Today is polling day for the citizens of Kuala Terengganu to elect their representative to parliament. I have not been following the campaign process closely. It’s only through the accidental reading of newspapers and occasional visits to so-po blogs that I get to know of what’s happening. It never ceases to amaze me the silly things that political leaders (from both sides) say during campaigning, all in the name of political expediency.
Anyway, this post is not about the KT by-election. It’s about something that happened during the time I was based in Dungun some years ago.
It was the year 2000 and I was working for a KL-based construction company. We got a sub-contract job to carry out mechanical works at a water treatment plant in Dungun, Terengganu. At that time, PAS had just taken over the state government and part of the changes they made was to ban gambling. This meant that all the licensed operators of the 4-digit betting franchise (Magnum, Sports Toto and the like) had to close shop.
This however, did not deter one of my staff from finding ways to continue his habit of `buying’ numbers. Sandra, my site supervisor, is a die-hard 4D player. Don’t let the female-sounding name mislead you. Sandra is a full-blooded Indian chap. I’ve seen his IC… it reads Sandra A/L Govindasamy.
Where there is a will, there is always a way. Sure enough, it didn’t take long for Sandra to find an operator who was willing to take his bets. The closure of betting shops had created a black market among the local Chinese population of Dungun. The 4-digit operators had gone underground.
On certain days of the week, Sandra would leave the job site earlier than normal because he need to meet his `agent’ and place the bets before closing time. I tolerated this routine because Sandra would cover for the missing hours on other days. As long as our work progress was not affected, it was fine by me.
On one occasion, a team of colleagues came over from Kuala Lumpur to help us out during a critical shutdown procedure over a few days. The team included our Project Manager, David Chong.
It was a 4-D betting day but since the boss was around, Sandra couldn’t simply leave the work site unnoticed. At around 4pm, Sandra approached David and sheepishly asked, “David, can I knock off early please? I need to go somewhere.”
David looked at Sandra with a stern face and replied, “Why? You want to go and buy numbers hah?”. David already know of this habit of one of his longest-serving employees.
“Err… yes,” Sandra replied with a wide grin.
“Got place to buy numbers, meh? I thought all the 4-D shops closed down already?” David asked back.
“Got… black market,” Sandra told him.
David thought about it for a while and then agreed to let Sandra go. But not before saying, “Here’s RM10. Buy my car number for me also.”
Seeing that the boss had joined in the game, a few of the other KL guys decided to tumpang sekaki and asked Sandra to place bets for them too.
David looked at me and asked, “So Fadhil, want to buy your car number? Never mind, I belanja.”
I politely declined. I was driving the company’s project car at the time, a Proton Wira bearing the registration number WHH 1798.
The following day, the team gathered at our favourite makan place for breakfast before going to the worksite. As normal, I would buy the daily newspaper before going for breakfast. While I am not a numbers player, I liked to check the 4-D results just to see how often my friends strike something. It was also interesting to assess how often my car number has cropped up as winner. If I had been a regular numbers player, I would have lost a lot of money putting bets on that number. Until that particular day, that is.
When we reached our favourite breakfast spot, the other team members were already there. As I reached their table, I said aloud, “Whoever bought my car number yesterday would strike big.” I passed them the day’s paper, already turned out to show the 4-D results page. The Magnum 4D results box showed 1798 winning the first prize.
David studied the page and then looked at me in disbelief. He muttered, “If only you had said `YES’ yesterday, I would have bought your number. We all can makan besar tonight.”
Heheheh… no regrets, my friend. That’s what the luck of the draw is all about. Sometimes you strike… but generally most times you don’t.
Barisan Nasional recaptured Terengganu state in the 2004 general elections and retained it last year. I have been to Terengganu a few times since I last worked in Dungun but I cannot recall if the 4-D betting shops have been allowed to resume business by the BN government. Even if they have not, I’m willing to bet that the illegal black market operations would continue to thrive and survive. It’s a supply and demand game, right?