In our Selected Exhortations category, we republish interesting stuff such as must-read articles and essays not originally written exclusively for the blawg, and which have come to our attention. Please feel free to email [email protected] if you would like to reproduce your writing, but first follow our Writer’s Guide here. This article was previously published in LoyarBurok’s monthly column, “The Monkeysuit Protocol” in August Man magazine’s March 2012 issue.
Sei-lor. That was the word of the week, a word that defined your predicament succinctly. No other was comparable. No other, anyway, than those that spelt out ‘King Chau Seremban Siew Pau’.
The latest competitor to your siew pau business (Ah Heng Seremban Siew Pau) had even printed out glossy leaflets to taunt you. Ok, maybe they were simply part of a marketing campaign but signs of personal snubbing were clear. After all, who thinks of taglines like ‘Because Ah Heng’s is not Happening’ anyway?
But that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Over the months, ‘100% Seremban Siew Pau’ had also cropped up. Mercilessly cannibalising your profits with its conveyor belt of cute mascots and cleavage-bearing cheerleaders. So, really, could anybody blame you for taking out a few loans? Make judgments on your liaisons with loan sharks? After all, you’d already defaulted on a few monthly payments for food-court and shop-lot rentals. And there were still your ex ex-wife’s tai-tai lifestyle and teenage son’s education to finance.
Deep in debt, Bobby?
You pull open the drawer in your writing desk. It’s all there: the mountain of notices from the Bank regarding late loan repayments for your siew pau franchise. Then your mobile rings. You pick up the call. It’s Maxi Tan, all loan shark and livid. “Bobby! What day is it today? “You scratch your head, momentarily drawing a blank, “Er, Sunday, 22 January?” Maxi screams, “Of course it’s 22nd January! But more importantly, this is the day to pay up.” It suddenly becomes clear to you that Maxi was not calling for a casual hello. “I need another week, Maxi. Just a week more.” But Maxi doesn’t mince his words, “I’m giving you a last chance. If you don’t pay up in 3 days, it’s going to be Maxi pain for you and Maxi pleasure for me…understand?”
That night, you call Ah Tau, head of the 603 Gang. He was the same man who’d given you your breaks as a ma-chai in his underworld. “Boss, Maxi is chasing me. Can’t you pull some strings?” But Ah Tau only sighs, “Maxi’s from a different clan, Bobby. Sure he’s a nephew but then he’s adopted. Plus, he eats beef. I can’t touch him.” He then continues, “By the way, your ex ex-wife just took a loan from me, did you know that?” You balk. “What?” “She tried to mahjong some winnings to bail you out of your defaults. But she lost big to Tai Ma, winner of the Golden Unicorn All-Star Award. You know, the one given out by the Underworld Mahjong Association for Geriatrics?” You sigh. “So, how long do I have to pay you back?” Your Boss thinks silently for a moment before suggesting, “Well, since we’re like family, why don’t we trade?”
Ah Tau then explains his plan to give you a month to settle and forego ½ the loan amount plus interest. There are conditions, though. You have to allow his 8 godsons free car washes at your centre and free hours at your cyber café. It’s absurd but you agree. “Just to warn you though,” Ah Tau adds, “if you can’t meet the deadline, my guys will still have to do the red paint thing. We gotta look tough, you know. But just for you, we’ll use removable water colours.”
Guess they’re coming for you, Bobby
Next morning, QiuQiu bunny, your ex ex-wife (the one who tried to cheat, two-time and then divorce you but came crawling back with promises of better cooking, more sex and less shopping with your credit card) is up and about in the kitchen. Actually, she’s burning some eggs and trying to put out the fire. You try to bring up business about the loan from Ah Tau but she stuns you with surprising news of Harry, your son, who’s somewhere in Europe, graduating in his Business Management course. “Harry just called. He’s graduated! As a lawyer! Isn’t that wonderful?” You’re so shocked the fiery stove doesn’t even bother you. “Lawyer? Isn’t he supposed to come back and build the siew pau business?” QiuQiu bunny, beating flames out of her Fendi skirt, then delivers the sinker, “Oh he says working as legal counsel for the EU gangs pays better!”
Well, that’s not the real sinker. Because that afternoon, a Demand Notice from the bank arrives in your post-box addressed to Harry. It appears your son hasn’t only forgotten about family; the education loan had been left to finance itself, too. Great, you hiss. How long now before the creditors come for you, the guarantor, and drag you to court since Harry was busy playing Houdini? “Screw Court.” you spit out vehemently. “No one can drag me there. Not even Nicole Kidman in the nude.”
Just how much will you lose, Bobby?
The following months become an extended Chinese Opera with cymbal clangs punctuating the arrival of every new legal document from different creditors. Even as Ah Tau’s boys decorated your driveway with pretty Rorscharch patterns in Sangria red, you received more Demand Notices, a Summons to appear in Court, and even a Bankruptcy Notice.
How ‘Bankruptcy’ Happens: The Lawyer Speaketh
Bankruptcy happens when a person who owes money and can’t pay his debts has his assets taken over by the Director-General of Insolvency (D-GI) to be liquidated and the proceeds shared between his creditors.
A Creditor or Debtor can start a bankruptcy proceeding. The Creditor starts it by presenting the Debtor with a Bankruptcy Notice after first obtaining a judgment in Court against the debtor.
The Bankruptcy Notice will state the amount of money owing (must be at least RM30, 000.00) and the time period for the Debtor to respond (7 days).
Upon receiving the Notice, the Debtor has a choice. He can either comply and pay, or dispute it by showing the court that he also has claim against the Creditor in the form of a counter-claim, set-off or cross demand.
If the Debtor chooses to do nothing, then he effectively commits ‘an act of bankruptcy’ which will entitle the creditor to next file a Creditor’s Petition into Court (See below).
One morning, your mother calls, all hysterical and hyperventilating, “Ah Boy, why’s there a bankruptcy notice in the papers with your face on it? I thought pastors live on donations? By the way, is your hairline receding?” Of course, she has no idea you’d lied to her all these 15 years. But ignorance is bliss even if your face is now plastered everywhere for the ignorant to see.
Your downward spiral continues.
3 weeks later, a process server turns up at your gate with a Creditor’s Petition specifying another court date and addressed to you.
Bankruptcy Petition: The Lawyer Speaketh
A Bankruptcy Petition filed by a Creditor is called a Creditor’s Petition. One by a Debtor is called a Debtor’s Petition.
A Creditor can file a Creditor’s Petition if: (1) he’s owed RM30, 000.00 or more by the debtor; (2) the debt’s a liquidated sum payable immediately or at a certain time in the future; (3) The ‘act of bankruptcy’ occurred within 6 months before the filing of the petition; and (4) the Debtor resides in Malaysia or, within 1 year before the filing, had resided or had a place of business in Malaysia.
The Court will then make a ‘Receiving Order’ allowing the D-GI to administer the debtor’s estate for the benefit of his Creditors according to the provisions of the Bankruptcy Act 1967. An ‘Adjudication Order’ follows, changing the legal status of the debtor to that of a ‘Bankrupt’.
A Debtor may file a Debtor’s Petition to protect himself from suits by those to whom he’s indebted, by declaring himself unable to pay his debts, thereby placing the custody and control of his estate in the hands of the D-GI.
2 months later, you’re not only in Court, listening to a lawyer drone out the RM200, 000 in debt you owed the bank for defaulting on the education loan. By the end of the session, you’re admitting to it before the court Registrar with Mother outside chambers, providing enough sonic waves with her wailing to articulate your silent tears.
Disputing the Petition: The Lawyer Speaketh
If the Debtor doesn’t dispute the statements in the Petition during the hearing, then the Registrar of the court will make a Receiving Order and Adjudication Order.
If he does, he must file a notice with the Registrar specifying the statements he intends to deny or dispute. A copy of this notice must also be sent to the Creditor or his solicitors three days before the Court hears out the Petition.
Another 3 weeks later, you’re meeting all your creditors as requested by the Insolvency Department. Finding ways to settle your properties and repayments to them all.
Consequences of Bankruptcy: The Lawyer Speaketh
Once the Receiving Order’s made, Creditors who haven’t commenced legal action against the Debtor can only do so with the permission of the D-GI.
The Debtor, within 24 hours of the Receiving Order, must file an affidavit with the D-GI containing details of his business, assets and liabilities. Within 7 days, he must file a statement detailing his Creditors, their claims against him, securities he may’ve given to them and reasons for his inability to pay his debts, etc.
Not later than 3 months later, a meeting of Creditors will be called by the D-GI where Creditors who’ve proven that the Bankrupt owes them money, will gather and decide how to deal with the Bankrupt’s assets or consider repayment proposals the Bankrupt may have.
By Christmas, Ah Tau’s accountants are calling for your resignation from the posts you held in Ah Tau’s various companies. “Do I still get free Bubble Tea from Ah Tau’s tea houses?” you ask bewilderedly but the click of the phone line says it all.
Back to square one, Bobby
Life is at its lowest point for you. And it looks like there’s no way out. Even deporting yourself to the Seychelles out of shame is a no-no as your passport now belonged to the Insolvency Department. You’d climbed so high up. You were a star. How far you’d fallen. Would you ever get a chance again? “You could’ve been right up there, Bobby,” lamented Ah Tau in his parting call to you. “We were going to fund your new career – no kidding. Make you ADUN of our district. Transactions would’ve been much easier that way. A lot more could’ve gone under, grown bigger. But I guess some things aren’t meant to be.”
Disabilities of a Bankrupt: The Lawyer Speaketh
A ‘Bankrupt’ cannot hold any public office (be a Judge; Member of Parliament or State Legislative Assembly; or Councillor in a local authority). He’s also disallowed from travelling abroad, doing business alone or in partnership, or becoming a company director without the permission of the D-GI.
All income and property he obtains must be reported to the D-GI.