I wrote this piece whilst I was serving in Angola, Africa for a UN Peacekeeping mission. It is a record of my broken dreams in education and my early days as a working man.
Broken Hopes Of Further Studies
In 1969 I sat for the Cambridge School Certificate “O” level examinations and obtain a result that would allow me to further my studies at the newly established National Junior College Of Singapore, yet another institution of higher learning that admits only the best of Singapore’s “O” level achievers. In fact I was offered a place there, did not asked for but was offered. Circumstances however were not behind me at this time.
My father retires from the British Army just as I sat for my “O” levels. Even though he continues working in a Japanese firm in Singapore, my mother, brothers, sisters and I were sent back to our home town in Segamat, Johor. In Segamat I tried to get myself enrolled for Lower Six studies at the Segamat English School and even tried to enrol at the then College Of Agriculture in Serdang, Selangor. I remember the evening after the maghrib prayers in our rented house in Jalan Muhammad, Segamat. Father simply told me that since he is now retired he cannot afford the money for my studies. I have got a qualification, he told me, use it to get yourself a job and help the family. I cried myself to sleep that night.
On hindsight I can’t blame my father for not sharing my ambition. With a family of 8 children to support it is certainly hard put for him to stretch his meagre army pension. I have to find a job. At least with the eldest son being self supporting he would have less 1 mouth to feed and I could help with the family income. That was how at the age of 16 plus, I came back to Singapore, this time as a working teenager.
A Coolie In Singapore
I did not plan to start work at such a young age but what else can I do. My dreams of further studies are gone and I have to support myself to avoid being a burden to my father. Finding a suitable job as a 16 years old was easy task. First, I am a no man’s land man. I am neither a Malaysian nor a Singaporean. Two, I am too young either to enter goverment service or to join the private sector. To join the working ranks of these two job sectors you have to be at least 18 years of age. That was how I get to become a coolie in Singapore.
My first job was at a construction site in Singapore. I remember the hot punishing days carrying bags of cement to be mixed and then trundling wheelbarrows of the concrete mixture to where it was needed at the construction site. I stayed at my auntie’s house in Singapore then and could not forget the days I have to stick medicinal plaster on my back to alleviate the back pains from the days hard labour. My next “menial appointment” before joining the Malaysian Army was at the Yoong Tai Leong aluminium factory in Jurong, punching rivets into the aluminium doors made at this factory and then with another co-worker delivering the finished product to the various buyer. I was having a nasi bungkus lunch at the factory compound when I saw the adverstisement for selection as army officers in the Malaysian Army, right there on the piece of newspaper wrapping my lunch. In all I spent about one year and a half as a coolie in Singapore, so if anyone out there have got the cheek to say that I have got it easy in life, I have one thing to say. Go jump into the nearest river.
In The Army
I joined the army as an 2nd lieutenant on 10th June 1971. Sorry, I won’t elaborate in detail about my short stint in the army. This was the worst episode of my entire life on this earth to date. I became proud and arrogant during this period of time, made a lot stupid mistakes, blunders and decisions which I am still paying for now. I left the army in April 1975 when my short service commission expires. I could have requested for an extension of my commission but did not do so on some idiotic idealistic views of my purpose in life as a soldier. I was asking myself, “As a soldier, for whom am I risking my life and limbs for, was it for the country, the common people or for the elite of Malaysian society?”
I knew that if the country falls into communist hands, the first to flee the country would be the the ruling and elite class. The ones to loose more if Malaysia falls into Chin Peng hands would be the the “Haves”. The “Have Nots” have nothing much to loose because they have nothing to begin with in the first place. Therefore according to my misplace idealism, as a soldier I am risking life and limbs not for the protection of the rakyat but to look after the safety, security and interest of the elite class. I do not want to spend the rest of my working life protecting the rich. So I left the army. With comparatively good pay while in the army I should have pursued my dream of obtaining my doctorate but that is not to be so.
If I am not mistaken Francis Bacon says “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupt absolutely”. How true. A 2nd lieutenant in the army might not be much but in the early 70’s it does carry some prestige and a little extra cash. At only 18 years of age and being address as “sir” by men much senior in age and being able to command them to do my bidding makes me forget who I am and what I want to be. I was corrupted by hard liquor (my favourite drink then was vodka lime), songs and a little bit of women on the side. Nights was spend at the night clubs, the frequent jaunts being the MayFlower Nightclub in Jalan Treacher, Bukit Bintang and the then Miramar Night Club. I was drunk almost every other night. To me that was life as should be lived by an army officer. Only too late I realised how wrong I was. After a series of setbacks which lasted almost 2 years and which I do not wish to relive or relate, I finally learned my lessons.
PDRM And Hopes Of Further Studies
On the 3rd of July 1977 I joined the Royal Malaysia Police as a probationary Inspector. In the early years of my service with the police I did try my hand at sitting for the HSC examination by studying part time at Yayasan Anda in Jalan Pantai. Academic studies at my age then does not seem to agree with me. I managed to obtained only I principle and 2 subsidiary levels passes. Studies stopped for a moment until early 1988 when after saving enough to finance my studies I enrolled for the Advance Diploma In Administrative Management at Stamford College, Petaling Jaya. Here is a course that allows me to make full use of my working experience and class room theories in order to pass my exams. I obtained my diploma in 1991 and soon after was accepted for a Masters In Systems Management at the Humberside University, United Kingdom. Again the stars does not shine on me. I made an application for the police force to finance my studies but was only offered a no pay leave for the duration of my studies. No financial support. Reason given was that scholarship for Masters is applicable only to division A officers (ASP and above) and at the time of applying I was only a division B officer (Chief Inspector). Once again my dream of studying and living overseas goes up in smoke.
After once too many defeat I decided to call it a day. Enough is enough. But that dream refuse to lie down. Every now and then it rears it’s head. Little did I realised that man proposes and God disposes. Malaysia was invited to sent military and police observers to serve in United Nations missions in various countries overseas. For me this is a golden opportunity to save some money for my studies and spend at least a year working overseas. But that is not the only reason why I volunteered for this mission for I have actually given up on my dreams. There are other factors that contribute to my decision. Most probably at the time of making the application I am depressed and unhappy with my working conditions. I am an Assistant Superintendent of Police, Anti Secret Societies, Vice and Gaming Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department, Royal Malaysia Police Federal HQ, Bukit Aman. The nine years I have put in this unit has been a frustrating and memorable one but never as depressing as when I decided to volunteer for this mission. There are times when I wonder if I am just rationalising my decision or was there really something to my grievances.
Depression At Work
I will not discuss the details that brought about the depressive atmosphere at work. Sufficient to say that you need to believe in the person you are working with and vice versa that person in turn must believe in you. More so in the police force where unlike accountancy the work is not cut and dry. Life is never a simple black and white. So does police work. You cannot compartmentalised police work into distinct black and white areas. There are grey areas in between. You stop a man for speeding. He produces a telegram that his mother is seriously ill. Do you issue him a speeding ticket or do you wish him a safe journey.
I believed that as the head of a department in the police force you have got to have a firm understanding of the conditions and constraints your men is working under. You must be decisive and have the guts to act on your own without running to the next higher up for instructions every time something needs to be done. These are some of the important factors that would determine the degree of believe your men have in you and the trust you have in your subordinates. It would be extremely difficult and frustrating as I have discovered, to work in an environment where mutual trust and understanding do not exist. I cannot function well in such an atmosphere. I am not being petty but utilising detectives from another branch to conduct your department’s investigation is definitely not a morale booster. To make matters worse sending “spies” to shadow your own men whilst they are conducting vice and gaming raids is enough to alienate your officers and men. By all means take disciplinary action if your men are proven corrupted but do it openly and not behind their back.
I have served 9 years in this department before leaving for Angola. By this time there should be at least a 2 storey semi-detached house to my name, an imported car in my garage and substantial funds in the bank. Luxuries that officers from the other branches of the Royal Malaysia Police assumed normally come with working in my department. Yet to pay the bill for my only daughter’s appendix operation I have to utilised my wife’s credit card account. Therefore when after 9 years someone comes along who sees only deceit and dishonesty in his subordinates I am only being human if I feel hurt and betrayed. As I could not take it any longer without the risk of running amuck (people of Bugis descendant it seems has a higher risk of running wild, maybe because we believed in what we are doing), I finally decided on the UN mission where ever it may be. To cool off or to run away from my problems, call it what ever you want but that was the best solution for me.
And here I am in Angola. To ACP Hj. Jamaludin Arshad, the 1st honest Assistant Director of the Anti Secret Societies, Gambling & Vice Branch of the Royal Malaysia Police, my thanks goes to you.