I read about the treatment meted out to Teo Soh Lung and Roy Ngerng with mounting discomfort not least because it was disturbing to read about threats to private citizens but because it sounded a tad too similar to the beginnings of Operation Spectrum for comfort.
Singapore has all the trappings of an international city which abides by democratic practices. There are procedures in place ostensibly to ensure that the system is fair. Yet, the police seem to have flouted all of these practices in their investigations of Ngerng and Teo.
Given that both Teo and Ngerng are not violent criminals, this treatment comes across as a major overreaction that can even be construed as a waste of public resources.
The police force is funded by taxes. Surely, the Singaporean population will benefit more if the police were utilised for more serious crimes?
When the Little India riot occurred, many accusations of ineptitude and inaction were made. If one compares prima facie the resources allocated to prevent the Little India riot with the efforts employed against Ngnerg and Teo, something just does not sit right. Teo and Ngerng are not threats to the public in any way. The amount of police energy invested on them thus appears to be extremely disproportionate.
Perhaps it is a lack of training or experience on the part of the police. Certainly, the police force has been in the spotlight over a number of incidents of late. Amongst other things, there was the occurrence of the Little India riots whereby the role of the police was questioned; the controversy generated by the unfortunate death of Benjamin Lim and now, their apparent disregard for investigation procedure in their treatment of Teo and Ngerng.
I was particularly disturbed to read about how the duo had their phones; hard drives and laptops confiscated, the searches of their premises without warrants and how interaction with their lawyers was limited. Worse still was IO Angie Ng’s retort of “This is an arrestable offence, and we do not need to tell you how we conduct our investigations.” Is this how the police view the extent of its powers? Are they not accountable for how these are conducted?
Given that the police are funded from state funds, I find that attitude inappropriate and shocking. The police are meant to safeguard justice. Here, they come across as bullies whether unwittingly or otherwise.
Under the Parliamentary Election Act, any person who is found guilty of violating the cooling off day regulation will be fined for a sum of not exceeding $1,000 or be imprisoned for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both. Looking at the potential punishment, this is clearly not in the category of a severe crime. How then does the police force justify the extent of their resource allocation?
Besides, I question the entire necessity for cooling off day anyway. It is not common for other democratic countries to have this construct. In addition, I am certain that Singaporeans are sophisticated enough not to be swayed just because a particular blogger or publication makes statements in favour of one candidate over the other.
In addition, what constitutes a violation of the rules of cooling off day are about as clear as mud. What is the point of having regulations that are so vague and wide?
I sincerely hope that the police will be more circumspect with the remit of their powers and acknowledge that there is an expectation of transparency on their part from the public. It is also my heartfelt hope that nothing close to Operation Spectrum would ever occur again.