Saturday, February 6, 2016

The bizarre behaviour of the Honourable Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam

"Nero fiddled while Rome burned". This famous quote could not be more poetic in portraying the bizarre reticence of the Honourable Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam when the whole of Singapore is agitated and livid over the questionable tactics of the police in the handling of the case  of a 14-year-old student Benjamin Lim which resulted in his tragic suicide. Minister K. Shanmugam is known to be very loquacious at other times especially in his crusade against the cruelty of cats. Does this mean that a human life is less worthy than a cat in his lofty views? Just like the Chinese saying: To treat the people like grass.(視人民如草芥).

A young life has been cut short which could be attributed to his traumatised experience at the hand of the police. While Singaporeans are questioning the antiquated police procedure in dealing with a minor and are waiting for a decent answer from the police, it is beyond logic and belief that the Honourable Minister K. Shanmugam could be turning a deaf ear to all these deafening rumblings by Singaporeans for social justice. The public would certainly like to know what he has to say about the questionable police tactics and the tragic suicide of the minor. The police department comes under his control and it is incumbent upon him to give his unbiased views on the issue.

On the other hand the police seem to be dragging their feel in the long overdue review of their antiquated procedure in dealing with minors. While they are sitting on their arses wrangling among themselves, there may be another tragedy waiting to happen. How can they be impressed of the urgency of finding a quick solution to the problem? They seem to be waiting for a cue from their Honourable Minister which is taking a long time to come. So the opening quote of "Nero fiddled while Rome burned" is not misplaced. PM Lee Hsien Loong has prided himself on a prompt and efficient civil service. It would be interesting to hear what he has to say on both the police tardiness in reviewing their procedure and the funkiness of Minister K. Shanmugam in giving his views on such a grave matter.

The Minister for Education could also not escape the admonishment of the public for staying aloof of all these discreditable happenings. Did he not find something remiss in the conduct of the principal of the school and should not there be a review of the procedure in the handing over of a minor to the police for investigation making it less stressful to the minor? Benjamin Lim was in a state of starvation and the principal would be remiss in not noticing it. And his tardiness in responding to the minor's father who called him after his son's suicide cannot be condoned. He returned the call only the next day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The police could show more compassion and finesse in dealing with teenagers

The tragic suicide of a 14-year-old teenager Benjamin Lim has struck a raw nerve among Singaporeans about questionable police methods of interrogation of teenagers. The manner in which Benjamin Lim was hauled from his school by five burly plainclothes police officers for a suspected molestation offence for interrogation could not but cause consternation to the public by the display of excessive intimidatory tactics by the police. The question uppermost in the public mind is whether it was necessary to send such massive police manpower to the school in the first place to deal with a minor? Was it not a clear case of wasteful use of resources when a single police officer would have been more than adequate.

At the police station Benjamin Lim was subjected to more than three hours of interrogation without any of his guardian being present. He was released after interrogation and went straight home, only to jump out of his window to his death. The only conclusion that could be drawn was that he was over-traumatised by his traumatised experience at the hand of the police. An innocent life has been tragically lost at such a young age.

The million dollar question is who is to be blamed for this tragedy? The public could not be blamed if they point their finger at the police. They cannot understand how the police, with all their expertise, could deal with a minor as if he was a hardened criminal. The police will find it hard to defend themselves and whatever statement issued by them would not be able to calm the public.

So what is the best course for them to regain public confidence? It is natural to be wise after the event and the police will be found wanting if they could not be doing this. To begin with, it is obvious that their procedure in dealing with teenagers is defective and it is incumbent upon them to revise thoroughly their current procedure to do away with the unpalatable aspects such as the massive use of police manpower and the interrogation of minors without their parents or guardian being present. There should be the application of more commonsense in implementing the procedure. They should always bear in mind that minors are a vulnerable class and should be treated compassionately and decently.

If we can henceforth see significant improvement in the police procedure in dealing with minors, the the tragic death of Benjamin Lim will not be in vain. But then it is very sad that his parents will have to live with the pain of his premature death for the rest of their lives.