By ANGELIN YEOH
Before Hafez, 18 (not his real name), leaves the house for a night out with friends, his parents will always tell him not to do anything stupid.
Well there’s definitely nothing stupid about what the pre-university student does on a night out. In fact, he’s quite resourceful when he’s getting himself into clubs that only allow patrons that are above 21.
“It’s about knowing the right people. I have older friends who can put my name on the guest list. So when I arrive at the club, all I have to do is tell the bouncer that my name is on the list and he lets me in, hassle-free,” he says.
According to Hafez, he’s been going to clubs even before he turned 17, and when his friends can’t get him in, he dishes out his trump card.
“I have a fake identity card. It looks just like the real thing, except it indicates a different birthdate on it.”
Hafez says that a fake identity card can cost between RM50 to a few hundred ringgit, depending on what kind of information you want on it. You can choose your name, date of birth, address and even photo to be displayed on it.
Michael, 17, says underage partying is fairly normal these days. In fact, he got his fake ID thanks to a friend in school. “It’s the usual story, a friend will know someone who knows someone who can get these things for you.”
All you have to do is pass the money to the “contact”, along with whatever information you want on your fake ID, and in a week or two, you can be partying at the hottest joints in town.
“After secondary school, everyone just seems to only want to talk about hitting the clubs. Initially I thought I’d have to wait until I’m old enough. Then I found out from a friend that age is actually not a problem,” he says.
Rules are rules
The age restrictions at clubs, of course, are there for a reason.
Just two weeks ago, The Star ran an exclusive story on the sharp rise in designer drugs on the local party scene – from 87,000 pills seized in 2011, to 4.13 million in just the first half of 2012. There was even a story about a 17-year-old girl who died after popping a pill while out partying.
According to Petaling Jaya District Head of the crime investigation unit DSP Abdul Aziz Baba, the onus is on club owners to prevent underage clubbers from gaining entry.
“Clubs who let underage patrons in risk getting their license revoked, and they can also be fined,” he explained. For the underage patron, though, the only thing that’ll happen to them is their parents will get a phone call from the police.
Alex Martin, who owns a few clubs in the Klang Valley, says the rules are more strongly enforced for clubs in KL, as owners are given a mandate by the city council to ensure that no underage patrons are allowed in.
“The age restriction for clubs in Kuala Lumpur would be 21 and above. Some places allow 18 and above. Personally for me, I’m pro-23. I think the older patrons with their own income tend to be wiser with how they spend on drinks, and they hold their liquor better.”
Bouncers at Martin’s clubs use UV lights to determine whether IDs are fake.
But according to Justin Yap, 21, who works as an ambassador for a club in Kuala Lumpur, many underage patrons get in simply by flashing someone else’s ID.
“I see a lot of girls doing this. A patron who is of legal age flashes her MyKad and she gets in after the bouncer stamps her wrist to indicate that she’s legal. After that she’ll go out of the club for a while and pass her MyKad to an underage friend. The friend flashes the other girl’s MyKad and the bouncer lets her in.”
What happens when they get caught?
“We usually just throw them out of the club and place a ban on them so they can never get in again. Sometimes when they cause too much trouble, we’ll hand them to the police for causing nuisance in a public place.”
In Yap’s experience, the main reason why minors shouldn’t be allowed in clubs is because they tend to cause trouble.
“They tend to have too much to drink and get into fights. Sometimes, it’s over a girl. In situations like these, they tend to break stuff like bottles and glasses. That kind of situation is dangerous for everyone in the club,” he says.
There are also the obvious health reasons. International Medical University (IMU) associate dean and consultant psychiatrist Professor Dr. Philip George says apart from the usual liver disease and physical health complications, consuming alcohol at an early age can also cause one to develop a dependency on the substance as a stress coping mechanism.
Face the music
But back to fake IDs. While young people like Michael and Hafez don’t think much about it, the consequences of getting caught can actually be very severe.
According to DSP Abdul Aziz, underage club patrons with fake MyKads will be investigated under the National Registration Act 1959. It is considered an offence if a person is found to have been in possession of a forged identity card, using another person’s identity card or possessing more than one national identity card.
Upon conviction, the guilty party will receive a prison sentence of not more than three years or a fine of RM20,000 or both. But for juvenile cases, those below 18, all they’ll get is a slap on the wrist.
The priority in these cases, says DSP Abdul Aziz, would be to inform the parents of the offenders.
“We’ll carry out an initial investigation (to see if they have a history of drug use or other misdemeanours), and then inform the parents of their child’s whereabouts. We understand that sometimes the parents are unaware of what their child is up to,” he says.
In some cases, the school will be informed. “Normally we’ll advise the school to give the student some counselling.
Perhaps there is an underlying problem with the student and the school can provide the right support.”
Michael says he’s “pretty sure” the consequences of underage clubbing and drinking would be serious, but that hasn’t stopped him and his friends from doing it since they completed SPM.
“I go to clubs just to hang out. We go to clubs where they don’t check our MyKads, and those are usually the dodgy-looking ones,” he says.
In any case, fearless young clubbers like Hafez have ways to make sure they never get caught.
“I have an escape plan. If the club I’m in gets raided by the police, my friends will help me escape through the backdoor. So far so good I’d say.”
With fake IDs so easily available, club owners can’t seem to do much when faced with a truly determined underage clubber; and all the police can do when they’re caught is bring them in, and give their parents a call.
So in the end, it’s really all up to the young people themselves to be responsible for their actions. Yap, for one, believes they should consider the risks they are taking, especially given that it’s just for a couple hours of fun.
He said: “Just wait till you’re of the legal age. It’s not worth taking the risk now.”