed on the altars of their political agenda.

Thirty nine years on, there still exist in our midst racists screaming blue murder to the adulation of their blood thirsty mobs.

Thirty nine years ago this day, some of us had the opportunity to donate a few drops of our blood only because precious lives depended on them. Each life is precious in the sight of God. Only the ungodly would endanger such lives by their continued racist outbursts.

Originally published in My Sinchew. Reproduced with permission.

One Reply to “Thirty Nine Years Ago This Day”

  1. Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the piece. I’m one of those who was born six years after the tragedy.

    I think voices like yours, which’ve resounded through those days, are most helpful. On the other hand, I find myself seriously asking if the following statement serves a good purpose: “There still exist in our midst racists screaming blue murder to the adulation of their blood thirsty mobs…only the ungodly would endanger such lives by their continued racist outbursts.”

    In my view, I think we have more than enough reminders of the ethno-preferential treatment meted out in our country, of the (as u said) racist tensions…what I suspect we DON’T have nearly enough of is the sort of ‘transformative kindness’ demonstrated TOWARDS people who say such things.

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