A Tribute To Wong Hai Siew

Four Close Friends Who Went Fishing In The Malacca Straits Saved By The Deity Of The Seas

Beyond the east the sunset, beyond the west the sea. This is a famous line of a poem which I learnt while studying poetry in Form 1 and 2 in my school days. I’ve since forgotten the title of the poem. Likewise its author.

But what I remember was, my English teachers telling me, that since time immemorial, man has been since the early days, been lured by the call of the wild sea.

The above call, until today, cannot be resisted by many of my Malay friends I know. Friends such as Encik Bakar Ahmad, Md. Saat Daruan and Arshad. These friends of mine relish spending their leisure time going fishing in the open sea in the Straits of Malacca to be exact.

Like my Malay friends mentioned above, my own brother-in-law, who has unfortunately passed away a few years ago was an avid part time fisherman who spent most of his free time enjoying fishing in the open sea. This he did until he died some years ago.

Fishing, for readers’ information is a dangerous sport. It needs lots of grit, endurance and patience. A person who wishes to indulge in this unusual sport must be ready to face any eventualities, dangers and even death. Ask any avid enthusiast and I’m sure he will verify what is being said.

My colleague Arshad, was once mesmerized by a female apparition as he participated in his love for fishing. The story goes, my friend would suddenly loose his senses every 7:00 pm as twilight time approaches.

Arshad it was said would become restless. At the same time every evening at 7:00 pm, he was as fishing enthusiasts claim, stricken or di pukau by a female ghost of the sea, who obviously had fallen in love with this handsome and dashing young man.

As a result of this incident, Arshad I heard, nearly lost his life. So readers, who fancy going fishing especially at the time when the sun is about to set or waktu mahgrib, as the Malays call it, please refrain from doing so. To be safe, choose another time to go fishing if you may.

Luckily for Arshad, after numerous attempts and appeals to the female apparition, his life was spared.

Today, my friend does not go fishing anymore. The bizarre experience has frightened him. And who wouldn’t, I ask you. If readers should feel what happened to Arshad was something chilling and frightening, wait until I relate to you what happened to my own brother-in-law and three of his good friends while they were fishing one lonely night in the open sea in the Straits of Malacca a few years ago.

Please read on…

This is not a fabricated story. Facts of this episode which truly happened was translated from a Mandarin newspaper cutting, which reported the incident extensively some time back.

The translation has been made possible by my own wife, without the assistance of whom, I would not have been able to relate the story today to you.

My brother-in-law’s wife and his eldest son, have been interviewed by me regarding this true story numerous times over. They are still living and alive today, living testimony and can attest that this story which I’m about to relate in this article did really happen.

The fishing tragedy, if you call it one, happened on the 27th June 1990. It happened to 4 close friends – Mohd. Ani, a policeman, See Kim Hock, a businessman, Molipin and my own brother-in-law, Wang Hai Siew.

All four had vast experience in sea fishing. The one with the most experience I believe was Hai Siew. My brother-in-law, although a Chinese educated shopkeeper was an avid Hash House Harriers (HHH) runner. He has competed in races all over the country.

In Indonesia, Philippines, Australia and many other countries abroad. But nothing could beat his love for fishing. Stories have it that even on the 1st day of Chinese New Year, my brother-in-law has left for the open sea to be with his favorite sport. Incidentally, members of the HHH group nicknamed his “Lau Hiao”.

In the many years that I knew him, my brother-in-law was a philanthropist. At one of his son’s wedding dinner, which was held at his home in Shah Alam, I vividly remember him offering a very large fish, which he had caught for auction to the crowd of fishing enthusiasts attending the dinner.

He managed to raise a few thousand dollars which he finally donated to charitable organization and schools around Klang and Shah Alam districts.

Buddhists believe. When you do good, you will achieve goodness. That’s karma!

Believe it or not, Hai Siew’s good heartedness and his philanthropist attitude and ways was to eventually lead to saving him and his friends on the unforgettable night of 27th June 1990.

The God of the Seas or deity was to give my brother-in-law his second chance in life, as the story unfolds.

On the night of June 27th, the four friends left Port Klang around 7:00 pm for their usual weekend endeavor. Within an hour, the expedition had reached Morib beach, near Banting, off the coast of Selangor.

The group had actually sailed 7 knots in their fishing boat. The vessel was quite a large one measuring 20 feet by 70 feet long.

That night, the boat was filled with all sorts of fishing paraphernalia, food, drinks, bait, nets and of course fishing rods and other odds and ends, only fishing kakis will know.

By 10 pm, the group had in fact reached the wide open sea. They were now anchored in the seas of the Mallaca Straits. They were in international waters.

On the right, they could see the Sumatran island of Indonesia. On their left, lay the Malaysian coast. Except for some mild breeze, the night was clear and cool. It was a beautiful night. Only an avid fishing enthusiast will be able to envisage what a fantastic and beautiful sight it was.

Fishing friends have always related to me, the open sea during the night with soft breeze blowing by and waves gently lapping against the side of the boat, and stars twinkling in the sky above and sounds of international liners plying by are things which those who opt to fish in open seas appreciate most.

At 10 pm, the group anchored their boat and began to fish. They conversed a short while. Soon, they felt tired. By 2:30 am, all four fell asleep as the boat rocked softly amongst the waves.

While my brother-in-law was sleeping, he felt some mysterious hand tapping him on his shoulder. He opened his eyes and woke up in surprise. In front of him, he saw a 1000 foot oil tanker, with its light shining brightly, hardly a few feet away.

The tanker had in fact veered off course, right into the group’s small boat’s path which lay anchored.

The huge oil tanker, 10 storey high was a Holland freighter, had failed to see the small vessel in the dark. It was about to plough into the tiny fishing boat. And that would be the end of them.

Gripped with fear, Hai Siew woke up all his other friends quickly. He and his friends at first tried to put on their search light to alert the monstrous ship coming at them. Then the crew tried to start their vessel’s engine to get away from the oil tanker’s path. But in panic and fear, they failed to get the engine started.

It was now unavoidable, they freighter was coming straight at them!

Finally, the crew had no choice. All four of them jumped in all directions into the cold waters of the Malacca Straits. That was the only way of saving themselves.

The oil tanker from Holland soon crashed into their fishing vessel. Like a hot knife cutting through butter, the small fishing boat stood no chance. The impact of the crash caused the tiny fishing boat to break up into a thousand pieces.

Finding themselves floating in the water, Hai Siew and his friends began calling out to each other. They discovered all four of them were miraculously alive. Some mysterious being must have saved them.

Struggling furiously in the water, they found a big plastic drum which has been used to store food, drinks and fishing paraphernalia floating towards them.

They caught hold of it. Tying ropes around it and clung on to it to save themselves. If not for this huge drum, all 4 could easily have perished that night.

Clinging on to the big plastic drum for dear life, the 4 men of the small fishing vessel soon realized they were now in deep sea, renowned to be infested by man eating sharks.

My brother-in-law, by virtue of the fact he was the most experienced member soon advised all his friends to cling on the plastic drum quietly. They were not to struggle or make any violent movements. This was to prevent man eating sharks from being attracted to them.

The victims of the crash clung to the plastic container for some 8 hours. As they waited for help to come, they ate and drank water obtained from the plaster container.

At around 10 am the next day, as luck would have it, a Dutch cargo ship, the Jurata, flying a yellow flag passed by. This ship was reported to have been captained by Ryzard Stanzard. Using powerful binoculars, the ship from Holland spotted the four fishermen struggling in the cold, shark infested water of the sea.

Finally, all four men were taken on board the cargo ship. They were given food and warm clothing. As the cargo ship was en route to Singapore, the shipwrecked fishermen were taken there.

If you think reaching Singapore were the end of their woes, then you are sadly mistaken. The Dutch cargo ship was not allowed to depart Singapore for bringing in the fishermen. They were considered illegal immigrants. The captain then contacted its agent, Top Shipping Private Ltd for their assistance.

In the meantime, the estranged men led by Hai Siew contacted a friend in Malaysia, Mr. Gan Kim Hong. Gan was supposed to have gone along with the group. At the last moment, he could not go along with the ill fated group’s expedition.

Together with Mr. See’s wife, Gan then flew to Singapore. They were headed from the Malaysian Embassy there. Both of them had the difficult task of proving the four fishermen who are now stranded in Singapore were indeed Malaysian.

Stories had it that the captain of the Jurata even offered a RM40,000 warranty to prove the authenticity of the four men. But to no avail.

Finally, after many hours of hassle and investigation, the authorities decided to release them. New temporary passports were issued to the fishermen by the Immigration authorities. This allowed them to leave Singapore island and eventually head for home.

The four men, Hai Siew, See, Mohd Ani and Molipin became close friends after the incident. They in fact have been saved from the jaws of death.

Before my brother-in-law passed away, he told me the 4 fishermen used to meet yearly on the 27th June to celebrate the anniversary of the fateful day which they nearly died in 1990.

After the incident, I have often talked numerous times to my brother-in-law. “Who or what was the mysterious hand that tapped you on your shoulder as you lay sleeping on the boat that night?”, I asked him.

To the above question, my brother-in-law replied, “it must have been the deity or God of the Seas that saved all of us that night”.

You may be skeptical about it but ask yourselves this, if not for the deity, which Chinese believe so firmly in, who else was there in the big open sea that could have alerted Hai Siew from his slumber that night that led him to alert his other friends to safety?

Years after this incident, my brother-in-law, his wife and his family used to go on every Lunar New Year celebration to Kuala Selangor where the God of the Seas temple is reported to be located.

To pay respect and pray to the deity concerned for saving him and his friends on the night of June 27 1990. For giving them a second chance in life, so to say.

In one séance session held with the medium of the temple, Wong Hai Siew inquired thankfully, “were you the one responsible for tapping me on my shoulder that night?”

The deity, the God of the Seas, through the temple medium replied, “if not me, who else?”

Believe it or not, it’s all up to you…

By | 2010-10-22T21:26:25+08:00 February 23rd, 2010|My Memories|0 Comments

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