Inevitable clutch of long arm of the law

What I’ve learned to do is arrest my addiction – arrest it myself, so I don’t get arrested.

Rodney King, African American man who was a victim of police brutality

After editing most of crime and police stories, I can humbly say that the Penal Code is at my finger tip, just like blind-typing.

As I now write, I recall about my own arrest by the police on Gawai Day in 1997 – together with 58 others for attending an unlicensed cockfight just about 100 metres from SMK Saratok, which I headed 12 years earlier. 

Interestingly, prior to our trip to the cock pit – they said it was licensed (but in fact put up an expired permit) – we were enjoying ourselves dancing to Gawai songs while on a goodwill festive visit (ngabang) at Mendas longhouse just five minutes’ drive from ours (Kedap). But my two elder brothers, Edward and Jon insisted that we go nyabung at the cockfighting pit just next to the secondary school. So, it was from ngabang to nyabung.

We used my then brand-new Proton Saga (bought cash after a good 4D strike) and parked a short distance from the menalan sabung (cockfighting pit). As usual I’m not really fond of the cock fights per se. Then next to the pit there was a four-card betting game sikipoi in progress and most enthusiasts there knew me as a regular game punter.

After a four-figure win I joined my cousin Datuk Amar Dunstan Endawie Enchana (now deceased) at a food and drink counter – and ordered a few bottles of beer. We were really in the midst of an enjoyable moment when we got startled by a gunshot and a yell ordering us with ‘jangan bergerak’ (don’t move). 

A good number of cops in plainclothes – at least eight of them – were immediately in their element, with some being seen chasing punters who were running faster than Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt, with the hope of escape. But not all were able to hide from the long arm of the law as shown by the big number caught. I was the 59th in their conquest.

Initially, when Endawie was taken aside by a policeman (I found out later he was a sergeant) I told the man I was Endawie’s driver and confirmed by my cousin but he only let the former Malaysian high commissioner to New Zealand and a former deputy chief minister escape the arrest. The plainclothes cops were from Sri Aman but certainly recognised the former Krian assemblyman. This was a good measure by the men in blue whereby they let colleagues from other districts to do the raiding, thus avoiding any act of nepotism.

We were later transported by police Landcruiser to the Saratok police station and I was placed at the front seat and had to hide my face when passing by a roadside longhouse because standing at the door was Chapum Usop (now deceased) who was my groundsman at SMK Saratok.

At the police station our statements were recorded. I had no choice but to tell the police corporal that I was a private college lecturer in Kuching. We had to deposit RM200 each as bail. When done with the statement, I called my cousin Win Meludin @ Jang (now deceased) to pick me up and send me to my car parked near the cockpit. It was around 9pm but luckily the car was intact.

Jang told me a policeman was about to arrest him during the raid but was punched by him and was probably indisposed for a while as during the arrest, one of the eight handcuffs was unaccounted for – only after a while it was discovered that a holo (a dice-based gambling game) maestro Ah Moh was still handcuffed embracing a tree by one of the cops who was the one knocked out by Jang.

When reaching home in Kedap, I found out both my brothers were safe. Edward said he ran far into the oil palm plantation with another guy while Jon had an interesting tale to share. He was bringing a rooster with him and escaped into the bushes at a hill overlooking a fish pond by the roadside.

It was a difficult but hilarious moment when he had to close the beak of the gamecock to stop it from crowing as there were two cops waiting by the fishpond for fleers. He noticed them netting at least three of the escaping punters, thereby distracting the cops’ attention, a blessing in disguise for Jon.

We appeared at the Saratok Magistrate’s Court on June 9. I was the only one mitigating (in English) during our case that was heard by magistrate Nixon Kennedy Kumbong (later he was Sessions Court judge). I was fined RM140 in lieu of two weeks’ jail (and claimed the RM60 balance). It was the lowest fine compared to an uncle’s RM380. All were charged under the Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and all paid the fines.

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