By Terry Xu
The Committee of Inquiry (COI) listened intently to Traffic Police Officer, Fadli Shaifuddin Mohamed Sani, on how he charged at the rioters, not once but three times during the riot in Little India last December.
A police officer for three and a half years, Sgt Fadli was on his normal shift on 8th Dec 2013 when he and his colleague, Corporal Ng Chin Heng were informed of a fatal traffic accident at Race Course Road.
When he arrived at the scene, he saw beer bottles being thrown from both sides of the street and onto the road. A group of rioters was stationed just outside the Little India MRT station.
Immediately after parking his motorbike by the side of the curb along that road and without second thoughts, he pulled out his T-baton and charged at the group of rioters who were hurling projectiles at the government vehicles parked in the middle of Race Course Road.
The rioters ran away from him, as shown in the video presented as evidence in court.
He told the COI that he estimated the crowd then to be around 50 persons, made up of active rioters, onlookers and bystanders.
“Weren’t you afraid that you would be overcome by the crowd and have your pistol taken from you?” asked the committee. In earlier testimonies before the COI, other officers had explained that this was one of the reasons why they had refrained from engaging directly with the rioters this way.
Sgt Fadli said that he wanted “to instill law and order” at this juncture, to show that the police were still in control.
He said charging at the crowd was his first instinct and that he did not think of his safety but was more concerned about the safety of the innocent bystanders there. With an estimated crowd of about 200 people and about 50-100 rioters amongst them, he said he did feel he could be overwhelmed but he said he had to demonstrate a physical show of force to deter further violence.
However, the crowd of rioters, although smaller in size now, soon returned.
He maintained eye contact with the rioters as he wanted to show that he “meant business” and stood his ground with his baton drawn. The crowd did not attack him but they were still throwing projectiles towards the vehicles.
He charged for a second time in the hope that he could dissuade the rioters from continuing.
The crowd retreated but returned as he walked back to where he was previously.
He could see that the crowd was getting more rowdy.
When he charged for the third time and was hit on his left shin, he felt that he was grossly outnumbered.
He noted that the active rioters throwing projectiles were increasing as now even passersby on their way to the MRT joined in to throw projectiles.
He was then advised by his team leader not to charge at the crowd as it was dangerous for him to do so. He could be ambushed or cornered if he had gone into the Little India MRT station where some of the rioters had headed when he charged them. He said he was aware that if this were to happen, the rioters could get hold of his revolver and use that against the police, or against innocent people.
He then took up traffic control duties to redirect traffic from Buffalo Road towards Bukit Timah Road along with some CISCO officers.
As he was injured, his team leader told him to seek shelter in a police car nearby while the team leader sought refuge from the projectiles in an ambulance.
The police car later drove off and stopped at the junction of Bukit Timah Road and Race Course Road when he saw his team leader and other officers running towards him.
The ambulance which they had been in was in flames and exploded soon after.
They then waited at the junction for re-enforcement to arrive with around 10 officers holding the line.
The special operations command (SOC) force arrived thereafter and started to disperse the crowd.
COI member, Andrew Chua commented, “You should be commended for your act, only you have charged the crowd.”
COI chairman, GP Selvam added, “What you have done is a brave act, you asserted control.”
Sgt Fadli replied that he was not to be commended because he was merely trying to protect innocent life and property.
When asked if the situation would have been different if there were 10 or 20 officers who acted like him, he said he was not so sure.