As parents of school-going children, we have been following Benjamin Lim’s case very closely. What happened to Benjamin is tragic. There are many answers the Ministry of Education owes to parents regarding the issue.
First, shouldn’t schools be the safest place for our children to be in when they are away from home? Why did the school hand over one of its students to the police without his parents’ or school official’s presence?
Second, schools have the responsibility to make sure children’s well-being are their top priority, even when faced with demands and pressure from the police.
In Benjamin’s case, the school could have asked a school counsellor to accompany him to the police station. Even if the police did not allow anyone else to ride in the police vehicle with Benjamin, the school should have sent someone to drive separately to the police station and let Benjamin know that he was not alone.
This is the whole problem with Singapore where most of us do not know our rights or question the limits of the authorities’ powers.
Third, there was a school camp the following day which Benjamin was to attend. Students generally like attending these camps and there is no reason to believe that Benjamin was not looking forward to it. According to the family, however, the school called right after Benjamin left the police investigation to inform his mother that he will be excluded from the camp.
If this account is true, why did the school decide to exclude Benjamin from the school camp and add to his already depressed state of mind?
Already as a 14-year-old child facing five police officers without the presence of any familiar adult is very daunting. We will never know what went on in Benjamin’s mind when he decided to end his life that day, but his suicide is a wake up call to us.
Let us make sure that no child ever goes through what Benjamin had to go through. This can only be achieved when an independent Commission of Inquiry is set up to determine exactly the events of his arrest and his treatment while he was under police custody. The current system does not afford adequate protection of minors.
We owe it to Benjamin and his grieving family to seek justice for a son and brother lost.
Central Executive Committee
Singapore Democratic Party