Our curiosity about the Freemasons and their ilk gives way to conspiracy theories. But if secret societies are as benign as they say, then why the secret? David Barnett looks through the smoke and mirrors – and attempts to join the Illuminati
David Barnett 4 days ago The Independent Online
Freemasons greet each other by handshakes at an event in London to promote their craft and public understanding Getty
I have only once, I think, been a member of an organisation that excluded someone right before my eyes.
I’m not counting the Cubs in this – I’m not sure if there was a blanket ban on girls joining back in the Seventies, it’s just that there weren’t any girls in my troupe, and I packed it all in after a couple of months because the meetings were on Friday nights and I wanted to watch The Incredible Hulk. Nor am I referring to my lifelong membership of the Straight White Male club, for which I was signed up while still in the womb.
No, I’m talking about the Lower Ince Labour Club junior coarse fishing society. Fishing was a popular pastime when I was a kid, with rod and float on the canal, or the River Douglas, or various flooded quarries or former pit land. I vividly remember the first meeting of the fishing club, when the organiser, almost as an afterthought, checked that our parents were all active members of the Labour Club.
One boy, a couple of years older than me, called Jonathan, said this his parents weren’t. Red-faced and almost in tears, he was asked to leave. He’d just bought a new rod, as well.
The Grand Temple inside the London Freemasons’ Hall (Getty)
I think it was that experience that gave me a healthy distrust of elitist clubs and societies, so you’ll understand and perhaps forgive me when I break out the world’s smallest violin to accompany the Freemasons’ claim that they are facing discrimination and are being “unfairly stigmatised”.
In fact, they have taken out advertisements in two national newspapers to complain. The papers are The Times and The Telegraph, which is perhaps curious; you might have thought that most Masons would actually be readers of those twin colossi of the British establishment anyway. Surely their complaint would have better avoided preaching to the converted in the centre-straddling or left-wing press?
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But anyway; the advert is headlined “Enough Is Enough” and, in a short, impassioned speech signed by Dr David Staples, the chief executive of the United Grand Lodge of England, it sets out the Freemasons’ charitable gestures (£33m raised for good causes last year) and their values (honesty, integrity and service to the community), as well as stating that no other organisation would stand for the sort of discrimination that Freemasons get, and pledging rather darkly: “Nor will we.”
Why do the Freemasons feel so much under the cosh? Perhaps it’s the claim by Steve White, who at the end of December stepped down from his three-year tenure as chair of the Police Federation, and who said that the presence of Freemasons is putting the brakes on policing reform and actively thwarting equality and diversity, particularly in relation to women and ethnic minorities in the force.
Then, last weekend, it was revealed that two Freemasons’ lodges operate within Westminster, populated by MPs and political journalists, prompting angry denials that there was anything actually wrong with this from Dr Staples, and leading to the taking out of those adverts.
Freemasons at Earls Court, London, celebrate the 275th anniversary of the formation of the first Grand Lodge, in 1992 (Rex/Shutterstock)
What do we know about the Freemasons? Secret meetings, funny handshakes, one trouser leg rolled up, murmured assertions that “we meet upon the square and part upon the level”. But it’s not about that, of course. It’s about the benefits conferred by membership, and that’s what makes us non-members somewhat suspicious. If it’s all so benign and innocent, why the secrecy? Are Masons, as has long been presumed, doing each other favours in business, in public life, in private? How far does their influence reach? Are we losing out, at work, in our communities and even in our dealings with authority and the police, because there’s a lot of mutual back-scratching going on to which we’re not invited?
In 1988 Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh published their book The Temple and the Lodge, which subsequently became an international bestseller for its claim to lift the lid on the fascinating world of Freemasonry. In this and their previous book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, they directly traced the lineage of the Freemasons to the Knights Templar, the Christian order established in 1139 which rapidly grew to great power and influence across Europe.
In their introduction to The Temple and The Lodge, Baigent and Leigh acknowledge the strong foothold that Freemasonry has in the popular psyche: “Is Freemasonry corrupt? Is it – even more sinisterly – a vast international conspiracy dedicated to some obscure (and, if secrecy is a barometer for villainy) nefarious end? Is it a conduit for perks, favours, influence and power-broking in the heart of such institutions as the City and the police?”
Is it? We don’t know, because by its very nature the Freemasons is a secretive organisation. Secret societies, of one form or another, have been prevalent – or at least the idea of them has – for centuries. Sometimes that can manifest in our daily lives, in tribes or gangs, or office cliques, or even close-knit friendship circles, with their in-jokes and references which are opaque and obscure to those not in the know.
Fascination with Freemasonry has allowed the idea of conspiracies to take hold, from the allegedly globe-spanning Illuminati to the shadowy Bilderberg Group of the world’s political elite, to the fraternities of American colleges with their “hazing” initiation rituals.
Kappa Alpha Order is one of the most venerable of the US frat houses, formed in 1865 at Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, and widely active across the country today. Kappa Alpha has been criticised for its embracing of America’s racist past through Confederate trappings and has been widely acknowledged to be closely aligned to Freemasonry in imagery and organisation.
Peter (not his real name) is British but as a student attended for a year a college in a liberal enclave of a southern US state, and was inducted into Kappa Alpha (KA). After considering three or four fraternities at the open-house events and “cook outs” they organised to attract new members, he plumped for KA as it was “the only ethnically diverse bunch who were also really chilled and up for good fun”.
Symbolism features heavily in the Freemasons’ imagery (Getty)
Peter asked about the hazing and whether his chapter operated “the shake” – when prospective members are all but kidnapped and bundled into cars to be taken to the secret initiation process. So what actually happened at his initiation?
“I cannot go into specifics,” he says, “partly out of respect for my chapter if not for the frat as a whole. Also it is immensely complicated.
“Like Freemasonry, on which it and many others are based on, religion is integral – For KA it is a Christian brotherhood.
“You are informed of some higher secret truths – just as vague as those Pierre Bezukhov finds out in War and Peace. You are blindfolded and walked around campus to disorientate you then led into the college’s chapel. You go through a ritual including kneeling, being knighted, awarded spurs, kissing the bible and given olive leaves. Cloaks are worn, but no hoods.
“Honestly it felt pretty ridiculous – it made me take the whole thing a lot less seriously. And from then on I treated it as the drinking club it was that also ran sports teams, charity events and social events with sororities.”
But once a member, Peter slowly noticed how “people get the cold shoulder for being liabilities, not up to an arbitrary moral standard, intelligence and general congeniality”. That said, “bad treatment of women was a massive no-no with the brothers – the motto is ‘Le Deux et les dames’ (God and the ladies).”
Was there any suggestion of supporting racism? “It might seem odd but 10 years ago, Robert E Lee who is the spiritual founder of the frat, was seen as the ideal of southern gentleman values without the tinge of overt racism. My chapter never did the dressing up as Confederate soldiers but we did drink mint juleps, sing a KA version of “Dixie” and do Gone With The Wind drinking games. A majorly Democrat chapter – we enjoyed the southern vibe however problematic.”
Peter stayed as an active member of KA throughout his year in the States and is now an alumni brother, still in contact with some of the friends he made there. But he does now ponder that societies such as this can become “quite dangerous”, as echo chambers where certain thoughts and actions can be “easily excused and escalated”.
Even a decade later, and far from the place where he spent a year with Kappa Alpha, Peter is unwilling to talk specifics about, for example, his initiation. The bonds forged in societies such as this are strong and last a long time. Is it any wonder that people view the Freemasons with a measure of suspicion?
Kappa Alpha Order fraternity house on Florida State University Campus, Tallahassee (Alamy)
The open letter placed by the Freemasons in the Times and Telegraph ends with the phrase “we’re open”, a buzzword repeated on the website of the United Grand Lodge of England. On their “Becoming a Freemason” page, four white men share a drink in a pub, driving home the message of belonging and support.
“Any man over the age of 21 may join regardless of ethnic group, political views, economic standing or religion, although he is expected to have a faith,” says the page. The next step – if you don’t already know someone in your local lodge – is to approach the Freemasons on their contact page and they’ll put you in touch.
Which seems straightforward enough. Out of interest, I googled “Illuminati”, to find out if it did the same. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who’ll admit they’re a member of this particular group, and it’s a toss-up whether it exists at all. The organisation is perhaps most famous for appearing in The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson in the 1970s, positing a world-spanning conspiracy that stretches back through history, taking in copious amounts of sex, drugs and magic.
But surprisingly, it does have a website, and even a Beverly Hills based PR company, Lirim, “specialising in image management, branding and global marketing strategies for religious and governmental heads of state”.
So I dropped Lirim a quick email: “I got your email address from the website of the Illuminati. I was a bit surprised they had a website, being what I thought was a shadowy international conspiracy, but I suppose everyone has to get with the times.
“I’m a journalist and writer in the UK. I’m writing to ask if you can let me know how to join the Illuminati. Is there a membership cost, ie monthly subs? I would like to know if there’s any kind of initiation rituals, as I am scared of heights, but pretty much anything else goes. Also, can you let me know if all that stuff in the Robert Anton Wilson/Robert Shea books was true?
“Thanks in advance, look forward to hearing back from you and signing up!”
I also contacted the Bilderberg Group, which also has what appears to be a website: “I’m a journalist and writer in the UK and am interested in joining the Bilderberg Group. Can you let me know about application requirements, membership benefits, and how I go about joining up?”
Curiously, at the time of writing, I’m yet to hear back from either of them. Maybe they know too much about me already. If only I’d stuck it out at the fishing club. _________________ --
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
13 APRIL 2018 • 11:13 PM
The London Fire Brigade has been criticised for accepting a donation from the Freemasons with the condition that new trucks purchased with the money carry their symbol.
The society gave £2.5 million to the fire service to purchase two vehicles with high aerial ladders, which would be capable of reaching the top of a building as high as Grenfell Tower.
But the new vehicles will be emblazoned with the symbol of Freemasonry, the square and compass.
Paul Embery, of the Fire Brigades Union, told Channel 4 News that there were concerns over donations from “secret societies”.
"We don't want to sound uncharitable but our concern is that this is really a slippery slope,” he said.
“The idea of private companies or secret societies effectively purchasing front line emergency service vehicles and having their insignia - free advertising effectively - we are really concerned that could lead to a greater inflow of private money into what really is a private service."
The fire brigade is buying new vehicles with high ladders
The fire brigade is buying new vehicles with high ladders CREDIT: HEATHCLIFF O'MALLEY
The Freemasons’ symbol already appears on some other emergency service vehicles, including air ambulance helicopters and lifeboats.
Dr David Staples, CEO of United Grand Lodge of England, the society’s governing body, said the Freemasons were not secretive.
He said: “Freemasonry has a long and proud 300 year history of charitable giving and this £2.5 million appeal to purchase two vehicles for the London Fire Brigade is the latest step in London Masons’ objective to support the local community and help make London a safer place.
"London Masons recently made a £2million donation to help fund its much needed second London Air Ambulance and a further 22 Air Ambulance and rescue services across England and Wales have also recently received grants.
"Our universally recognised Square and Compasses can be seen on many of these emergency vehicles, all funded by the generosity of our members up and down the country. These include everything from the ambulances, first responder vehicles, helicopters and lifeboats to smaller buggies which carry patients with mobility difficulties around local hospitals.
“United Grand Lodge of England and its members have nothing to be ashamed of, and are disappointed that, in some peoples’ minds, out of date and inaccurate perceptions about Freemasonry continue to drive anti-masonic and discriminatory agendas. Service to the community has always been one of our key tenets.”
A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said it was not unusual for emergency services to accept charitable donations and it would be “irresponsible” not to consider any donation that could save lives.
“The donation we have received from the London Freemasons follows similar support offered by the organisation to other emergency services including the London Air Ambulance and London Ambulance Service," the spokesman said.
“The expectation for branding also follows similar support offered by the London Freemasons to other emergency services in the capital.
“The safety of Londoners is our priority and if we are offered any significant donation we can use towards equipment which could help us further protects Londoners and save lives, it would be irresponsible of us not to consider it.”
Visit Telegraph News on Facebook _________________ --
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
A former undercover officer presented with the Queen’s Police Medal for bravery by Prince Charles says freemasons in the force threatened to derail his career.
Garry Rogers claims masons within Greater Manchester Police (GMP) tried to prevent his crime fighting efforts being recognised and stop him receiving the coveted medal.
He claims he did not receive commendations for bravery because officers he believed to be freemasons wrongly suspected him of blowing the whistle on one of their corrupt colleagues.
Mr Rogers - who during six years as an undercover officer nailed more than 100 criminals, many of them extremely violent - says that GMP’s most senior officers eventually confirmed that masons may have tried to block his progress.
Garry Rogers during his time operating as an undercover officer in Greater Manchester
Garry Rogers during his time operating as an undercover officer in Greater Manchester CREDIT: GARRY ROGERS
Mr Rogers told The Sunday Telegraph: “I underwent a long struggle before I was eventually awarded the Queen’s Police Medal (QPM), as my original nomination had been shredded by someone within the CID. I believe they were protecting a senior officer who was later arrested charged and convicted of criminal deceptions. I believe many senior officers were masons.”
He added: “A report was even placed in my personal file which stated l was not to be trusted and was under investigation, none of which was true.”
Mr Rogers’ disturbing allegations come after the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, claimed attempts to reform the service are to this day being blocked by masons, and their influence is thwarting the progress of women and black and minority ethnic officers.
Dr David Staples, the chief executive of the United Grand Lodge rejected the claim, saying there was nothing sinister or self serving about the activities and rituals of the masons.
He said: “We do not influence the police. We are a non-political, non-religious organisation. The Home Affairs Select Committee said there is a lot of unjustified paranoia about Freemasonry.”
But Mr Rogers, 60, claims his experience confirms the widespread suspicion that masons in the police cover up for fellow members, favour them for promotion and exert a secretive influence.
He said: “The people who tried to block me and stop me getting the QPM have long retired, but I think there’s still a problem with masons in the police and the Police Federation clearly agree.
“I don’t think serving police officers should be masons because it creates a rival allegiance. Their loyalty should be to the law and public, not each other.”
Garry Rogers put his life on the line while operating as an undercover officer for Greater Manchester Police's Omega squad
Garry Rogers put his life on the line while operating as an undercover officer for Greater Manchester Police's Omega squad CREDIT: GARRY ROGERS
During his time as an undercover officer with the GMP’s Omega Covert Operations Unit, from 1989 to 1995, Mr Rogers - who is planning to write a book about his experiences - gathered evidence against a killer by joining his gang; broke up a drug running operation by setting up a wine bar to entrap them; disrupted ram raiders and identified more than 50 football hooligans by posing as a skinhead thug.
But in 1998 Mr Rogers took legal action against GMP, claiming he had been badly treated by the force and received little support from senior officers, despite frequently putting his life on the line.
He eventually received a settlement of £8,000 damages from GMP for the post traumatic trauma he suffered.
Mr Rogers claimed that commendations for his actions were suppressed in an attempt to undermine him and he was blocked from receiving the QPM while a more junior colleague with less front line experienced received the award.
In 1999 Mr Rogers, a married father of three who spent 30 years in the force, finally made the journey to Buckingham Palace to be presented with the QPM.
Garry Rogers being presented with the Queen's Police Medal by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace
Garry Rogers being presented with the Queen's Police Medal by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace CREDIT: GARRY ROGERS
He says this only came about after he held a meeting in November 1997 with Sir John Stevens, the newly appointed head of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Police who later became Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
But in 2003 - after being given authorised access to his personnel file by a member of GMP’s admin staff - Mr Rogers discovered a secret report from 1995, which appeared to explain why it had taken so long for his contribution to fighting crime to be recognised.
The report described him as “paranoid” and not to be trusted and stated that he was suspected of sending anonymous whistleblowing letters to GMP and the Manchester Evening News. The letters eventually led to Chief Inspector Ken Seddon, the head of Omega Squad, being convicted in 2003 of “multiple offences of dishonesty” involving fraudulent car loans to police officers.
Although Mr Rogers denies sending such letters, he says he had suspected Seddon of being a freemason after coming across his masonic regalia in his office.
By the time Mr Rogers retired in 2005 he had finally received the support of senior commanders and his allegations appear to have been backed by Vince Sweeney, the former Assistant Chief Constable of GMP.
In a memo from May 2004 ACC Sweeney described Mr Rogers as “an officer who has given exemplary service” and who was subject to “some pretty shoddy treatment”.
He wrote: “I accepted and find no other explanation than that someone on the then V Command structure effectively halted the progress of that [QPM] recommendation. This was accepted by Sir David [Wilmot, then Chief Constable of GMC], who subsequently sought to remedy this wrong by personally supporting Garry’s nomination for the QPM, which he subsequently received in the New Year’s Honours in 1999.”
He added that wrongful allegations about Mr Rogers had been added to his personnel file in a sealed brown envelope by “an unidentified person”.
Garry Rogers (left) with the late Chief Constable of GMP Sir David Wilmot who later played a major part in Garry's award of the QPM.
Garry Rogers (left) with the late Chief Constable of GMP Sir David Wilmot who later played a major part in Garry's award of the QPM. CREDIT: GARRY ROGERS
Mr Rogers subsequently met Michael Todd, who took over as Chief Constable of GMC in 2002. He claims: “It was Mr Todd who mentioned Masonic Conspiracy to me during a meeting l had with him.”
At this meeting in July 2004, Mr Rogers says CC Todd - who took his own life in 2008 - told him that “what went on was some corrupt masonic influence” within CID” but that “this no longer exists and that most of the concerned left under a cloud”.
Titan, the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit - which replaced the Omega Unit - said in a statement: “The management and welfare of undercover officers has changed and improved considerably since the 1990s.”
However, GMP refused to answer questions about the continued influence of masons in the force or on what led to the Omega Unit being disbanded.
Joined: 25 Jul 2005 Posts: 16354 Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
Posted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 10:55 pm Post subject: Secret societies criminalised in Singapore
How the police root out secret society members
Published on 8 Feb 2018
How does the Singapore Police Force root out secret society members? We followed them when they raided a public gambling area in Geylang.
(Chinese: 公司, Pinyin: gōngsī) are generally Chinese in origin. They have been largely eradicated as a security issue in the city state. However many smaller groups remain today which attempt to mimic societies of the past. The membership of these societies is largely adolescent, and sometimes includes non-Chinese Singaporeans.
Despite fading from contemporary Singaporean society, these secret societies hold great relevance to Singapore's modern history. The founding of the city state in 1819 saw the arrival of thousands of Chinese, thereby transplanting to Singapore social systems already present in China itself. Although the secret societies were commonly associated with violence, extortion and vice, they also played a part in building a social fabric for early Chinese migrants in Singapore.
Ironically, they were given leeway to control the Chinese populace due to the hands-off policy adopted by the British colonials, who hoped to create stability.
The concept of Secret societies came to Singapore with the arrival of the Chinese during the modern city's founding in 1819, although pre-existing Chinese, particularly the Peranakans, had been living in the area prior to that. These early groups, however, were largely assimilated into Malay society, and had abandoned many of the social structures of their origins.
The term for secret society, hui (Simplified Chinese: 会, Traditional Chinese: 會), is often interchangeable with terms like kongsi (公司, Pinyin: gōngsī) or Chinese clan (会馆, 會館, Pinyin: huìguǎn), all roughly translating to the meaning of "brotherhood". The term kongsi is more widely known in Southeast Asia, however, whereas in China, the secret societies were just simply known as hui or tong.
Over in China, the concept of brotherhood as a form of non-blood kinship has been a unifying force for centuries, with evidence of its existence dating back to the Warring States Period of 475-221 BC. Specific references are often made to the sworn brotherhood of Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
These forms of kinship were enforced through the taking of a blood oath, a process usually conducted only in times of strife, and therefore evokes a sense of rebellion against the wider social order. This sense of brotherhood is also associated with the concept of mutual aid, a key component dating back to the Tang Dynasty period from 618 to 907. Forms of aid often involved the pooling together of resources (including financial), or the loan of these resources, and were utilized for needs such as basic livelihood, the holding of a marriage, or financing and supporting political rebellion.
Individuals requiring such mutual aid were often economically or socially under-privileged. It was therefore common for these hui to be formed amongst the poorer, lower-class males of Chinese villages.
The first secret societies
The secret societies which formed in Singapore can be traced to mid-18th century Fujian province in China, with the local offshoots adopting an organizational structure mirroring the parent organization. The Hongman (洪門), the first secret society to be established in Singapore, traced its origins to the Heaven and Earth Society (Tiandihui) in Fujian.
Policing secret societies
Despite their founding principles of mutual assistance and bonding, secret societies have, over time, come to conjure up impressions of violence and disorder. This association, perhaps exaggerated, has been encouraged by law enforcement officers since their formation in the colonial era. This perception was strengthened by several factors, including the inability of the colony's administration to control their activities, the branding of arrested society members as "criminal gangsters" by the media and an upsurge in violent crime in the 1960s sparked by a few society members. These factors came together during the same period in which the country was trying to gain a foothold fresh from having attained political independence it did not foresee.
Several important riots in Malayan history prompted had earlier colonial government to respond unambiguously. These riots include the Penang Riots of 1867 (which involved the Ghee Hin) and the Post Office Riots of 1876. The Societies Ordinance of 1889 was introduced as an attempt at suppression.
List of secret societies
Ghee Hin Kongsi
Hai San Kongsi
Cho Koon Kongsi
Ghee Khee Kongsi
Ghee Sin Kongsi
Ghee Soon Kongsi
Chen Chen Kow (Tsung Peh Kongsi) 松柏公司
Ghee Hok Kongsi 義福公司, 义福公司
Ghee Khee Kwang Hok Kongsi
Hok Bing Kongsi (Hok Hin Kongsi) 福興公司, 福兴公司
Hen Bing Kongsi
Choo Leong Kongsi
Ang Bang Kongsi
24 Ghee Hai Kim
Sio Yi Ho
21 Tong Meng Ge
Pa Hai Tong 21
Ang Meng Tong 21
Hai Lo San
Ghee Hin Kongsi
The Ghee Hin Kongsi (Simplified Chinese: 义兴公司; Traditional Chinese: 義興公司; Pinyin: yìxīng gōngsī) is a secret society in Singapore and Malaya, formed in 1820. Ghee Hin literally means "the rise of righteousness" in Chinese. The Ghee Hin often fought against the Hakka-dominated Hai San secret society.
Ghee Hin was initially dominated by the Cantonese, although Hokkiens formed the majority by 1860. Teochew, Hainanese, Hakka and Foochow form smaller minorities. Their main lodge was located in Lavender Street, which contained the ancestral tablets of important ex-members, before being donated to the Tan Tock Seng Hospital when it was torn down in 1892, following the Suppression of Secret Societies Ordinance.
The Ghee Hin were notorious for riots against Catholic Chinese in 1850 (killing over 500), as well as post offices in 1876, against a new, and more expensive, monopoly on post and remittances. The colonial government began to move towards surveillance, control, and finally suppression from 1890s onwards.
Ghee Hin and Hai San were the two secret societies that were involved in Perak civil war in the 19th century.
Ang Soon Tong
Ang Soon Tong is a secret society based in Singapore. According to a former police officer, the society was active as early as the 1950s, mainly in the Sembawang area. In 1998, a 19-year old youth was arrested for setting up a website dedicated to the society. As recently as 2007, Ang Soon Tong was still active, with one of its members sentenced to reformative probation that year for clashing with members of another secret society.
The gang was formed during the early 1960s in the early years of Singapore's Independence when the police force was more relaxed in its enforcement. 369 recruited members mainly in prisons and ex-convicts who wanted to belong to the most powerful gang. Until recently, 369 was a group of the '18' (Chup Pueh Sio Kun Tong in Hokkien) secret society.
It has since declared its independence from the '18' group and has opened its own branches in many parts of Singapore. Places like Tanjong Rhu, Kallang Airport, Teck Whye Lane, Clementi, Tanglin Halt, Mei Ling Street, Joo Seng, Bishan, Thomson, Geylang and places like Yew Tee are the main branches in which many members are recruited.
Members of this secret society often tattoo lines of dots called 'tiam' in Hokkien on their foreheads or even five dots on each knuckle on their fingers to identify themselves as 'fighters'. Teardrops on the cheeks are also quite common to signify they have recently lost a 'brother' due to a gang attack or have no more tears to cry, or blood drop below their lips to signify that they won't bleed during a fight.
369 members have been known to dress in a predominantly black outfit and usually taunt rival gang members into a fight with their myriad of gang chants and poems. Gang signs and gang symbols are a few ways gang members use to exhibit their association with this secret society.
Gang violence in Singapore
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the gang furiously attacked rival gangs and started many turf wars. It also started recruiting many members from the Indian & Malay community after relaxing the only-Chinese rule. It also made profits from the sale of illegal and pirated VCDs, narcotics and prostitution. Attacks on rival gangs such as the '303' gang (Sakongsa in Hokkien), the Omega gang and other independent branches of the '18' group were somewhat of a routine occurrence.
The police cracked down on gang activity in the early 1980s and gang wars came to a screeching halt as many of the leaders were jailed. Many other notorious 'headmen' fled to neighboring countries or were killed in gang attacks. However, in the late 1990s and early dawn of the millennium, the gang gained strength as many of the jailed leaders were released and several of the members had succeeded in scaring off many rival gangs from territories. Gang attacks once again became common and rioting cases shot up.
Cases of murder involving gang attacks and riots were steadily increasing and the police force tightened its noose on the gangs. Singapore's Secret Society Branch dedicated most of its resources to halt the gang violence and managed in netting in a considerable amount of members. Slowly but surely, the gang violence receded and many members were put in prison.
Salakau has predominantly held the territories as mentioned but gang activity has been brought to a standstill as the laws are stricter. The Singapore Police Force has a better understanding of the gang networks and ample resources to stamp out further violence. The gang situation in Singapore has been officially described as 'an unorganized network of street corner gangs with no centralized leaders' and the Secret Societies Branch (SSB) of the Singapore Police Force relentlessly pursues and keeps a staunch vigil against any gang undertones related to any criminal act.
The SSB regularly conducts surprise raids or checks on nightspots and public places known to be gang territories to deter any potential offenders. Anyone found guilty of being a member of an unlawful society may be punished up to a minimum of five years imprisonment and five strokes of the cane. Sentences are usually doubled or even tripled for anyone with significant leadership authority in any unlawful society in Singapore.
The strict laws serve as a deterrent to potential gang members and has successfully decreased the number of gang-related street fights and attacks although gang-related violence occurs sporadically but remain no cause for alarm in the interest of public safety. The most recent case was when '369' gang members launched a premeditated attack with machetes and other weapons against a rival gang outside a 7-11 convenience store at Central Mall which left a 46-year old rival gang member dead.
The culprits have since been arrested and imprisoned due to the swift action of the authorities. Recent cases of fighting in popular nightspots such as Ministry of Sound and Club Momo have been attributed to '369' gang members but the situation remains under control by law enforcement agencies.
Reasons for the decline
In the early 19th century, secret societies posed a significant threat to law and order in Singapore. The early Chinese immigrants' clandestine activities and occasional turf wars proved too much of a problem for the British authorities. The British authorities were therefore obliged to curb the growing problem. They employed a number of methods, both on purpose and not, to check the growth of secret societies. This resulted in the decline of secret societies
Singapore becoming a Crown Colony
The transfer of authority over Singapore from the Indian Government to the colonial office in London is considered by most to be the most important factor that helped the British authority check the growth of secret societies. Elevation of Singapore to a crown Colony meant that London was willing to spend money and resources, and provide proper administrators that it was previously unprepared to do. Thus, Singapore was given a significantly larger priority and only with the transfer of power, could the authorities initiate the following changes.
Legislation of strict laws
The legislation of strict laws had an enormous effect in checking the growth of the secret societies. Two significant laws were passed in the 1860s.
The first was the Peace Preservation Act (also known as the banishment act) of 1867, which gave the colonial government the power to detain and deport Chinese immigrants who were convicted of crime. This was a major weapon against the secret societies members as it created fear and deterred the immigrants from joining the secret societies. With this law, the power of the secret societies was significantly curtailed.
In 1869, The Peace Preservation Act was amended, and the Dangerous Societies Suppression Ordinance was also enacted. This required that secret societies be registered. By requiring only the societies, and not the individual members, to be registered, the police attracted people to go to provide insight on the actual strength of the societies. 10 societies, 618 office bearers and 12371 members were registered in the first round of registrations.
This Ordinance also accorded the colonial government the power to inspect any society that was deemed dangerous to public peace. This way the colonial government could monitor the activities of the secret societies closely. This prevented the Chinese immigrants from joining the secret societies, causing it to reduce in influence in Singapore in the 19th century.
Improvements to police force
In 1843, there were only 133 police personnel. Even if the army of 595 men was brought in, they were still no match for the Chinese Community consisting of 32132 people (most of whom were secret society members). Thomas Dunman, the first Commissioner of Police, wrote that his police force was underpaid and drew salaries lower than the average coolies. By 1865, there were 385 policemen to 50043 Chinese, but the ratio of policemen to Chinese was still too few to be effective. This was compounded by the fact that no one in the police force was qualified to deal with the Chinese.
The officers' posts were held by Europeans while Indians made up the rank and file. No Chinese were employed because of their possible dealings with secret societies. Thus, the police force was ignorant of the language and ways of the Chinese, which was also the most volatile community. So ineffective was the police force that the wealthy had to hire private watchmen and carry personal arms to ensure their own safety.
However, after Singapore became a Crown Colony, large improvements made to the local police force. This was an important factor that helped check the growth of secret societies. The police force started to receive more funding, better equipment and proper training. All these made the police force a much more effective force than it previously was under the East India Company. Even more significant was the hiring of Chinese police officers who could understand and deal with the problems associated with the secret societies.
Establishment of Chinese Protectorate
The establishment of the Chinese Protectorate is yet another factor that led to the societies’ growth being checked. The first Chinese Protector, William Pickering maintained close contact with the Chinese immigrant community, and provided them with assistance. Being fluent in written and spoken Mandarin as well as in various Chinese dialect, Pickering looked after the welfare of the newly arrived coolies, prevented coolie abuse and kept track of the numbers of coolies leaving and arriving.
Pickering also licensed coolie depots. To qualify for a license, the depots required a constant and plentiful supply of water and good ventilation. He also visited the coolies to ask them in person what their connections in Singapore were, making sure they had someone to turn to during their stay.
This establishment of the Chinese Protectorate let the British sustain, for the first time in history, a satisfactory relationship with the Chinese community. Pickering was know affectionately to the Chinese as daiyan (大人), Cantonese for 'great man'. The Protectorate effectively became a legitimate alternative where migrants could come and try solve their problems, putting it forward to the societies for a normally violent conclusion.
Over the weekend, the Guardian revealed that two Freemasons' lodges are operating secretly at Westminster, with politicians and political journalists among their members.
A lodge, for those of you not up on your Freemason terminology, is essentially a local branch of the larger organisation – a group of Masons who meet up to chat business, current affairs and whatever else it is they chat about. In this recent case, the New Welcome Lodge is for MPs, peers and parliamentary staff, while the Gallery Lodge is for members of the political press corps, or "Lobby". The Guardian report stated that no journalists, MPs or Lords had declared their membership to either Westminster lodge publicly, and that they were so secret that many Lobby journalists who weren't members were unaware of their existence.
However, it's not just in Parliament that the influence of the Masons is allegedly still being felt. Former Police Federation chairman Steve White recently claimed that the group's influence acted as an obstacle to both reform and the progression of women and people from ethnic minorities within the police force. "What people do in their private lives is a matter for them. When it becomes an issue is when it affects their work," he said in December, before stepping down as chair. "There have been occasions when colleagues of mine have suspected that Freemasons have been an obstacle to reform."
The Masons are a fraternal organisation believed to have started when groups of stonemasons began meeting at the end of the 14th century to regulate the stonemasonry trade. By the 1800s, the group had evolved into a shadowy global society with its own passwords and rituals, boasting members like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and prominent figures from the worlds of politics, business, policing and the arts. Over the years, because of all that secrecy, the organisation has been outlawed in various countries and accused of involvement in real-life corruption cases and endless online conspiracy theories.
The connection between the Masons and the police first generated a public outcry in the UK during the 1960s, when the presence of detectives and high-ranking underworld figures within the same Masonic lodges came to light. An investigation by The Times into corruption in the Met revealed that detectives were part of Masonic lodges whose members included major London criminals. Ever since then, the prominence of Masons in the force has been the subject of constant criticism, both from the media and senior policemen.
In that time, Masons have been linked to serious crimes on a number of occasions. The most notorious in recent memory involved an officer who was discovered to have helped London criminal and fellow Mason Kenneth Noye avoid arrest. Noye is also alleged to have offered a policeman a million-pound bribe after the officer initiated a Masonic handshake. The officer wasn’t actually a Mason, but had done the handshake in the hope that Noye would think he was and do something like offer him a million-pound bribe. He immediately reported the incident.
Following the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, a retired PC who was present at the stadium that day claimed there were rumours of a Masonic conspiracy to shift the blame away from members of Sheffield's Dore Masonic Lodge. Officers involved in Freemasonry were banned from investigating the cover-up following this revelation.
These tidbits aside, the issue of Masons hampering diversity in the police force is not clear cut. It is notable, though, that concerns have been expressed about the Masons’ impact upon the makeup of the force for several decades, long before White’s comments, with a report on equal opportunities in the police from 1995 stating that the Inspectorate of Constabulary had been told by some police staff that "Freemasonry had an undue influence on selection within their force".
A large number of current and former police officers are Masons, and there are lodges set up to cater specifically to them. One is Sine Favore, a male-only lodge founded in 2010 by Police Federation members; another is the Manor of St James, also male-only, which was set up for Scotland Yard officers. For all we know, what lodge members discuss during their get-togethers could be as innocent as the weekend's sports results – but it's because of Freemasons' persistent refusal to reveal anything about their meet-ups that suspicion is aroused and theories cultivated.
The Masons, of course, vigorously deny that their prevalence in the police has a negative impact on minority enrolment or career progression. When I contacted them for comment, a spokesman told me that "the idea that reform and the progression of anyone within the Police Federation or anywhere else is being actively thwarted by an organised body of Freemasons is laughable and suggests an unbelievable element of will and influence from an organisation which is non-political, non-religious, values integrity and upholds the law".
The problem, of course, is that when a society is shrouded in secrecy, it's difficult to check whether its claims of apoliticism are true. Instead, I contacted the National Black Police Association President Tola Munro to ask if she thought the presence of the Masons affected the recruitment of minority officers.
Munro told me that although she thinks Steve White is an honest person, he needs to provide more detail to substantiate his claims. She did, however, acknowledge that the prominence of the Masons within the police could prevent people from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds from joining. "A secretive group that has repeatedly been mired in controversy over its links with policing could be a hindrance to ethnic minority recruitment," she told me. "That’s because it seems to run contrary to the model of an open and fair police service."
I wanted to know if there's any history of overt racism or sexism in the organisation, or if the view of Masons as racist is based purely on conjecture, so I contacted Masonic-history expert David Harrison to get his perspective. He told me Masons in the UK have never openly discriminated against people on grounds of race. "The core essence of English Freemasonry has always been about equality, and that’s regardless of race," he said. "It’s all about being equal with everybody, no matter what race, creed or religion they are."
Unfortunately, the same isn’t true of Masonic lodges in other countries. All-black lodges sprung up in the US in the 1770s due to mainstream lodges' refusal to accept black people, and there are still some branches of the Masons that refuse to accept the legitimacy of these lodges today. There have been accusations that members of predominantly white lodges in America have complained about the presence of black members as recently as 2009.
There is also a history of male dominance within the Masons. During its early years, women were only allowed to play a minor role. Nowadays, there are "co-Masonic" lodges which allow both men and women to join. There are also lodges that only allow female members, but in spite of these developments the vast majority of Masons are still male. CEO of the governing body for the majority of the UK's Masonic lodges, Dr David Staples, told me that their members prefer separate male and female lodges, and that the Freemasons are no different to other single-sex organisations in this respect.
Mike Mahony Sentenced to Three Years Probation, Barred From Public Employment
ARTICLE | FEBRUARY 9, 2015 - 7:25PM | BY CHARLIE KRATOVIL
Mike Mahony marching in NB Fire Department's 250th Anniversary Parade the same month he resigned. City of New Brunswick
FREEHOLD, NJ—A Monmouth County judge has let New Brunswick's chief housing inspector out on probation after he was caught with a distribution quantity of cocaine in his city vehicle.
Michael Mahony was the Chief Housing Inspector for the City of New Brunswick for nineteen years, until he was busted with a "distribution quantity" of cocaine in his city-owned truck on December 19, 2013.
Police said the ten-month investigation resulted in the seizure of 36 weapons, including 22 illegal guns, as well as 1.5 kilos of cocaine, 12 ounces of MDMA, two pounds of marijuana, and several other illegal drugs.
Though sources indicated Mahony was busted by State Police with approximately eleven ounces of cocaine, just about one year later, he pleaded guilty to possessing less than a half an ounce of the drug, a third-degree offense.
"There is a statutory presumption against incarceration for 3rd degree charges in New Jersey if the defendant has no prior criminal convictions," said Peter Aseltine, spokesperson for the NJ Attorney General's Office.
"Mahony had no prior criminal convictions, so there was a presumption against incarceration in this case from the beginning."
During Mahony's tenure, the city's housing inspectors were the target of a federal investigation, and they were routinely criticized for overzealous and selective enforcement, while slum conditions persisted in many neighborhoods.
The case against Mahony involves nine other defendants, each of them snatched up by State Police in December 2013 and January 2014. Among those arrested were two other public employees, as well as a New Brunswick landlord, a Cranbury-based business owner, and several other men.
Mahony was the first to plead out his charges in the sprawling investigation that authorities say brought down an underground drug and gun network.
Somewhat surprisingly, the city government has not entirely disowned Mahony, posting a photograph of him waving from a parade on the city's official Facebook page shortly after he resigned.
New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill, who has held the city's highest office since 1991, downplayed the charges against Mahony in a January 9 interview with New Brunswick Today.
"What I am told, and I do not know this for a fact, that this was a single incident with Mr. Mahony, who has now plead guilty... and that there was no further information or evidence to do anything else with him," said Cahill.
Mahony gave $1,250 to Cahill's political campaigns between 2008 and 2010.
Cahill could not say for sure whether he knew Mahony before the city hired him mid-way through his first of seven terms in office.
"I probably knew Mike through his employment with the city and, suffice it to say, Mike is no longer employed by the City," said Cahill. "He was disciplined. We sought his removal and he's no longer employed by us."
"As to why the police department didn't do something earlier on... I suppose the same question could be posed to the State Police," Cahill told NBToday.
Others in city government also expressed support for Mahony throughout the prosecution.
"Mr. Mahony enjoyed a reputation as a hard-working inspector," said longtime City Attorney William Hamilton, in response to the inital allegations against him.
"I was shocked when I read about what was in the newspaper," said Hamilton. "His reputation as an inspector was very high."
The case was moved to Monmouth County to avoid a conflict of interest.
The former chief inspector was sentenced to three years of probation by Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mellaci Jr., according to Aseltine, who added that Mahony was ordered "to forfeit his public job and is barred from public employment in New Jersey."
In fact, Mahony resigned the job on October 3, after being suspended without pay for nine months.
A few years ago, the same judge sentenced the notoriously corrupt former Middlessex County Sheriff to nearly a decade in jail.
Mahony was represented in court by attorney James P. Nolan, who also serves as the Township Attorney for Woodbridge Township.
Around the time that his plea deal was brokered, the New Brunswick Elks Lodge unceremoniously dismissed Mahony as their Treasurer.
But, sources say the decision proved unpopular, and many of Mahony's fellow Elks complained, resulting in his re-instatement the following day.
Mahony remains a controversial figure in New Brunswick, with a powerful group of supporters and a number of vocal critics.
"Mike is a good guy... We both were bartenders together back in late 70's, early 80's at the Budapest," said his friend Brian McKenzie.
"Good or bad, he is a long time friend who helped out lots of people," said McKenzie, adding that Mahony volunteered for the community in many ways, including organizing fundraisers "one after another since I known him."
Still, his critics contend Mahony got favorable treatment from the Attorney General's Office, Judge Mellaci, or both, due to his former position in city government and connections to high-ranking officials.
"[Mahony] knew he was not going to do no time because he got the power to tell them what to do," said Nathaniel Williams, a man who says Mahony was engaged in a conspiracy to take his house.
Williams takes credit for bringing the Federal Bureau of Investigation to town almost eight years ago, when the agency found rampant corruption involving Mahony's inspections division.
Mahony survived the 2007 federal investigation into his shop, but it took down four city employees, including two of his inspectors.
A fifth official, who ran the city's water utility, allegedly took his own life after he learned of the investigation.
The Division of Inspections merged with the New Brunswick Fire Department a couple years after the investigation concluded.
Since then, Mahony reported directly to New Brunswick Fire Director Robert Rawls, instead of Business Administrator Thomas Loughlin.
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