Fascinating testimony by police witness

January 15, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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Station Inspector Kelvin Bong seemed determined to outdo his compatriot, DSP Mohd Hassan, in making U-turns and contradictions while giving evidence.

SI Bong was the next police witness to take the stand in the on-going case in which Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Dr Chee Soon Juan, and Ms Chee Siok Chin are charged with distributing flyers on 10 Sep 06 and demonstrating opposition to the actions of the Government.

To deny or not to deny

The biggest faux pas occurred when the witness testified that he had observed Ms Chee Siok Chin and Dr Chee Soon Juan distributing flyers outside Raffles Ctty Shopping Centre.

“When you saw us at that point, were we committing an offence?” Ms Chee asked the witness during cross-examination yesterday.

“Yes,” Mr Bong replied.

But when Dr Chee asked him the same question today, the officer’s reply was “no”.

Dr Chee then read out Ms Chee’s question to him and the reply he gave yesterday. “Are you saying now that you did not reply ‘yes’ when you answered Ms Chee yesterday?” Dr Chee enquired.

“To the best of my memory,” SI Bong replied, “I said ‘no’.”

Dr Chee turned to Judge Chng Lai Beng to clarify whether the witness had indeed said “yes” to Ms Chee’s question. But the Judge then wanted to know the relevance of Dr Chee’s question before he referred to his notes.

“It has to do with SI Bong’s credibility as a witness,” Dr Chee submitted.

Judge Chng then turned to his notes and read out loud Ms Chee’s question and Mr Bong’s reply. The record showed that the witness had indeed said “yes”.

Confronted with the Judge’s record, Dr Chee asked: “Do you still deny that you had said “yes” to Ms Chee’s question?”

Incredibly, the witness would still not admit to his error. Dr Chee repeated the question four more times and each time the officer refused to give a straightforward asnwer.

“Your Honour, can you direct the witness to answer my question?” Dr Chee implored.

Turning back to the witness, the SDP secretary-general said: “I ask you one more time, do you still deny that you had said ‘yes’ to Ms Chee’s question?”

“Initially I said ‘yes’ and followed with my personal point of view…,” the witness attempted one last time.

“Do you still deny that you had said ‘yes’ to Ms Chee’s question?” Dr Chee pressed.

“No, I don’t deny,” came the sheepish reply.

A simple “yes” or “no” answer from the witness could easily and quickly have resolved the question at hand. But with the witness’ evasion and prevarication, the matter lasted for more than one hour.

Deny everything, admit nothing

Mr Bong had also told the court that on the day in question, he had arrived at Raffles City at 10 am and started to patrol the vicinity there.

But under cross-examination by Ms Chee Siok Chin, he said that he had left his briefing station at Beach Road only at 10 am and took 10-15 minutes to walk from there to Raffles City.

So how did he arrive at Raffles City at 10 am when he only left his briefing station at that time? Ms Chee asked. The witness then conceded that he did not start patrolling until about 10:20 that morning.

Picking up on this Dr Chee asked: “When you told the court that you had left your briefing at 10 am, did you rely on your memory or on your statement you gave to the Investigating Officer?”

“Memory,” SI Bong answered.

“I put it to you that when you told the court that you had started patrolling at 10 am when in fact you did not, that you were lying,” Dr Chee told the witness.

“I disagree.”

“I then put it to you that if you say you were not lying then your memory had failed you,” Dr Chee offered. It had to be one or the other.

“I disagree.”

“If you are not lying and if you remembered correctly, then why did you tell the court that you started patrolling at 10 am when you did not?” Dr Chee continued.

“I remember telling the court that I left the briefing at about 10 am, I did not say that I was at Raffles City and starting patrolling at about 10 am,” the witness lied.

Dr Chee then confronted him: “You are denying that you told this court at one point during your Evidence-in-Chief that you were at Raffles City and started patrolling at about 10 am?”

“I can’t recall,” the officer changed tack.

This, fellow Singaporeans, is the integrity of our nation’s finest. When caught admit nothing, deny everything. When pressed claim amnesia.

The mysterious glass door

SI Kelvin Bong had also tesified that he and his team of officers had positioned themselves behind the glass door at the entrance of the Raffles City Shopping Centre and conducted their observations of the group from there.

Dr Chee then showed him a photograph of the entrance of Raffles City.

“Do you see a glass door across the entrance?”

“Can’t see any,” the witness replied, as he peered at the photograph.

“That’s because there isn’t any,” Dr Chee pointed out. “Can you tell the court how you came to be behind a glass door when there was none?”

“I do remember standing behind a glass door.”

Pocketbook issues

Police officers are issued with a pocketbook in which they are expected to maintain a diary of events. Except, perhaps, SI Kelvin Bong.

Mr Bong, an Investigation Officer with the Serious Sexual Crime Branch, was deployed for special duties to Raffles City during the WB-IMF meeting period in 2006.

“As an Investigation Officer yourself, would the date of an alleged offence be important to you?” Dr Chee queried.

“Yes.”

“Would the description of the scene or action of an alleged offence be important to you?”

“Yes.”

“Would the time of the alleged offence be important to you?”

“Yes.”

“Did you make these entries in your pocketbook?”

“No.”

Incredulous, Dr Chee, who was formerly an Assistant Superintendent (NS), asked further: “So if I were to look at your pocketbook, I would not see it reflect 10 September 2006? That day would be a blank?”

“Yes.”

Uniquely Singapore.

Hearing resumes tomorrow at 9:30 am in Subordinate Court No 19.