The SDP expresses our deepest sympathies to the family of Benjamin Lim. His suicide is a tragedy that could have been avoided.
There is a reason why the law and society treat minors differently from adults: They are presumed to not possess the full maturity in thought and deed as adults. Common sense would have indicated to the authorities to proceed with caution when dealing with minors. Yet, five police officers were dispatched to arrest the boy.
Even if the police were concerned that Benjamin would not be co-operative and could overpower the officers and escape, how far could he have run? And even if he did make a getaway, did the police not have his family, school and classmates that they could contact?
Also of concern is whether the number of officers sent to arrest Benjamin signaled an aggressive police mindset that was carried over into the interrogation room.
School officials must be aware that their duty is, first and foremost, to protect students’ welfare as well as their families’ interests. Doing this would not impede law enforcement officers from carrying out their duty. It would, on the other hand, help to prevent tragedies like Benjamin’s suicide from taking place.
But there is something else that is equally disconcerting. The Ministers for Law, Education, and Home Affairs have kept silent on the matter. Given that a teenager has committed suicide resulting from a series of actions involving the police and the school, it behooves the Ministers to, at the minimum, address the situation and see how the matter is resolved and future incidents prevented.
Instead of looking into the matter, Todayonline runs a headline saying: “MPs, experts laud police review of interview process involving minors”. Why are MPs and the media not speaking up on investigating the circumstances that led to a 14-year-old committing suicide after police interrogation? Instead, they are lauding the review of a procedure that should not have been in practice in the first place.
In any developed country, the standard operating procedures (SOPs) would require minors to be accompanied by a parent, guardian or lawyer during interrogation. Its SOPs would also require video recordings of all police interrogations. Without these protections of minors’ rights – indeed the rights of all persons under interrogation – we will never know the treatment meted out to Benjamin during the three hours or so in police custody.
The public is upset over this incident and deserves full accounting from the Government.
Dr Wong Souk Yee
Singapore Democratic Party