PETALING JAYA: In the 1980s, Buntong, Perak was notoriously known as a “gangster town”, but one poor boy growing up there did not choose the path of notoriety.
Instead, A Pamnaswaran chose to become a police officer and rose to become deputy district police chief in Sungai Siput.
He was not the only member of the family to join the police. His eldest brother, A Thaiveegan, rose to become the Penang police chief.
Pamnaswaran said he entered the force because he was tired of being bullied by other children. At the same time, he was determined to bring his family out of poverty. His father was a construction worker and his mother a housewife and the couple had eight children.
Helping his mother to sell kuih from door to door as a child, Pamnaswaran, the third child, often had trouble with gangsters who took his vadai but refused to pay.
“When I asked them to pay, they poked my hand with a cigarette,” said Pamnaswaran, now 60.
He started as a constable in 1983, and decided to return to school some years later to sit for the Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia examination to enable him to climb up the ranks.
He failed the examination three times before he passed the fourth time, qualifying him to sit for an interview to be promoted to inspector, and eventually to deputy superintendent, the rank he held when he retired early this year.
While he was still a constable, Pamnaswaran worked part-time as a gardener at the residence of the Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah (now Sultan Abdulllah, and Yang di-Pertuan Agong).
“I was helping my family to ease our financial burden. When I was finally promoted to inspector in 1993, I couldn’t sleep for three days because I was overwhelmed with joy,” he said.
His stint as a policeman saw him solve various crime cases ranging from murder to animal kidnapping.
In 2013, a total of 100 goats went missing from the complainant’s farm in Nibong Tebal. During the investigation, he got the lead that an individual was suspiciously selling 30 goats in Taiping to someone.
“We set up a roadblock and managed to round up the suspect who was ferrying dozens of goats in the lorry. The goats, which were quiet, turned noisy after their owner arrived to check on them.
“While I got used to meeting criminals, seeing this seemingly mundane occurrence baffled me,” he said.
Solving the goat case earned him the title “Tuan Kambing” (Mr Goat) among his colleagues.
Pamnaswaran took his job seriously, to the point of “looking at the victim as your family member”.
“As a policeman, your statement should be long, meaning that you must spend time with the complainant. You must put your heart and soul into it, and be professional.”
As for his hometown, Pamnaswaran said the once labelled “gangster town” had slowly improved over the years but job opportunities and access to education are scarce.
“If we don’t help the kids, they would only perpetuate the culture of gangsterism as that’s often seen as the easy way out,” he said.