Siow Ling, The Lucky One

When 14-year-old Siow Ling was caught trafficking 19.7kg of opium in 1991, she made legal history as the youngest person to be charged with a capital offence. Had it not been for her age, she would have been sent to the gallows.  Detained under the President’s Pleasure, she has been in Changi Women’s Prison for 15 years now.
As a child, Siow Ling lived with her “uncle” whom she later learnt was her real father.  Her mother stayed with this “uncle” too because she could not see eye to eye with her legal husband, whom Siow Ling ironically addressed as “father”. Siow Ling’s brother and sister, both adopted, were twenty years her senior.

An aunt took care of her when she was young and those were happy times because she loved playing with her aunt’s children. Everything was taken care of and life was a breeze.  But all that came to end when Siow Ling’s mother quarrelled with her aunt’s family and shortly after that, brought her home. 

Back home, her mother spent her days at a Hokkien association where she worked as a cook and caretaker. The place was in fact her real home. Even during her days off, she would return to the association to play mahjong. Perhaps out of guilt for her long absences, her mother lavished her with money and gifts. As a child, Siow Ling was never short of toys and she went to school by taxi.  To her friends, she was the lucky one.

But there was a price to pay. Siow Ling had to suffer her mother’s vulgarities whenever the older woman went into one of her dark and terrible rages. Quite often, the verbal abuse would be followed by the violent smashing of anything she could lay her hands on. Yet Siow Ling always felt an affinity for her. Perhaps it was a child’s instinctive affection for her mother. So even when Siow Ling disapproved of her behaviour, she never spoke to her about it.

As a child, Siow Ling did not like school. She attended nursery but could not even remember the nursery rhymes. Her dislike for studies continued into primary school. She hated the stern look on her teacher’s face and the boring lessons. She did not understand what was taught at school and since no one at home could help her in her homework, most of it was left undone.  Thinking that she was lazy, her teacher would cane her in front of the class.  The humiliating experience only added to her sense of frustration and hatred for schools. 

At the age of 9, Siow Ling started playing truant. It began innocuously when she fell asleep in the bus on her way to school.  Realising that it was too late to go back, she decided to skip school that day.  That was the start of a long string of absences which eventually caught the attention of the principal who insisted on her reporting to him everyday from then on.  At about the same time, Siow Ling failed her Primary Four streaming examination and was sent to the monolingual stream. When she turned 13, she decided that enough was enough and simply refused to go to school anymore. 
For Siow Ling, the point of no return came when she was about 11 and feeling desperately unhappy.  That year, her real father died and her mother also fell in love with a younger man. She often brought Siow Ling along to wait for him outside his house, and for the first time, Siow Ling began to question her mother’s behaviour. She wanted to know why she could not spend time with her, why she was lavishing money and gifts on her when she did not need either. But once again she bit her tongue and kept her feelings to herself. 

Around this time, they moved into a flat in Tiong Bahru and life became more miserable for Siow Ling. One of the bedrooms was converted into a mahjong room for her mother’s Hokkien association friends-cum- gambling “kakis”. As strangers came and went, even home did not feel like a secure haven anymore.

After quitting school, Siow Ling helped out at her mother’s stall in a coffeeshop.  It was then that she got to know Teck Meng through an ex-school mate who lived in the neighbourhood where she worked. The ex-school mate was the girlfriend of Teck Meng’s brother. In many ways, the two were emotional opposites. While Teck Meng was active and loved hanging out with friends at billiard halls, she was quiet and preferred to spend time together as a couple.  Despite the differences, they persisted with their relationship.

When Siow Ling’s mother learnt about their relationship, she objected strongly to it because she did not think that Teck Meng was good enough for her daughter. Both mother and daughter had furious rows and Siow Ling left home several times. Siow Ling could not understand why her mother who had never taken an active interest in her when she was a child was suddenly showing such intrusive concern over her love life. Many quarrels later, her mother finally realised that accepting Teck Meng was the only way to reconcile with her daughter. She eventually did and even got him to work for her at her food stall.

But before the dust could settle, Siow Ling was hit by a bombshell. She discovered that she was six-months pregnant.

She did not tell anyone except for Teck Meng, the father of her child.  She was aided in her deception by the fact that her mother was hardly home. During her pregnancy, she neither visited a gynaecologist nor made preparations for the baby’s arrival. She was 13 and knew next to nothing about pregnancy and delivery. As it turned out, she went into labour without even realising it. She thought it was stomach cramp.  Miraculously, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl without any complications.

As Siow Ling was under-aged, the hospital had to notify the authorities who suggested that the baby be put up for adoption.  But Siow Ling would have none of it and it was eventually decided that her mother would act as the child’s guardian while the child would carry Siow Ling’s surname.
Siow Ling settled into her role of a mother quickly, learning the skills from her sister-in-law who had given birth around the same time. Parenthood brought a sense of responsibility to the couple who started to take their work at the coffee shop seriously, selling food from 6pm to 6am daily. Everything seemed to be falling into place – until her arrest for dealing in opium one fateful day.

For those who knew Siow Ling’s background, this did not come as a surprise.  Her real father was an opium smoker and as a child, Siow Ling was told to buy it either for his consumption or as a prayer item for the altar. She was told that it was a sedative that could alleviate pain. So Siow Ling never saw opium smoking as a vice.

By the time she turned 11, Siow Ling had moved from buying opium for her family to acting as a decoy for an aunt who sold the drug.  She would follow this aunt everywhere, little knowing that she was in fact serving as a cover for the drug dealing. By 13, Siow Ling was so familiar with the business that she became an independent courier. She would collect the drug from an uncle, ‘Ah Heng’, and despatched it in smaller quantities to the buyers. It was her boss who arranged her opium transactions with Ah Heng.

Necessity also played a part in Siow Ling’s involvement in the drug business. Her family needed the money. Her mother was a ‘tontine’1 head but while she was serving time for her part in some stolen goods scam, several members of her tontine group ran off with the money. Being the head, she had to make good the loss to the other members. That was when Siow Ling started despatching opium. She wanted to help her mother pay back the tontine money.

The opium she dealt in soon grew in volume and frequency – from weekly transactions to once every two days. The demands of her clients also took a different form.  Instead of raw opium, they now asked for cooked opium – a request she readily acceded to because she could earn more money from it. Ironically, she saw very little of the money because her boss collected all of it, leaving her with only the “loose change”. 

It was also ironical that when Siow Ling was busted for the drug, it was supposed to be her last transaction. She was quitting because the weariness of cooking and selling the opium was taking a heavy toll on her.  As she could only cook the opium at night, she had to stay up till the next morning to complete the cooking. This upset her routine, especially in the caring of her child. The ever-increasing amount of opium that she was made to deal in also frightened her. Her boss was getting ambitious and the fear of getting caught with a large volume of drugs was getting to her.

Although such a scenario had loomed at the back of her mind, her arrest by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) still came as a traumatic shock. She did not know how to react and her mind went completely blank. But her instincts told her to protect her boss at all costs. She simply could not rat on him because that would surely send him to the gallows.  She was emotionally too close to him to do that.  She would keep mum and protect as many people as she could.

Emotionally, she had no support. She was depressed and it got worse when she finally realised how naive she was in hoping that the boss whom she had protected would do something to help her.  Do what?  Surrender himself?  In the end, she had to accept the fact that she alone was to shoulder the blame.

This was not her only piece of naivety. For some reason, Siow Ling thought she would serve her sentence in Toa Payoh Girls’ Home and could leave as soon as she turned 21.  The harsh reality sank in only after she was transferred from the Girls’ Home to Changi Women’s Prison. Even then, she thought it was only for the short term. It did not help that her family members tried to cheer her up by giving her false hope. It was several years later that she came to accept that she would spend the rest of her teenage years – and more – in prison.

For the first two years of her life in prison, she cried herself to sleep every night. She was overwhelmed by a sense of betrayal and hopelessness. She was also struggling to cope with life inside the prison walls. As a way of coping, she deliberately choked off her feelings for the people on the outside, including her daughter.  Everything seemed so bleak and hopeless.

But she found a shaft of light at the end of her tunnel in 1994 when she decided to embrace Christianity. She started reading the Bible and through her weekly religious counselling, found strength and hope. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, she decided to make the most of her time in prison. In 1995, she took up studies. She completed her BEST and WISE classes and went on to do her ‘O’ levels where she scored five ‘As’ and a ‘B’, making her Changi Women Prison’s top student for 1998. Her goal is to pursue a degree in Economics or Management.

Siow Ling is determined that her child, Tammy, would not go the same way as her. Even though she is in prison, she takes pains to make the best childcare arrangements for her daughter because she knows the importance of proper supervision and guidance. This is the best that she can do for now.  But as she watches Tammy grow up, she will be longing for the day when she can provide her with the motherly care and affection for which she once craved but never received.

1 Tontine is an illegal group of members who contribute to a pool of funds on a monthly basis. Any member in need of money could bid for the funds and pay back the rest of the members with interest the subsequent months. The head of the Tontine would collect and distribute the money to the members accordingly.
Take Now, Pay Later

Nothing in the early years of young Carlton suggested that he would live a life of crime. Coming from a comfortable, middle-class family, Carlton never tasted poverty, let alone hunger.  Still he was not always happy as his parents could never satisfy all his wants which even at a young age, were many.

He had an eye for beautiful things.  When he saw his classmates with nice water tumblers, pencil boxes, pens and note-books, he pestered his parents to buy them.  He would not take “no” for an answer and more often than not, his parents would give in.

Of course things did not always go his way.  There were times when his parents stood their ground. That would upset young Carlton who would spend the day thinking how he could get around the problem.  One day, he heard the shopkeeper in his school telling a student that he could have the items “on credit”. “You can take them now and pay me tomorrow,” added the man. “Wow! Take now, pay later. What a wonderful word ‘credit’ is,” thought Carlton.

That day, he made a list of the things he wanted on credit. Over the next few days, he took freely from the shop – pencil case, playing cards, snakes and ladders game etc.  As the list of things that he took grew longer and longer, the size of his bills got bigger.  He used his pocket money to pay off some of his debts to the shop but it was never enough.  He resorted to borrowing from his classmates but there was always the question of how he was going to repay them after that.   He ended up avoiding both shopkeeper and classmates because he could not pay either.  He skipped classes and stopped answering calls at home.  Sometimes he would steal from his parents to pay his debts.  Carlton Goh was a very desperate 10-year-old.

His parents caught him stealing a few times and they caned him quite severely. After the lashes, they would bring him to one corner and explain to him why he was punished. He could still remember the things they said to him – “It is wrong to steal”, “it is shameful to be a thief”, “study hard for a good future,” etc.  Unfortunately, their advice entered one ear and exited through the other.  Nothing interested Carlton other than how to avoid getting caught the next time.

When Carlton’s parents kept their wallets in a locked drawer, his supply of cash dried up and this worsened his financial woes. His day of reckoning came when his debtors finally complained to the principal who then summoned his parents. They listened in acute embarrassment as the shopkeeper and his classmates spoke about his pile of debts.   

Though shocked and disappointed, they quickly paid up. After the usual cane-cum-lecture, they decided to hold a meeting with his grandparents to get to the bottom of the problem. After a lengthy discussion, they concluded that the boy had behaved in this manner because he had stepped on something “unclean”.  He was duly sent to a temple to be cleansed of evil spirits. 

Despite his incorrigible ways, Carlton did well in school. For his good work, Carlton’s parents fulfilled his every wish – they bought him show dogs, remote control cars and expensive bicycles. When Carlton was in secondary one, he scored an average 95% for all subjects.  He was the school’s top student that year.  But success did not stop him from living on credit.  If anything, he took advantage of his popularity to borrow even more from his classmates. And when he could not repay his friends, he simply avoided them or stopped taking their calls. 

At around this time, Carlton added a new and expensive hobby to his existing ones – girl-chasing. The fact that his father’s business failed in the 1985 downturn made no impression on him.  He only knew that he needed money to splash on the girls.  He was 16 and found skirt-chasing a fascinating pastime.  Then he came up with what he thought was an ingenious way of making money. Somehow, he managed to rustle the $500 needed to open a current account with POSB.  Whenever he was low on cash, he would simply write out a cheque – even though he knew that he had no funds to honour it. At 18, he was writing two to three bad cheques a day.

But the scam came at a high price. After months of writing dud cheques, every police officer was on his tail.  He decided to leave home to avoid arrest.  But he was far from fearful. In fact, he became even more brazen.  One day, he walked into a second-hand car shop and drove away a gleaming BMW 320IA, after issuing a cheque for the downpayment, insurance and transfer fees. With cheque-book in hand, he wielded the pen like a magical wand. Just a quick scrawl and what he wanted was his.  

His days of wine and roses ended when someone tipped the police off on his whereabouts.  He was arrested but not before stashing away a sizeable sum of money,  a wardrobe of designer clothes, a gold Rolex watch and a limited edition of Tag Heuer.  

After two years in Reformative Training, he was released and got a job as a sales executive with a global electronic company.  Soon after, with the cash he had hidden away, he bought a brand new Toyota MR2 and fitted it with a body-kit of Kaminari (the Japanese Ferrari) accessories.    

One day while topping up his tank at a petrol kiosk, he befriended a man who claimed to be some big shot in the Toyota MR2 Club in Singapore. The man complimented Carlton’s car and invited him to join his club. It was a godsend to rub shoulders with the rich and famous!  The club’s outings were exclusive and memorable affairs but they also burnt a big hole in his pocket.  He was way out of his depth trying to keep up with the Joneses who were raking in $150,000 a year...

To sustain his opulent lifestyle, he returned to living on credit.  He would purchase items on credit to feed his urge to soup up his car, knowing full well that he did not have the money to pay the installments. In desperation, he came up with sob stories to milk his friends of large sums. With these loans, he managed to settle his debts and even had enough to buy a second-hand BMW 316IA with an 80% loan on a monthly installment of $2,150.  He started doing up his BMW but this time the bills were even heftier because he was driving a BMW instead of a Toyota.

He later resigned from the electronic company and joined a freight forwarding firm as a sales executive because he had been told that there were lots of money in this business. He soon got his contacts to send their cargoes to his warehouse which secured his company big bucks and earned him enough commission to cover his monthly car installment as well as repay some of his earlier loans.
Things were looking up.  With his income, he became the VIP guest of exclusive clubs and held special (gold, platinum, and titanium) memberships worth thousands of dollars. He rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous who shared his passion for women and cars.  Inside the club, he matched them dollar for dollar, blowing thousands on bottles of Louis XIII just to impress them.  He was generous with tips and was popular wherever he went.  Word spread quickly and soon he was the guy of every girl’s dreams. He was flooded by calls from girls he did not even know. 

His next venture was a pro-shop selling accessories and performance parts for luxury cars.  He set up shop with two partners but did not quit his freight forwarding job because the money was still good.  He was driving a BMW 325IA Cabriolet by day and a Porsche Carrera 4 by night.  Later, he upgraded to a Mercedes 300SL 24v and a Ferrari 348 GTB. He also bought himself a studio apartment in Spanish Village condominium.

His pro-shop business was booming but the good times did not last. Competition was very keen.  Being a small company, they had to buy many of their accessories from local distributors. The fact that every shop in town was fighting for the same accessories led to the distributors upping their prices.  His partners decided to increase the number of individual shares in the company to raise the money to import the parts directly from the principal supplier. It was easy for them since they had rich fathers.  But for Carlton, his only financial resource was the loansharks of Geylang. 
Carlton felt frustrated and depressed.  Already most of his money had gone to paying off the interest for his illicit loans. How could he afford to borrow again. At this time, he cast his mind on Khamis, one of the most wanted white collar criminals in Singapore history who ran away with his money. He imagined him sitting pretty in one of his mega-yachts and sipping the finest wine.  He could be like that too. A plan was hatched.  He started siphoning money from his company.
As for the loansharks, he decided it was time to pay them back in their own coin. He told them that he was expecting a big shipment of accessories that would require big money to buy.  He asked for a mammoth sum which ought to have set alarm bells ringing.  But the ‘sharks’, blinded by their greed, agreed to lend him the money.
Shortly after Carlton pocketed the money, he took the night flight out of
Singapore.  His mobile phone was apparently still within receiving range when he heard the voice of his pro-shop partner, Michael.  Trembling with rage, he wanted to know where Carlton was.  When Carlton lied that he was at Lei Garden, his favourite restaurant, Michael barked: “You still have the appetite to eat? Do you know that the police and gangsters are searching everywhere for you?”  In answer, Carlton laughed his cynical laugh. And then the line went dead.

By the time Carlton transited in Korea, he knew both police and debtors would be at his home. He was worried about how his parents would take the news of his absconding.  He wanted to call them.  But he changed his mind as soon as he entered the phone booth. His calls might be traced.  He could not afford to give himself away. He had gone too far to feel remorseful now.    

He hid away in a state of 130,000 people, thousands of kilometres from Singapore. He thought he would feel safe but instead he felt mentally drained and tense.  He was a fugitive on the run in a foreign land and although he could buy anything he wanted, he could not buy the peace of mind he craved.  Whenever he was in the public, he felt watched and this made him paranoid.

He also could not take up a job for fear that he would be detected. Cooped up in the house like an animal, he felt as if he was serving time in a gilded cage. Loneliness made him pack his house with new friends but it could not disguise the emotional void within him.  And after they left, he felt lonely and despondent again.

Although he enjoyed himself at times – hanging out at the beaches and partying at night – he never got used to the solitude.  After much agonizing, he decided to pack it in.  On 1 June 1995, he returned to Singapore. He spent the day attending to some personal matters before he walked into the Central Police Station at 10.30pm and gave himself up. Strange as it might seem, he felt a tremendous sense of relief after his surrender.

Looking back, Carlton regretted his “take now, pay later” philosophy.   He wanted all things beautiful and he wanted them instantly. To achieve that, there was only one thing he could do – beg, borrow or steal.  He did all three and for a while, it enabled him to live a life of opulence. But he could not sustain it for long because robbing Peter to pay Paul was never the way to go.  That seems clear enough now.  Sadly for him, it wasn’t back then.   

More Untold Stories.


Ah Seng, the Samseng

Sir, you might find this very childish.  Even though I managed to keep away from my Secret Society (SS) brothers for about five years, I returned to join the SS because I was influenced by the show ‘The Bund’. ” 

With these simple words, Ah Seng, a Criminal Law Detainee in Tanah Merah Prison explained his return to the underworld.

“The Bund” was a hit television series of the 1980s that starred popular Hong Kong actor Lu Liang Wei in the leading role of Ding Li, a lightweight gangster who rose to become the kingpin of the triads in Old Shanghai. Ding Li represented the brash, lawless face of Old Shanghai. He was deeply involved in activities like running gambling and prostitution dens and opium smuggling. He also had links with influential figures in Chinese politics and personified the ultimate godfather who was impartial and fearless.

At first glance, the slightly-built Ah Seng, in his 40s, did not look like a SS General Headman, let alone resemble the debonair image of his screen hero, Ding Li. But there were parallels between them in that both came from humble backgrounds. The eighth child in a family of seven boys and three girls, Ah Seng’s father died when he was 13 and his mother raised her children single-handedly as a vegetable rice seller.        

When he was young, Ah Seng was looked after by his grandparents who doted on him. Although his schoolwork was satisfactory, he was not interested in studies.  Instead he longed to be a gangster.  The old Kallang Airport area where he grew up was a hotbed of secret society activities in the 1970s. There were at least four major groups operating in the area – Sio Kun Tong, Ang Koon, Hong Hong San and Sio Gi Ho. As a kid, Ah Seng hung out with gangsters and was obsessed with becoming one. 

At 12, he dropped out of school to pursue his dream of becoming a secret society kingpin.  Despite his young age, he was accepted by a SS group. Barely six months later, he was made a Headman with 10 to 15 boys under his wings.  As the Old Kallang Airport area was a bitterly contested territory,  Ah Seng saw his share of action in the turf wars of the SS groups. Averaging one clash a day, he was kept busy. Not that he was complaining. In fact, he was like a pitbull straining at the leash, waiting eagerly for the next fight to show off his ferocity and aggression. 

Ah Seng distinguished himself in these bloody clashes.  His reputation soared with every victory and led to his meteoric rise within the group.  He was recognised as a gutsy warrior and a rousing leader of men. His fierce loyalty to his gang and his implacable sense of justice earned him many admirers. His star was shining.

Despite the dangers, Ah Seng never thought about death.  Instead he was addicted to the adrenaline rush of a gang clash and always looked forward to the next fight. Money was never a factor as he did not join the SS for material gain. He was more interested in winning fame and the respect of both friends and foes in the underworld.   

Being actively involved in triad activities, it was only a matter of time before Ah Seng got into trouble with the law.  It came in the mid-1970s when a rival gang member was killed in a clash and he and some of his members were charged with culpable homicide.  He was sentenced to three years’ jail.

Time in prison gave him the opportunity to reflect and he began to realise that the SS had led him on a destructive path, and caused his family anguish and heartbreak. Seeing his aged mother visit him in prison filled him with remorse.  

He vowed to steer clear of the SS after his release. When he left prison, he went to work for his brother.  But fate decreed that he could not stay away for long. This was the 1980s and the television series “The Bund” was the talk of the town.  While the programme was mere entertainment fodder for the man-in-the-street, it struck an emotional chord with Ah Seng who saw in the lead character, Ding Li, everything that he aspired to be.  In another twist of fate, at that time there was a vacancy in the group’s upper ranks which badly needed filling in. Without a strong hand to lead it, the group faced certain obliteration by its rivals. Having grown up with the gang, Ah Seng simply could not let that happen.

He marked his return with some spectacular victories over the rival gangs. With his leadership and tigerish ferocity, he revitalised the group and inflicted painful thrashings on his rivals. His group won control of many areas and became prominent in the underworld. But this new-found fame also attracted the attention of the police.  Ah Seng was arrested in 1983 and detained under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act.

Even while he was in prison, Ah Seng’s stocks went up because of the belief that only “heavyweights” get detained under the Act. As a result, he showed no remorse for his misdeeds.  But things changed when his mother died in the mid-1980s. Her death hit him hard. Being in jail, he could not see her for the last time, and that to him was unforgivable.  He regretted the sorrow he had caused her and his failure to take care of her when she was alive.  He vowed to turn over a new leaf.

When Ah Seng was released in 1989, his friends tried to get him to rejoin the gang but he refused. He told them that he had made up his mind and was determined to keep his promise to his late mother. Although disappointed, they respected his decision and left him alone. 

At around this time, Ah Seng fell in love with Mary, a sweet 23-year-old administrative officer who worked in the same company as him. It was love at first sight and he courted her assiduously. Mary knew about his past but was won over by his sincerity.  They married in the 1990s and soon after she bore him a daughter. Now a family man, Ah Seng was even more determined to steer clear of illegal activities.

But he was unhappy with his lack of progress at the company where he worked.  Despite working hard, he was going nowhere. Now that he had a family to feed, money was important. He wanted to provide his family with a higher standard of living, but he also knew that on his meagre salary, he could not do so.

In his moment of frustration, Ah Seng found his friends’ tales of easy money tempting bait.  Although he did not rejoin his gang, he still kept in touch with the members. He knew about developments in the gang and even acted as their counsellor. As they described how easy and lucrative it was to peddle pirated VCD tapes, Ah Seng listened with growing interest. As a sweetener, they offered him the position of General Headman if he agreed to come back. It was an offer he could not refuse.  

As a General Headman, Ah Seng commanded hundreds of men and masterminded activities like loan sharking, illegal gambling, extortions and the selling of pirated VCDs.  Where he once joined the gang for the fame and excitement, he now went in for the money.  Takings from these activities provided Ah Seng and his men with a lavish lifestyle of drinking and clubbing.  

Being a senior gang member, Ah Seng did not have to be personally involved in the clashes. He played a back-end role and ran the gang’s businesses professionally and ruthlessly. Respect for him shot up further. As his gang became richer, the number of his supporters grew.

But now that he had a family, Ah Seng was no longer the fearless warrior of old.  He was afraid that if he died, no one would take care of his family. He started putting younger men in leadership positions to pave the way for his retirement. It worked for a while. Under this new generation, Ah Seng’s SS group continued to grow in number and influence. Satisfied, he left the group and went back to work for his brother.  However, he held on to his position of General Headman and was still consulted by members on major issues.

The new generation of SS Headmen proved to be a different breed.  They were more reckless and antagonistic, and saw negotiations as a sign of weakness. Clashes between Ah Seng’s group and rival gangs grew more frequent, usually over issues of turf and “face”. Even within the group, there was a lack of solidarity, resulting in numerous disagreements and fights.  

Because of the serious situation, Ah Seng had to come out of retirement to mediate the clashes that were happening with alarming frequency. He could no longer keep a low profile.  His constant presence at settlement talks made him a target of the Secret Societies Branch (SSB). Soon, the SSB uncovered his involvement in extortion rackets and illegal VCD operations.  In 2000, armed with the evidence, SSB officers detained him under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act.

Although he had tried his best, Ah Seng admitted on hindsight that the chances of severing his ties with the SS were slim.   His entire life had been built around the SS and his emotional bond with the brothers with whom he had gone through thick and thin, was too strong to break.  They had gone into battle together and put their lives in one another’s hands. A friendship forged in battle was not something anyone could give up easily. When it came to the crunch, Ah Seng could not muster the will to walk away from it all. He summed it up best when he said “Once you are in, it will be very difficult to get out.  You can stay away from the action, but you will always be regarded as a brother.” Like so many SS members before him, bonding had become bondage for Ah Seng.

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