Police are “fundamentally honest”?

May 6, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

In the recent Parliamentary debate over the amendment of the Films Act concerns were raised about giving police the power to seize the cameras of videographers.

Would officers abuse the law by demanding the footage from cameramen for no other reason than not wanting to be caught on video doing something illegal?

Law Minister K Shanmugam rejected such potential for abuse, declaring that “our officers are fundamentally honest.”

When it comes to politics, can the police be relied upon to discharge their duties without fear or favour? Just look at what’s been happening to the Singapore Democrats and our fellow activists who have been charged for assembly without a permit.

The police make up laws:

  • SI (Station Inspector) Yeo Kok Leong, a licensing officer, says that groups engaged in commercial causes need not apply for permits to assemble (see here).
  • DSP (Deputy Superintendent) Mohd Hassan stated that certain areas within the Speakers’ Corner are actually not part of the Speakers’ Corner and gatherings in these areas are therefore illegal (see here).
  • DSP Hassan and Inspector Patrick Lim claim that the flyers that promote events that have no permits are illegal.

They prevaricate:

  • DSP Hassan testified that Dr Chee Soon Juan had broken away from the police cordon during the WB-IMF protest when it was actually the officer who had given Dr Chee permission to proceed (see here).
  • DSP Hassan and Insp Lim said that they both left Raffles City Shopping Centre together after they confronted the activists but their times differ by a full hour (see here).
  • Sgt Lam Tien Chiang was determined by District Judge Jasvender Kaur to have lied about the preparation of photographs as evidence (see here).
  • SI Kelvin Bong repeatedly told the court that he and his team-mates were standing behind a glass door while they were conducting their observation of the activists when his team-mates said they were not. The officer also signed off on his police report as an “informant” when he was clearly not the one and neglected to sign off as the recording officer when he was clearly the one (see here).

They don’t know the law, trample on rules and lie to the public:

  • The officers who confronted the activists when they were distributing flyers did not know what offence the activists were committing (see here).
  • Sgt Lam Tien Chiang admitted he had lied that he was not a police officer when confronted by an activist (see here).
  • Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Jeremy Koh was seen going in and out of the witness room during a trial and communicating with police witnesses who have yet to take the stand (see here).

This list is by no means exhaustive. These happenings make one very doubtful of the police especially when it comes to cases involving the opposition.

In the end it is not about whether Mr Shanmugam believes our police are “fundamentally honest” or not. It is about writing laws that leave little or no room for abuse by law enforcement agents.

The amendment to the Films Act was introduced specifically to give the police wide-ranging powers to suppress legitimate dissent. There is no denying that we have moved another rung up the league of police states.

The above encounters with police behaviour, both in and out of court, should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that our cops are quite capable of actions that are less than professional. This particular amendment to the Films Act does not help.