There are 350 varieties of shark, not counting loan and pool.

– L. M. Boyd, newspaper columnist

Actions by enforcement personnel of the Kuching South City Council (MBKS) to tear down or destroy notices or so-called advertisements pasted by licensed moneylending companies on posts and trees in its area of jurisdiction some time ago should continue.

In a way or two it did help to contain, if not to totally solve, the act of borrowing money from these moneylenders. After all, those who need to borrow for reasons known to themselves only, have no other way to get the extra cash needed.

A friend of mine who is very familiar with the situation and who has confided in me about his predicament pertaining to the moneylending sorority pointed out that these moneylending companies are not much different from the unlicensed ahlong or loan sharks.

Moneylenders charge very high interest for money borrowed from them, ranging from eight to 20 percent, the man told me. This was confirmed by a senior officer from one of the enforcement agencies who is my cousin.

From Kota Samarahan to Tenth Mile, from Bau to Serian, from Tanjung Datu to Lawas, these moneylenders thrive steadily on the high interests they charge on their clients, who include government servants, company workers, pensioners and other salaried members of the public who are required to leave their ATM cards or bank book with the moneylenders.

They use the cards or the bank book to withdraw their clients’ salaries at the end of the month, deduct the amount owed plus interest.

So if you owe them RM1, 000 they will deduct the interest accordingly – for example if the interest is 10 percent, RM100 is deducted. They will let the borrower get the balance. This is done on a monthly basis.

That friend of mine owes quite a huge amount and is paying monthly almost two thirds of his salary to cover his loan from a moneylending company in Seventh Mile. He is looking forward to July this year to finish paying that loan. I wish him well.

These moneylenders make it very easy for one to borrow from them. They make use of their clients to introduce their business to friends and relatives, encouraging these clients with the award of ‘commission’ of undisclosed amount. So it is a case of friends introducing friends; sounds good but actually this is helping the ahlong to make more money and create more miseries for your friends.

At the beginning, especially when a loan from ahlong is approved you would be happy but after suffering from shortage of fund even on pay day, then there comes the realisation that involvement in the ahlong fraternity is a mistake. Lack of fund means the client has to top up the loan, thereby adding further misery.

There have been cases of the ahlong’s so-called muscle going around looking for errant borrowers, including going to their workplaces; even going to school, if the borrower is a teacher or school staff.

This kind of act has caused so much stress and trauma for the borrowers as some ahlong even employ gangsters or those who look like one to claim payment from borrowers; in actual fact to harass them.

According to that cousin of mine, they have received a few complaints about these harassments with some already being acted upon and the muscle getting arrested but in an instant getting bailed out by their bosses.

Recently, according to news report, one of such moneylenders was arrested by police for taking the car of a client as collateral. It was said the male client failed to pay a loan amounting to RM1, 450. At the moment of writing, there is no further development on the case.

In Sibu Jaya a few months ago, another person known to me was also harassed by three men at his kampong house. He reportedly failed to pay his loan as he was out of work for a few months as the company where he worked closed down.

The man in his 50’s went to make a police report after the three “muscles” left. I am not sure of the case’s eventuality. There were many other reported cases of individuals, including high ranking government officials, being harassed by such men, whose bodies are usually covered by numerous tattoos to make them look more intimidating. 

This ahlong business started mushrooming in the first decade of the new millennium and gaining momentum in the second decade.

MBKS did the right thing by asking its enforcement personnel to go around pulling down ahlong notices and advertisements. In fact these officials should go around more often to contain the situation, including checking claims that these ahlong are keeping bank cards and books of clients.

Perhaps, the authorities should make some thorough checking on this keeping of clients’ ATM cards by money lending establishments. My understanding is that it is an offence to keep someone else’s ATM card.

A retired senior police officer concurred with me during our “coffee shop conference” prior to the announcement of the MCO (movement control order) by the Prime Minister recently.

As I see it, to most clients, ahlong are creating rather than solving their problems.

 The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.