Sharks alive! They’re still out there!


THE Eye had hardly left the car, which was parked in front of a busy commercial shopping centre, for more than 10 minutes, when the windscreen was covered with the calling cards of sharks.

Yes, the Eye is talking about loan sharks. They have this uncanny ability of leaving, not one, not two, but sometimes up to a dozen calling cards or flyers on the windscreens of cars.

And what is even more amazing is that their runners do it in such a way that you do not even notice anyone walking up to your car.

You could be sitting less than 50 metres away sipping on a cuppa at the kopitiam, with your car in sight, but when you get back to the vehicle, you’ll find these bits of paper or name cards stuck on the windscreen.

Here in Malaysia, these sharks are known as Ah Longs.

Despite the war that the Malaysian government has waged on these Ah Longs, they are defiant and brazenly continue to leave their calling cards all over the place.

In the past, they used to plaster stickers on telephone booths, road signs, shop lot pillars, electrical boxes, traffic lights and lampposts.

These days, they are getting personal – they leave their calling cards on cars and even in your house mailbox. Some even resort to sending text messages to phone numbers, which they apparently had insiders in telco companies phish for.

The Eye has also noticed, the further one travels out of the city centre, the more one would be able to see these ‘Easy personal loan’ banners hammered on trees by the roadside.

For example, if one was to head out towards Serian, one would be able to see these mini banners hammered to trees. And the local councils in these areas do not seem to be doing anything about these mini banners.

Malaysia is not the only country in the world facing the scourge of loan sharks. They also exist in countries as developed as the United States and Britain too.

A quick online search revealed that these countries have set up helplines or crisis hotlines to fight the plague of their own versions of the Ah Long.

Loan sharks, like drug dealers, prey on people at their most vulnerable.

Out of desperation, vulnerable victims perceive borrowing from a loan shark as an easy option out of debt.

Little do they realise that this will only lead them on a downward spiral of even more debt and misery. If you are not able to pay, Ah Longs come after you using threats and, more often than not, violence.

And these borrowers fall further into a dark tunnel of wretchedness when they resort to borrowing from other Ah Longs to pay off their existing debts with Ah Long number one.

Sadly, some even resort to crime to settle these debts, while some take their own lives, hoping that once they have departed from this world, their debts would too.

Like drug dealers, Ah Longs deserve only the worst in punishment for taking advantage of vulnerable people who cannot handle their spending. They deserve long-term suffering and public humiliation – similar to what they have put their victims through.

On the other hand, if people are able to manage their greed, spending and money better, these Ah Longs would not be in business in the first place.

Like the age-old question goes: “Which came first – the chicken or the egg?”

In the meantime, the authorities should increase action against these so-called ‘easy loan’ providers and ban the hammering of their banners on trees (pity the trees) and the flooding of mailboxes and car windscreens with their calling cards.

And since these calling cards are so abundantly dispersed, why can’t the authorities actually call these people and have them checked out?