Ameng Spring: Thoughts and Memories
April 14, 2011
I was reading the New Straits Times yesterday when I saw this: Ameng gets 8 years jail for drugs. Not only that – the Sessions Court also ordered that he be given 10 strokes of the rotan.
It was also reported in The Star, that “Ameng, whose real name is Wan Aminuddin Wan Ismail, 42, was almost in tears when Judge Abu Bakar Katar meted out the sentence yesterday”. His picture here (from The Star), after the sentencing: it is of someone… defeated. And seeing someone like this moves me because I know what it is like – crushed and defeated.
No, we don’t know each other; and I don’t really know why I’m writing this particular post. But I feel sad about it… And there are various snippets of thoughts in my head that are connected to Ameng Spring: I have to write something, and hope that it will be coherent.
Ah, now I know one of the reasons – I did a search at Google yesterday of “Ameng Spring”, and I was incensed about some of the posts and comments… especially those of the gloating, “Padan muka!” and similar arrogant, imperious and insensitive kinds. My first impulse was to take on these bloggers and commentators and give them a dose of their own medicine. However, I’ve decided to refrain from doing that. At least for now. Instead, it might be much better for myself and others that I use the time, energy and emotions to just write this post.
[By the way, I had started to write this last night. But after just one sentence, I felt tired and sleepy; going to bed at 10 PM… and surprising my wife because I almost always sleep after midnight. I think I know why: writing here is much different than at the Hack Writer blog or/and comments at similar socio-political sites]
Based on the news report, it indicates that Ameng was surprised to receive the sentences (there were three charges) – the severity for the main one particularly. And there are a few questions in my mind; not just the sentences but also about “other Ameng-related things”.
From The Star: “On Feb 14, Ameng was jointly charged with his wife Sabariah Zakaria, 41, at the same court here under Section 39a (2) and Section 15 (1) (a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952” [The link is to a copy of this Act stored at my Scribd.com account] That’s only two charges: my guess is that the other one is the Duabelas dua 12 (2) of the same Act… something that I was also charged with in 1979 at the age of 18. But that’s another story.
S. 39A (2): Although it might be `better’ than the notorious 39B which carries the mandatory death sentence, it is still not something that you’d ever want to face. The amount of cannabis which Ameng had in his possession was 105.90gm; which exceeded the minimum stated: “50 grammes or more in weight of cannabis” (Page 29/30).
You can rightly say that “Ameng had twice that amount”. BUT, to me at least, it’s not really that much (The minimum for heroin and morphine is 5 grams). If you have a weighing scale, try using tobacco (cannabis aka ganja, marijuana is something like it in form and substance); or sugar, salt, flour (to replace heroin and morphine) – you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about here.
Okay, how much is “a lot” then? This is subjective, and one person’s opinion will most likely not be agreed upon by another. And in some places – including certain states in the US – you definitely won’t spend even a single day in prison for possessing cannabis. Please note that I’m not advocating for cannabis to be legalised. At the same time, I’m also not against those who’d want to advocate this. Contradictory? No, I don’t think so.
As you all should already know by know, I’ve had “working experience” with these substances. And more. With cannabis, its possession and usage are against the law in Malaysia; and that’s that.
However, for the sake of perspective – and despite the possibility of harsh criticism by some – I must state here that cannabis/marijuana is not and should not be seen in the same light as the opiates (BUT this sentence isn’t to be taken to mean “Cannabis is okay”). The dynamics and mechanics are significantly different: with cannabis, the addiction is `only’ mental. But it’s a different story with heroin and morphine where the addiction comes with real physical pain. And the mental addiction is also much more intense than that of cannabis.
To digress a bit: After a few months in Gambang, most of the officers came to know about me. For some reason, despite their experience with addicts (and the AADK are the people who know the most about addicts and addiction due to the nature of their work) a few just couldn’t believe “who and what I was”! Based on his questions, the tone and his response, one policeman in particular had difficulty accepting it.
He had asked: “Masa kat luar, chegu ambik ganja, kan?” (When you were outside, you had taken cannabis, right?). “No. It was either morphine, heroin, methamphetamine, opium. Preferably all when I had the chance”… which was met with laughter by the guys who were with me. But the policeman’s face was quizzical. “Tapi chegu hisap, kan?” (But you had smoked them, right?). “No, jab (intravenous)”.
From his expression, I knew he simply couldn’t get himself to accept it. Despite being skinny “and not looking too healthy” (before knowing my present wife especially), some people – including those in prison and Gambang - had remarked that I “don’t look like an addict…definitely not someone who IVed heroin, morphine and methamphetamine”.
I was surprised with what that policeman then said. I knew that he was sincere; wanting to help. He knew how difficult it was for recovering addicts – of how many former Gambang inmates had relapsed when they were discharged. He suggested that I take cannabis instead: (translated) “Compared to heroin, it’s not anywhere as bad”.
Some might decry this as “irresponsible advice”. But hold your horses: there is a lot of truth in what he had said. Anyway, for those who might be concerned – don’t worry, I don’t take cannabis. But there’s no need for applause: the main reason why I don’t take it is not because “I’m strong”. It’s just that cannabis doesn’t hold much attraction to me.
But back to Ameng Spring: I’m surprised that he was already sentenced – just two months after he and his current wife were arrested last February. That means he most probably had pleaded guilty and not gone through a trial. This begs the question: Why did he do that, knowing the severity of the sentence? The section says: “…be punished with imprisonment for life or for a term which shall not be less than five, and he shall also be punished with whipping of not less than ten strokes.”
I’m just speculating, of course: (1) Out of nobleness, by pleading guilty and insisting that he alone was to blame, the charge against his wife was dropped. (2) He believed that by not wasting the court’s time by undergoing a trial, the judge would be more lenient.
As it was, the judge couldn’t have meted out less than 10 strokes. However, he could have decided on the minimum of five years… Yes, it’s true that he could also have decided on life imprisonment. And it wasn’t Ameng’s first case either: he went to trial on another S. 15 case last year. He claimed that he “was fixed” by his former wife, S. Aida and her new husband, a police officer. This was denied by them, of course. I don’t know who was telling the truth, but I do know that many believe Ameng was lying. And that’s probably one of the reasons why some were so vicious with their comments towards Ameng yesterday.
CAPTION: Ameng and ex-wife S. Aida during better times in 1999. Original picture was from URTV. Taken from MediaMalaya.com
I’m not siding with Ameng – or with anyone – on that particular matter. However, I sympathise with what he had gone, is going and will go through. Despite the new remission system where he might be released after half his sentence is served, four years in prison is still a long time. And the 10 strokes of the rotan… I had talked with a few people who had received this – ranging from 2 to 6 – and all of them said it’s very, very painful.
Ameng and his group, Spring: The hit from 1993 of Sampai Hati was one of the songs that had resulted in my giving some attention to Malay pop music. I’ve done a search and the version below is worth listening to (there’s no embedded code, so you’ll have to click on this link or on the image below. It will be well worth it, with the lyrics included).
That year of 1993: it was also when I had made that horrific mistake that brought about a relapse that eventually almost totally destroyed my self and life. And immense hardship to innocents…
And the image above it: the entertainment magazine of URTV was something that I had never bought in my entire life. However, one of my former wife’s nieces did and I remember this particular issue of late 1999. In fact, I had read this piece about Ameng and S. Aida quite a number of times during those years.
That was the start to the period when I was truly down and out in the gutter. Those six long years – that was when all the days, weeks, months and years meld into one; where one was almost entirely like the other… days of pain, hurt, humiliation; days of bitterness, of hardship, of hopelessness. It was when I was totally all alone by myself; of when even I hated and loathed my self. And that’s the very worst state that one would ever be.
I can still feel the pain and despair – even now – whenever I project my self back to remember and feel what it was like. It’s a good thing that we don’t know what the future holds: looking back, if I did know then what was in store for me during this godforsaken period, I wouldn’t have dared to live it. And there were times when I gave serious thought to it… of wanting to just end it all, of not wanting to have any part in this life anymore.
The article in URTV – What was I and what did I have as compared to Ameng (among others); with his family, his apartment, car…future.
And Ameng “came into my life” again – if you can call it that – at the end of 2005. I was in my first week at the newbies’ hostel of “Orientasi B” in Pusat Serenti Gambang, and during TV3’s 8 PM news, there was something about Ameng: he was handed a court order to undergo supervision for something totally similar to us all. There were various responses from the inmates, including some resentment. After all, it was something that ALL of us had pleaded for in front of the magistrate: that we “be given a chance… to undergo supervision instead of being sent to a pusat serenti”.
CAPTION: Click on the image to see a satellite map of Pusat Serenti Gambang and the various places there
During the morning assembly the following day, I remember Encik Hasnizam, who was the AADK officer in charge of the Orientasi B hostel and a nice person, mentioning it during his short talk. He said (more or less): “That’s the reality of life. It’s something that you all have to live with. Those with money, with some influence, are well-known… they are fined, or get the supervision order. Whereas you guys get sent to Gambang. But there’s a way to not let this happen again: you guys must try to become stars!”
At that time I was still sore with the Pasir Mas AADK officer and magistrate for sending me there, while four others “who were worse than me” were given supervision and immediately freed. As such, I was cynical about Ameng getting the same… of how I “had gotten the short end of the stick”.
But even then, I was starting to be aware of something which I felt to be odd: for the first time in a long while – or maybe the first time in my life – I actually felt happy… contented! Only later did I know: something magical was happening to me in that most unlikely of places!
With this matter of Ameng and his recent sentence: NO, I am certainly not gloating about it. I might have resented his getting a supervision order then but that was 2005. And I do know that what I have now isn’t permanent… that God can take away everything if He so wishes. Or to give more. And that works for every one of us, and not just for Ameng and I. I don’t know how to relay this – I just hope that Ameng will find the strength to undergo this severe trial in his life. “The book” isn’t closed yet for him, for me, for us all – what and whoever are down now may not remain so in the future. My best wishes to you, Ameng… and to all who face the same trials as I do.