Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily
PETALING JAYA, August 26 (Sin Chew Daily) -- The 04 gang which blatantly challenged the police's authority of late is like other numbered gangs in the likes of 08, 36 and 18, having its origins in Chinese triads and was once dominated by Chinese. These gangs have now evolved into an Indian-centric presence with Chinese assuming the roles of "gold masters."
Criminologist Dr P. Sundramoorthy told Sin Chew Daily there are more than a hundred secret societies and gangs in the country, many of which have departed from their erstwhile closely-knit organisational structures with many gang members splintering to form independent units, resulting in a single gang splitting into many smaller factions.
Bukit Aman’s CID director Datuk Hadi Ho Abdullah pointed out that about 70% of gang members in the country are Indians, with Chinese and Malays making up the remaining 25% and 4.77% respectively.
"There are more and more rival gang factions in the country, especially the Indians, of which 04, 08, 18, 21 and 36 are the more prominent ones."
It is understood that Indian gang members started by working for Chinese gang leaders to carry out illicit activities before they slowly took over the dominant roles in such organisations. Today, Indians have become the mainstay of secret societies in Malaysia, making up almost 71% of all gang members.
According to police sources, the most ferocious and violent Indian gang is not the 04 that has made a lot of hoohahs recently, but the 36, considered a splinter unit from the old-time Chinese gang Hong Men.
Chinese members are still found in 36, but they are more like the "gold masters" involved in lawful businesses including real estate investment.
36 started to become active during the 1970s, and along with gang 18, has been said to be among the most active in drug-related activities.
The gang 04, five of whose key members perished in crossfire with the police lately, had its origins in Hua Kee, a very active secret society back in the 1980s.
According to police sources, after being taken over by Indian members, 04 broadened its scope of activities from collecting protection money and fighting for areas of dominance initially, to robberies, murders and other serious crimes as well as possession of firearms and weapons.
Some of the 04 members are even professional assassins, including the five killed by the police recently.
04 is currently most active in Penang, Perak and other areas in northern Malaysia while slowly gaining grounds in the coastal areas of Selangor such as Klang, Banting and Kuala Selangor.
The other active secret societies in the country include 77, 24, 44, 969, 08, 21 and the "Five Colours" gang. It has been estimated that there are more than 20 Indian-dominated gangs in the country.
Meanwhile, the gang that is most active in the central region is gang 18 while 04 is expanding northwards from here.
08 is the biggest among the secret societies with members scattered all across the country although they are most active in and around Rawang, Gombak and Selayang in Selangor.
These secret societies have been using the online media to recruit new members in recent years and Facebook has now become an important tool to rope in youngsters.
Indian secret societies are very influential in the Indian society here. Like Chinese secret societies, they are also closely associated with the economic, cultural and even political spheres of the Indian society, and have far-fetching influences in the day-to-day living of many Indian Malaysians.
These secret societies source their recruits mainly from schools, especially secondary schools. Most of the gang members are in their 20s and 30s, and they run in a pyramidal mode through collecting protection money from students to sustain the gangs' operations.
As a matter of fact, almost six or seven out of ten Indian Malaysians are related to secret societies in one way or another. From this we can see that the gangs have powerful infiltration and influences in the Indian community.
Some of these gangs may organise dinners where old and new members come together and mingle, although few would actually hold solemn induction ceremonies like the Chinese secret societies, as this would only invite the attention of the police.
According to some Indian Malaysians contacted by us, secret societies normally would approach the businesses for "protection money" which most businesses willingly offer in exchange for peace.
They told Sin Chew Daily these gangs have their respective areas of dominance and crossfire could take place if one gang is trying to take over another gang's area.
To the Indians, joining a secret society is easy but leaving it is extremely difficult and could cost one's precious life.
According to some familiar with the Indian secret societies in Negeri Sembilan, the most powerful gang there is 18, followed by 36, 21, 08 and 24.
In Perak, Indians also dominate the secret societies which have become very active since the beginning of this year. They are involved mainly in firearms and drug deals as well as sex industry and illegal gambling.
Hindraf's national advisor N Ganesan told Sin Chew Daily the police's decisive actions against Indian criminals would not help resolve the crime issue but would instead complicate things further.
Almost 90% of criminal suspects gunned down by the police during the past three months have been Indians, and given this unproportionally high percentage, Ganesan questioned, "Do you think there are only Indian criminals in this country?"
He said the rights of Indian Malaysians must never be denied and it is imperative for the government to probe the police actions, including claims that they had shot the five suspects in Penang out of necessity on self defence.
He said while the Indian society does not endorse crime and agrees that criminals must be brought to justice, the police must also be impartial while carrying out their duties.
When asked whether the challenges posed by the gang 04 in the form of graffiti would serve to aggravate the confrontation between secret societies and the police, Ganesan said he was not sure how things would develop from there, but he feared the issue could only get worse because of this.
He told Sin Chew Daily the big bosses of these secret societies might not necessarily be Indians, and in fact most of the Indian gang members are only minor lackeys, while the police should go after the big fish instead.