Perhaps I was ignorant, but the only reason I even heard of the plight of Dinesh Raman was through online news outlets. I first saw the story on Yahoo! and was immediately disturbed by the following:
- That whilst the unlawful death had occurred in 2010, the public was only made aware of this incident in 2013.
- That Lim Kwo Yin, who was charged for and pleaded guilty for committing “a negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide that caused the death of Dinesh Raman was only fined S$10,000.
- That “in view of the conclusion of criminal proceedings” the inquiry into Dinesh Raman’s death was discontinued.
The prison system is paid for by the coffers of the state – i.e. funded by our taxes. It is therefore run on public money and accountable to all Singaporeans. An unlawful death caused by the negligence of an officer paid for by the public purse should by that logic have been made promptly known to Singaporeans. While I understand that information was withheld while investigations were pending, I wonder if super efficient Singapore would really have taken three years to look into this matter, however “complicated” it may have been? To me, it would seem to be either “non priority” or deliberately kept “hush hush”, neither of which is very reassuring.
A death within any public institution is a serious matter. This death being caused by the negligence of a public officer compounds the gravity of the situation further. Surely, the public whose money funds this very system deserves to know in a timely manner when and how the failings came about?
Minister for Information, Mr Yaacob Ibrahim was recently quoted saying that he wanted Singaporeans to read the “right” content on the Internet. This was said in defense of the new raft of reforms to regulate Internet content. I would certainly consider this piece of news “correct” for all Singaporeans to read given that it concerns state institutions and allegations of negligence. It is therefore ironical that most Singaporeans found out about this perturbing news, not through the mainstream media but via the Internet, of which the Minister is so keen to regulate.
Secondly, is a S$10,000 fine adequate punishment? Surely Lim deserves to lose his job for this debacle? Even if it was not deliberate, surely this gross negligence warrants a sack!
Details on the punishment meted out to the officers involved has been scant with Second Minister for Home Affairs, only saying in Parliament that “MHA has initiated disciplinary action against the superintendent, supervisors and other officers involved in the incident.” Surely in light of an unlawful death with the prison system seemingly complicit, the public deserves to know how these officers have been punished.
I appreciate that Dinesh’s death was not a deliberate act of Lim but the public needs to be reassured that the system in which it funds is run in a proper and responsible manner. This would include sacking all responsible officers. Identities of individuals guilty for much less than death have been made public. Why not all the officers complicit in this death?
Thirdly, apart from saying that the Government accepts liability and will compensate the family, there have been no details released to the family as to how the death occurred. Surely, the family has a right to know and understand how this incident happened? Besides, what recompense can ever be adequate to replace the loss of a loved one?
Why did the coroner discontinue the inquiry? While criminal proceedings were indeed necessary, the family still needs to understand the cause of death before being able to find closure. They may now have a face to the crime but they still do not know how the crime was committed. For an unlawful death such as this, the family deserves to at least uncover the truth.
Lastly, this incident truly highlights the importance of alternative news sources in Singapore. Rigorous debate and questions are the only way to ensure that public institutions remain above board. Without the online news channels, this would never have the attention that it so rightfully deserves.
While some online news may be inaccurate, it is not fair for all online news outlets to be tarred by the same brush. Let Singaporeans decide what they want to read. We are smart enough to be discerning. News without basis would eventually be dismissed by the public. News worthy of our attention, such as this would get the air time is so rightfully deserves. Let us make that choice.