~ By Jewel Philemon, with additional reporting by Ng Yi Shu ~
A man is rushing along the pathway across an open field in Choa Chu Kang in a hurry to reach his next appointment. He is making good time and all is going normally when suddenly he feels as though he is not able to control his left leg. Naturally, he stops and tries to squat down to examine his leg but completely loses control of all his motor skills, falls onto the foot path and loses consciousness.
The next thing he knows, he finds himself in a prison holding cell, feeling black and blue all over. He is then told by the attending police officers that he has been charged for disorderly conduct and that there are witnesses who saw him behave violently when police officers tried to question him at the scene.
Despite his vehement denials, he is accused of being under the influence of drugs and ordered to undergo a blood test. The blood test result though proves his innocence and he is then allowed to make a phone call to someone to bail him out of custody.
All this while, his pleas for medical attention for his many injuries (with no recollection of how he may have sustained them) are rejected and only a medic superficially attends to his wounds.
Bad, The Situation
This is the true story of 48-year old service technician Mr Lim (not his real name) – a Chinese-educated Singapore citizen who was allegedly mistreated by police.
Speaking to TOC, he said that he was denied proper medical attention in a hospital when he was unconscious and when he asked the senior investigation officer why that was the case, the officer replied that he could get medical attention on his own after his sister had posted bail. Mr Lim also claims that the senior investigation officer threatened to deny bail if he asked too many questions.
Once on bail, his bail was eventually allowed to lapse (i.e. he was no longer required to return to see the investigation officer but not formerly discharged), however, Mr Lim wanted to bring closure to the matter and establish the answers to several obvious questions:
- Why and how had he sustained so many injuries?
- Why had he not been given proper medical attention?
- Who was accountable for the injuries he sustained?
- Would the police compensate him for the treatment of the injuries sustained?
A statement from the police was subsequently issued to Mr Lim which said:
“On the afternoon of 18 Jul 2011, Police and SCDF Paramedics attended to you after you were found lying near to Blk 483, Choa Chu Kang Ave 5. We are looking into the matter and will reply to you in due course. When police arrived on the scene, you were conscious. However you were uncooperative and necessary force was used to hold you down so that the paramedic could examine your medical condition. You were subsequently arrested under Section 20 of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Section 184. Police had looked into the issues which you have raised. We are satisfied that the arrest was lawful and appropriate, and there is no evidence to suggest any wrongdoings by our officers. The investigation officer will update you as soon as a decision has been made over your case.”
This statement directly contradicts Mr Lim’s account which is that he was fully unconscious throughout the duration of his arrest on the scene but is unable to remember what happened during that period. According to him, all communication from the Singapore Police Force ceased when he pressed for more details.
Mr Lim confides that he has not received any more updates to this day and his request for an appointment with the investigation officer was also refused. To date, the police have yet to respond to Mr Lim’s further queries.
Worse, The Medical Development
The day after being released from police custody, Mr Lim visited a polyclinic to seek treatment for his injuries and after a battery of additional tests, he was diagnosed with Grade IV Glioblastoma – a type of brain cancer.
Glioblastoma is the most aggressive malignant form of primary brain tumors in humans and is most common among men, above the age of 50. Its symptoms include seizures, nausea, vomiting, headaches, hemiparesis, and a progressive memory, personality, and neurological deficit due to the involvement of the temporal and frontal lobe.
Sadly, the chances of surviving glioblastoma are rather poor with a median survival time of at least fourteen months.
Mr Lim has been in and out of the hospital for chemotherapy and radiotherapy over the last four months. He was declared ‘permanently handicapped’ in December of last year, and is unable to work as a result. He now survives on a meagre pension and is applying for Medifund to help ease the costs of his regular hospital appointments.
When asked how he spends his time, Mr Lim responded with a sad smile saying, “I just stay at home, waiting for my days to end”. He also added, rather sorrowfully, that he does not want to reveal his real name as so as to avoid his family learning about his difficult situation.
Mr Lim knows that he is going to die and just wants closure to help him deal with what he went through with the authorities on that fateful Monday morning. The lack of appropriate response from the police force even led Mr Lim to visit his MP for help but he was unable to meet him as the official (who is also a cabinet minister) was not personally present at the Meet-The-People session (MPS). Mr Lim has tried a few times.
Mr Lim then took to emailing prominent parliamentarians asking for assistance in highlighting the ‘injustice’ that he has suffered. He emailed Minister of State, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Teo Chee Hean, and Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, among others. The police eventually responded to Mr Lim's email to Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, without saying much.
The stark silence is "like a slap in the face," says Mr Lim. "They were supposed to protect me."
Worst, The Lack of Transparency
So what actually happened that day? How did Mr Lim sustain so many injuries? What kind of 'necessary force' was used on Mr Lim by the police?
Mr Lim could have lost consciousness due to his medical condition. Or his rapidly digressing memory could have suppressed the details of the incident . His injuries could have been sustained due to the cancer that has afflicted him. Or the police officers' use of 'necessary force' could have caused those injuries. However, all of these are mere speculation and the withholding of appropriate information leaves Mr Lim yet to find closure on this episode.
Mr Lim’s questions are, undoubtedly, important and reasonable ones but perhaps the most important questions that need to be asked are:
- Why have the police refused to answer Mr Lim's questions?
- Why ignore such simple queries if there is nothing to hide?
- Is it because of the lack of manpower to address such questions from aggrieved citizens?
- Is this perhaps a case of proper protocol being followed but a failure to exercise compassion or sensibility?
- Why doesn’t the Police, as a matter of practice, offer a thorough explanation/description to those exonerated after investigation?
It can be argued that if if Mr Lim had been charged in court, he would have access to more information then what he has now (i.e. court documents require a fair amount of details to be submitted for public record). In addition, being reluctant to share a reasonableamount of information leads one to consider the possibility that there might be grounds for Mr Lim to claim damages over the incident.
However, this is mere conjecture and no one will really know the truth unless the Singapore Police Force responds with more information to Mr Lim, who really only desires to bring an emotional closure to this sad episode in his life.
A dying man's wish, if you will.
NOTE: TOC has written to the Singapore Police Force inviting the organisation to provide more information on this case and the officers' perspective of the incident. To date, no response has been received.