I wrote about Benjamin’s suicide almost a month ago and had expected a PAP wayang. (No justice with a bullying police force)
It therefore comes as no surprise when Law Minister K Shanmugam ‘acted out his wayang script’ with the mainstream media giving full support subsequently.
According to Shanmugam, the police had followed protocols. Without admitting the police officers could have been intimidating and instilled fear in innocent youths, he told Parliament there would be a review of protocols. Why waste tax dollars on a review if, after more than a month, the SPF had still found nothing wrong?
Shanmugam kept Parliament rooted on police protocols in dealing with young persons. The protocols are of course perfect in print but when it comes to execution, it’s another matter, eg mishandling of the Little India riot, Mas Selamat, etc. Many personal accounts have been highlighted by TOC but it had to take a tragedy for Shanmugam to realise the need for a belated review.
Intimidation by the police can take many forms such as a child being in the presence of fierce-looking police officers during questioning,ie their body language, tone of voice, etc.
My son had a brush with the law and was similarly picked up in school by 5 police officers. During the trip to the police station, the driver was spewing as much vulgarity as Ah Beng in a coffee shop. My son was traumatised by the police: he was in primary school. Wasn’t the police behaving in an intimidating manner Mr Law Minister?
Shanmugam should go talk to political prisoners to find out the truth. The police had been given the go ahead to be intimidating so why should they differentiate human beings according to their age groups?
Shanmugam then framed the issue into one of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” when he said ““If the police wait, and he molests someone else in the meantime, then the question would be: Why did the police not move in faster?”. Shouldn’t this have already been thought through before implementing the protocol? Is the SPF only starting to think about this, now, after a tragedy?
The Law Minister claimed Benjamin’s father had told the authorities that the family had “felt pressurised by the media and asked for privacy”. However, Benjamin’s family members had passed an open letter to TOC, published on 4 Feb, 9 days after his death. What “privacy” was Shanmugam talking about? Did MHA refrain from making substantive comments “out of respect” for Benjamin’s family? Really?
The problem with the SPF and its negative public image is largely due to its politicised nature. For example, TOC had published an article on Feb 5 contradicting the police: SPF officers were not in plainclothes when they arrested Benjamin.
After the police had verified the article had erred factually – police officers were in plainclothes – this information was withheld until Parliament sat on 1 March, almost 1 month later.
The SPF had therefore not acted in public interest and was not bothered by its reputation being tarnished by the increasingly negative image created by an erroneous article. Perhaps Shanmugam would like the public to believe the reputation of the police was sacrificed out of respect for Benjamin’s family?
This wasn’t material information which could not be publicly disclosed and, clearly, SPF was serving its political master.
Shanmugam: “If there are issues with the protocol, the responsibility is mine. Let’s not attack the police officers, who cannot defend themselves.” Talk is cheap Mr Law Minister and of course we know what will happen to those who ‘take responsibility’. After slamming social media, Shanmugam wants to become a punching bag for the public? Is Shanmugam willing to apologise if police protocols are found wanting? Is keeping the same job and taking the same pay and bonuses “responsibility”?
If Shanmugam has to take responsibility for wrong protocols implemented by the police, should the government continue to employ the highest-paid permanent secretaries, statutory board CEOs, etc?
The takeaway from this Parliament wayang:
– Police followed protocol, don’t blame the police.
– Blame social media for spreading falsehoods, aka factual errors in other countries.
– Public information belongs to PAP, up to them to disseminate for political mileage.
– Government can only learn lessons at the expense of citizens/from tragedies.
Public perception of the SPF is at an all time low and this cannot be corrected by mere words, advertisements, propaganda and blaming others. Shanmugam shouldn’t divert the attention on his own tardy actions by slamming TOC and social media. A review of police protocols doesn’t really address SPF’s shortcomings. What we really need is a depoliticised SPF.