What I Demand For, You Just Have To Give
(Background : Tong Seng Mun (TSM) together with a few friends imported copra from Sulawesi, Indonesia to sell to local oil refiners. To save cost, the copra was off-loaded at Outer Roads into tongkangs (cargo barges) and brought ashore into warehouses along the Singapore River bank, where UOB Plaza now stands.)
Botak (a member of the gang which “controlled”the Singapore River bank) : Shouting to Ah Kow who was helping to keep count on the number of sacks of copra brought ashore by the harbor labourers –“ Oui ! Lao Ae (老的)， I want you to put aside 100 sacks of copra for my “brothers and me. Quickly !”
Ah Kow :” Sorry. I am only the tally clerk. I cannot decide. Please talk to the boss who is standing over there”.
Botak : Walking over” Oui. I want you to tell your men to put aside 100 sacks of copra for my “brothers”. Now!”
TSM :” I am sorry it is very noisy here. I did not hear you properly. Can you please repeat what you said ?”
Botak : Shaking his fist in the air ,” Listen here. And listen good. I want you to put aside 100 sacks of copra for my “brothers”. Do it now !”
TSM : “ Nian Qing Ren (年清人) ，the 100 sacks is more than our profit. We went through so much trouble and spent so much time and money to import the copra. We need to at least make a little profit.”
Botak :”I couldn’t care less. What I demand for ,you just have to give” . Give or don’t give ? Just one word !”
TSM :” Listen. Let’s slow talk, can?. Each give way a little. No trouble. Can ? Whatever copra that had dropped from the sacks into the tongkang and on the road will be yours”.
Botak “: You siow (mad) ! You think my brothers and I are beggars ? Pick up from the floor ? If I don’t see the 100 bags when I come back an hour later, you can forget about loading along here. My brothers will throw your bags into the river. Give us 100 bags or see all your bags in the river. Your choice ! Remember l hour. Ok !”. Shaking his fist as he swaggered towards his Norton motor-cycle and rode off.
TSM : “ Nian Qing Ren (年清人), you are giving me no choice”.
TSM went to the public telephone booth nearby and made a call.
Operator :” Hello, Charge Room, Central”.
TSM :”Hello, Can you please put me to Head Investigation, ASP Cheong Yew Kong.”
Operator : “Who’s that speaking ?”
TSM :”Oh, Tong, his friend and old school mate”.
Operator :” Hold on, Sir while I connect him”
Ring , Ring.
ASP Cheong :” ASP Cheong here”,
TSM :” Hi Yew Kong, Seng Mun here. Can talk ?”
ASP Cheong “: Why not ? What’s the matter ?”
TSM :” Oh, I am now at Singapore River. Got some trouble. Need your help.. There is a young fellow who is demanding that I give him 100 bags of copra which I had imported from Indonesia. Said he will not allow me to unload. And will throw all my copra into the river if he did not get his 100 bags when he come back in an hour’s time”.
ASP Cheong :” Is that so ? Who’s this chap ?”
TSM :” Don’t know him. Said his name is Botak. Claimed his gang controls Singapore River.”
ASP Cheong :” Oh, Botak. Short stout fellow. Quite dark and with a tattoo on his right shoulder. I remember him. In and out of prison. Always making trouble. Big mouth. Useless bloke. Listen, Seng Mun, you wait at the coffee stall behind Ban Hin Lee Bank. I will send my chap, IO (Investigations Officer) Manna to meet you. He had dealt with Botak a number of times before. I am sure Botak will also remember Manna. What time is it now ? Ok, it is now 11.15am. He should reach you by 11.30am after he settled his report. Central to Singapore River. 5 mins walk. Let me know if Botak gives you troubles again.”
IO Manna arrived at the coffee stall behind Bank Hin Lee Bank and introduced himself to TSM. Shortly after that, Botak arrived. He stopped his motor-cycle alongside the tongkang and kept raving his motor-cycle engine before disembarking. He swaggered toward TSM. With arms akimbo, he purposely stood very close to TSM to invade his personal space as a form of intimidation. Ready to give trouble and show his power. Just then, he caught sight of IO Manna. His face suddenly went pale. Embarassed and not quite sure what to do. He pretended not to see IO Manna and turned around to walk back to his motor-cycle.
IO Manna :” Botak, come here !”
Botak : “Erh, Sgt Manna, you calling me ? What ?”
IO Manna :” Give me your “ting-kee”(Identity card)”.
Botak :” What for Sir, I just came here jalan jalan. Nothing lah. No trouble lah”.
IO Manna :” No trouble meh ? You big boss here, right ? Must give you 100 sacks of copra or you throw all into the river? Good! Go on, show me how you throw”.
Botak : “No lah Sir. Misunderstanding only lah. Told this gentleman, give us some. A bit to makan only lah”.
IO Manna :” This gentleman reported you demanded 100 sacks or you throw all his copra into the river. You bluff me or he bluff me ?”
Botak : “Sorry Sir. Misunderstanding lah. Chin-chye asked for some, for my brothers to share. Small amount also can”.
TSM :” Oh, so you are Botak? Just now so fierce. Now like a mouse. Scare of IO Manna. Think can makan me, right ? Still want 100 sacks ? Throw my copra into the river ?”
Botak :” No lah. Sorry, Sorry. Didn’t know you are Sgt Manna’s friend. Tell me earlier lah. Then no misunderstanding”.
IO Manna : “This gentleman is not just my friend. He is my big boss’ good friend. Picked on the wrong person. Asking for trouble”.
TSM:” I could have asked Ah Lao of Telok Ayer Basin/Lau Pa Sat,to deal with you. You little stinking shit. Want to act big. Open your eyes bigger. Find out who you are dealing with first. Nemm Chi Si (不 知 死 )。”
Turning to IO Manna, “ Thanks for your help, Manna. I will tell Yew Kong of your good works. I will come over to Central later to give my statement. Will you be in at around 4.00pm ?”