The fifty-acre fabrication yard lied opposite the Pulau Ubin. Ali and the other 600 workers were busy with their jobs. Engines roared and shrilled. Okai Kong, a foreman was brought up in JB but a Singapore citizen. He had small and narrow eyes, which were located too close to the nose. The side burns, beard and mustaches gave others the impression he was Japanese. His favorite means of pleasing young ladies was to buy them expensive perfumes, the most up to date dresses and shoes.
” If you are smart you don’t have to come from Indonesia to work here,” Okai Kong yelled at Tan.
The humiliated worker perspired under the fierce hot sun. He came from Batam and the $1300 he makes every month is for his family. Tan liked to bring his girl friend to watch the setting sun at the Punggol beach. One Sunday the couple went back late. Before Tan could step into the car, a man approached from behind with a coke bottle grasped in the right hand. That bottle landed on the top of Tan’s head, leaving him sprawling on the sand. The assailant vanished into the forest. Tan’s girl fried cried but managed to stop the bleeding. When Tan woke up the next morning, it was 11 o’clock in the hospital. The matter could not be investigated further. For his personal safety Tan was advised to leave Singapore. Not many people in the yard knew the coke bottle incident. Many months passed and as could be expected, one incident after another cropped up at this construction site, where there were many empires within the company, and unless you belonged to one of them, your service cannot last more than three months there, regardless of whether you are a bachelor degree or a PhD holder.
” You trainees are villains,” Okai Kong shouted at the boys. ” You don’t work hard and you keep on complaining about the foremen.”
” You rapacious villain. When I kick, you’ll never stand on your feet again,” Ali assured him.
The matter reached the Personnel Manager who actually sided Okai Kong. The reputation of the trainees went from bad to worst. The finger was pointing at the engineers who interviewed these trainees and found them to be worth employing.
One Saturday night, Okai Kong invited his girl friend to dance at Bar 69. Ali happened to be there.
” That’s my helper,” Okai Kong told his girl. ” There are twenty of them in the company. I don’t know why they want to work there. Prospects are not good in that company. You have to curry favours to progress. No one takes the better of you.”
” Hey Ali, I saw you last night at the dance. Why didn’t you bring a girl along?” Okai Kong asked sarcastically and went on, ” If you leave the company and work in an office, there will be plenty of girls for you to tackle. If you become a bus driver, you can also meet lots of girls.”
Ali blushed and did not know what to say next. He waited until evening and stopped Okai Kong at the gate for an explanation of the topic of girls in the morning.
” Please don’t denigrate me again. I’m better educated than you and may one day hold a higher position than you.”
” That’s still to be seen,” Okai Kong sneered scornfully.
” You are jealous of us because you don’t have half our qualification. You don’t even have a Primary 6 certificate. Every one knows how you got a job in this company. My annual reports are full of accusations and lies. If you can just prove one item mentioned in the report, the management would have terminated my service long ago.”
” Yes. That’s what the company is considering now. Do you want to be the first to go? Do you want to be the hero?”
” If I go, you will be the next to go, don’t you know bastard? You and your cronies have been using the material issue vouchers to draw a lot of materials and sell them to the hardware shops. Shall I write to the managing director about his? What about the service requisition you raised? Only half the labourers turned up to work. The labour suppliers must have given you a lot of money? No wonder you have so much money to put up girls in the hotel rooms waiting to entertain those engineers, department heads, and the engineering managers? Aren’t you afraid of bad karma? You’re only good to fan the flames and beat the drums in this company. Racism exists in every country, but not as bad as in this company. Your barbaric lust for sex, money and power will never be satisfied. You blamed the wrong persons, things, spirits, and celestial beings, as the cause of your pains and sufferings. You want more and more every day. ”
Suddenly Okai Kong kicked Ali on the head. Ali fell but struggled on his feet again. Ali charged at Okai Kong like a mad bull and both of them dropped into the monsoon drain. Ali’s hands were on Okai Kong’s throat. Okai Kong went unconscious.
A week later, Okai Kong found Abdul, a fitter trainee, sleeping in the warehouse and terminated his services straight away even though Abdul had earlier requested for leave because of fever. As Okai Kong was handing over the termination letter, Abdul punched him on the nose. Blood spurted all over the wretched and maladjusted victim’s body.
This seemingly tough foreman wanted to avenge. He bought a samurai sword and left it in his car. Losing the job did not matter really much for Abdul. In order to eat honestly Abdul had to work hard. He bought a hoe and a long knife to clear his kumpong land.
Four years passed and Abdul’s fruit trees began to blossom. His produce from the land was then many times more than what he could ever receive from the former construction company. Abdul’s daughter, who worked in an emporium, was pretty enough to be the queen of any king. Okai Kong spent a lot of money to seduce her and fathered the child that was in her. Abdul did not know who the father was until one day when Okai Kong came to his orchard to declare that Salmah was very juicy on bed, and that Salmah should now tell the whole world that the sky-god had fathered the child that is in her.
” You must be working terribly hard these days,” Okai Kong put on a smiling face.
” Bloody dog. What do you want?” Abdul spat at him.
Okai Kong snatched the hoe and charged at Abdul who rolled in time to pick up a bean stake. Within seconds the hoe landed on Abdul’s face but Abdul managed to pierce the enemy’s stomach with the wood.
The cries and howls attracted the attention of the neighbours. Salmah was shocked to find out her prince charming was the bitterest enemy of her father. When the child was born Salmah took him to Canada where she was to begin her career as a domestic servant. We later heard that Salmah found an Ang Mo who was formerly a Singapore PR. This gentleman married her and also took care of Salmah’s first child. Why did the Singaporeans at home think of her as a loose woman?
After five years behind the iron bars, this thug was again ready for troubles. One December night when Abdul was catching the insects and worms on the vegetable plots, Okai Kong rushed out from the lalang and thrust a gun at him.
” Cool down, Okai Kong. Do you want to create a lot more bad karma? Are you going to suffer perpetually ?”
” A rustic like you know better than me. Tell me before you die: why are the good men poor and the evil ones rich?”
” A man might be living a clean life formerly and is therefore now prosperous. The evil ones too might be living a clean life formerly and is now prosperous. Unfortunately they may not be able to continue to lead a clean life this time because forces like greed and hatred are very strong. Not many people are able to resist them. I once saw you pushing a welder into the sea and you killed him with the current from the welding machine. I did not report this to the police because I was the only witness. The investigation reports said that welder created a short circuit in the water to kill a big fish and that he jumped into the water to collect that fish and was therefore was killed. You bastards are very good in making up stories.”
” That son of the bitch was a thorn on my neck. He wrote to the Prime Minister’s department complaining that the foremen and the engineers were running their own company to bring in Filipino engineers to work as skilled technicians here and they deprived the locals of many jobs. Why should I care if Singaporeans are jobless? A postmortem confirmed the bastard was drowned. Are you smarter than the doctor? That bastard also made up story that I was assisting Baskaran to cheat our company on those technicians whom Baskaran took to work on the rigs. He said Baskaran took away more that 20 technicians from our company every day, and Baskaran was only paying back the salary of one technician per day. Why do you think I should help Baskaran to cheat our own company? Why do you think I should help Baskaran to smuggle materials out from our warehouse? I don’t even trust that bastard. He can smile at you and at the next moment, when you turn your back, he can stab you from the back.”
” Say what you want. The welder is dead and can’t argue now. Baskaran can give you thousands of dollars every week. What are you going to do with all those money? To buy a coffin made of solid gold for yourself? I can see all the evils written on your ugly face. Sooner or later your retribution will come. Don’t you remember your own crony George Sadas? The senior foreman who was so greedy that every day he must receive something from the subcontractors? So the cheapest way was to give him a bottle of Black Label every day. This greedy ghost took the liquor without diluting it with water. He could not sleep every night, so again he had to drown himself by the concentrated liquor. He died of liver cancer within one year. Today our best joke in the yard is that the bastard drowned himself in the cunt which was full of liquor, because all the ladies who worked under him must also satisfy him sexually or their contract would be terminated.”
Abdul’s anxious wife Chiku came to look for him when he did not return at the time he normally did. This thug, horrified by the appearance of someone, pulled the trigger. Abdul fell silently. Chiku dashed over only to find him dead. Okai Kong pointed the gun at the petrified woman, who was too shocked to shed tears.
” If you move, you die too,” he made it clear.
Okai Kong pushed her on the grass, tore her blouse and pulled down her sarong and jabbed his evil root into her. When the animal tension was released, he took the gun and knocked her on the head. The woman too lost her life.
Investigation cleared up the rape and murder mystery. Okai Kong’s lawyer begged the High Court for leniency saying that Okai Kong’s parents were slashed to death in front of Okai Kong when he was only five years old, and that it was a neighbour who brought Okai Kong up. According to psychiatrists this childhood incident affected his life unfavourably.
On the gallows, Okai Kong told the executioner that the untimely death was to be blamed on the society that failed him. He was only partly right. The truth was, Okai Kong was killed by his own greed.
Copyright © 2005 Poh Tiong Ho
In many countries, many foreign talents have to face the jealous locals because these locals are actually suffering from inferiority-complex. Just like the blue colar worker who refused to put on the blue coverall because he thought white would attract more girls.