By Terry Xu
9.40pm at Orchard NPC. Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Edwin Yong Wen Wei heard police officers from Kampong Jaya NPC requesting back up for an incident along Racecourse Road.
He then heard ASP Jonathan Tang making a request via the radio, and drove to attend to the incident along with Corporal Arshard Abdul Murad in their police vehicle.
They arrived at the scene at about 9.50 pm and parked about 10 metres away from the ambulance that was in front of the damaged bus involved in the traffic accident.
He observed that there was about 150 male Indians throwing objects at the bus. He then proceeded to the bus to assist the officers there.
The crowd spoke in English about how their friend was involved in the accident.
He also noted that the communication system was jammed as many were trying to communicate via the radio all at the same time.
ASP Yong and Corporal Arshard saw that the officers present at the scene were being pelted by projectiles, so they went to get two shields from the police car and helped the officers defend the SCDF crew, who were extricating the body pinned under the bus.
ASP Jonathan Tang, who was then the highest ranking police officer and first on scene, took charge as the commanding officer and gave the directions that the priority was to defend the SCDF officers. He subsequently transmitted this instruction to the other officers.
ASP Tang then told ASP Yong to move his vehicle so that the ambulance could move.
As they made their way to the bus again after escorting the bus driver and the timekeeper to the ambulance, they were once again pelted by the crowd.
Around eight police officers have gathered at the fire engine and as ASP Yong did not have a shield, he was pushed to the centre of the group for protection. At this point in time, he saw that four of the officers were injured as the projectiles continued to rain down on them.
He then boarded the ambulance along with the rest of the officers to regroup and plan the next phase of action. Taking note of the injured officers at the back of the ambulance, ASP Tang discussed with the SCDF officer at the front of the vehicle about how to get out of the place as there were no officers outside of the ambulance guarding it.
They managed to drive off and stop at the junction of Bukit Timah Road and Racecourse Road, where they formed a line to stop the rioters from proceeding any further.
The officers could not do anything but wait for the Special Operations Command (SOC) to arrive, while taking steps to ensure the safety of innocent parties by preventing the public from entering, and the rioters from exiting, Racecourse Road.
ASP Yong estimated that he had at the time 15 to 20 officers with him. When asked by COI member and former police commissioner, Mr Tee Tua Ba if they could stop the rioters of 100 over individuals, he replied that they could not, but it was not an issue as the rioters were focused near the scene of the accident.
Controlling the crowd
When the SOC finally arrived at the scene to disperse the crowd, he continued to focus on cordoning off the junction between Bukit Timah Road and Racecourse Road.
He did not feel at any point in time was it justified to use his firearm as the prerequisite stated in the firearms protocol were not met, and he believed the use of firearms would likely have aggravated the crowd.
He also noted that many of those in the crowd were drunk, as he noticed the bloodshot eyes and smell of alcohol from them.
ASP Yong did not feel that the T-baton could be used to disperse the crowd as, it was meant for defensive purposes and it had a short range. He felt that the riot shield was more effective instead.
He also felt that there was a language barrier during the whole incident as the crowd could not understand his instructions made in English.
He said that he was trained in crowd control and conflict management involving disputes, but not something of this scale.
Not enough manpower to make arrests
With the number of officers on site, ASP Yong did not feel that there was enough manpower to effect any arrest. Their priority was to protect SCDF, the timekeeper and the bus driver, and any arrests made would be of secondary importance.
He also said that he did not make any arrest during the incident and was instead making sure his men were accounted for. He also did not notice that the SOC arrested anyone but noted that the plain-clothes officers were the ones making the arrests.
When COI chairman Mr Selvam made the point about the police being spooked, ASP Yong felt that he had to clarify. He said that the officers were merely quickening their process of getting from one place to another, and consolidate the limited number of officers present.
When Mr Tee asked ASP Yong if he recited the riot act to the crowd, he replied that he did not and he do not think that the crowd would listen as they were emotionally affected by the accident and a single phase would unlikely have any effect.
Image from Today Online