The Parliament will hear questions from Members of Parliament surrounding the issue of the death of a 14-year-old schoolboy, Benjamin Lim who plunged to his death after being investigated by police without the accompaniment of his parents.
Two ministers, Minister of Home Affairs, K. Shanmugam and Acting Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng are also scheduled to make their ministerial statement on the case; Mr K. Shanmugan to touch on the death of Benjamin Lim and Mr Ng to cover the issue about students under investigation.
On 26 January, fourteen-year-old Benjamin Lim Jun Hui was found dead at the base of a HDB flat where he lived. Prior to that, five plainclothes police officers showed up at Benjamin’s school on Tuesday morning and took him away for questioning for allegedly outraging the modesty of an 11-year-old girl. Benjamin’s mother was denied access to him for the whole duration of police interview.
When they returned home, the school counselor called to inform that Benjamin need not attend the three-day school camp the next day. Shortly after the call, Benjamin locked himself up in his room and plunged to his death. Police has since classified his death as an unnatural death.
A few days later, Singapore Police Force said in a Facebook post that it would be reviewing its procedures on the accompaniment of an appropriate adult to be present during the police interview of a minor.
Over the past month, there have been half-truths said by the school and the police force on many issues which had been discomforting for Benjamin’s family. For example, the duration of the police interview with Benjamin (read more) and the plainclothes police officers at the school, who wore t-shirts with “POLICE” at the back. (read more)
By the time of parliament sitting, both ministers would have kept quiet about the matter for a full month since the death of Benjamin Lim on 26 January. The Online Citizen (TOC) understands from the family that neither of the two have spoken to them in private as well.
Below are the questions filed by Members of Parliament to the two ministers on the case of Benjamin Lim.
Questions to Minister of Home Affairs, K Shanmugam
Dr Tan Wu Meng: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs what measures are taken by the Police during the investigation and law enforcement process to safeguard the interests of children and vulnerable young persons who are suspected of, or accused of, committing an offence.
Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs if he can provide an update on the review of the procedure to allow an appropriate adult to be present when a young person is interviewed by the police and whether more protection can be accorded to young persons during investigations.
Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) how does the police keep parents or guardians of minors informed regarding interviews, investigation, arrest or custody of their minors; (b) how does the police ensure that minors who are arrested or subject to police interviews are made aware of their legal rights and have adequate and timely legal representation; (c) how do the Ministry and police monitor and ensure compliance with the law, protocols and processes; and (d) whether interviews of minors are recorded on video as part of the pilot scheme to video-record police interviews of accused persons and, if not, why not and when will video recording be extended to minors.
Mr Desmond Choo: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) whether the Ministry could have timeously addressed the extensive speculation on social media surrounding the case of the 14-year-old boy who was found dead after being interviewed by the police; and (b) whether there will be a thorough review of police procedures on the interview of vulnerable suspects.
Ms Rahayu Mahzam: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) whether there are standard procedures for interviewing and investigating young persons who are suspected or accused of committing an offence and, if so, what is the age guideline and the standard procedures in place; and (b) whether there are standard procedures to keep the parents or guardians of these young persons informed of the legal process.
Mr Christopher de Souza: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs what is the reason for the delay in the Ministry’s response to speculation made on social media about the police’s conduct in the case of a 14-year-old boy who had died after having been questioned by the police.
Questions to Minister of Education, Ng Chee Meng
Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong: To ask the Acting Minister for Education (Schools) (a) how do the Ministry and schools keep parents and guardians informed of developments when students are engaged in the law enforcement process; (b) what is being done to monitor and ensure compliance to the protocols put in place to protect minors who are subject to police interviews or investigation; (c) how are these protocols reviewed, updated and improved upon; and (d) how does the Ministry ensure that these protocols are consistent with relevant laws and Singapore’s obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Mr Ang Wei Neng: To ask the Acting Minister for Education (Schools) what are the schools’ procedures when the police go to a school to interview a student in relation to a crime and later decide to bring the student to the police station for further questioning.