By Teo Soh Lung
Today is the 150th day of the seizure of my two computers and new mobile phone by the police and forensic officers from the Police Cantonment Complex. Roy Ngerng who was even more unfortunate than me, had 2 laptops, 3 hard disks, 1 new unused hard disk, 3 memory cards, 1 mobile phone, 1 memory stick and 1 old computer seized.
The police are still investigating the offences allegedly committed by us on Cooling Off Day. The alleged crimes – posting and reposting harmless opinions on our facebooks. None of us deny that we put up those posts. Our defence is that we have our constitutional right to free speech and expression. Yet our properties were seized.
My flat was raided by a team of 4 police officers and 4 forensic officers who came in two police vehicles. Their entry into my estate must have caused a stir. The security guards were put on alert. The management office was alerted by my neighbours. What was the intent of sending a team of 8 law enforcement officers in two police vehicles to seize my properties? Clearly it was to intimidate and embarrass me?
At the police station they threatened to handcuff me. I am not intimidated or embarrassed to be seen with handcuffs. In fact, the police should be the ones to be embarrassed by their show of force, having eight police officers to escort me to my flat, treating an elderly person like an armed terrorist.
May 31, 2016 was not the first time that I experienced the power of the police. In 1987, the police came at dawn and entered my house. They arrested me under the ISA.They kicked down a bedroom door and found nothing – no weapon or bomb making material to cause the downfall of the government. They merely took away my books, among which were translated Mao’s Poems and Stalin. They raided my office and took away confidential files of the Law Society and a client’s file, that of Tan Wah Piow. Breaching the law, they failed to list the properties seized from me. When I was released, they returned my properties in a gunny sack filled with rat shit that stank to high heavens. The intent was to ensure its destruction.
In 1988, the police again arrested me under the ISA and raided my residence. Again they did not find any weapon or bomb making material. Again they seized my books and files. Luckily it was not the practice to seize computers and mobile phones at that time.
Today, I am waiting to be charged and I hope the police will complete its investigation soon. One hundred and fifty days to investigate a case when I have already freely admitted the “crimes” is a very long time. But I am told that it is common practice. Investigations take years.
I have been thinking of what the police do with all the electronic devices they seize from people like Roy and me. Where are they kept? In warehouses full of rats so that when they are returned to the owners, they stink to high heavens?
At the trial of Amos Yee, one of the forensic officers from the Technology Crime Branch disclosed that the first thing he did to a seized computer is to clone the hard disk. Investigations are then done on the cloned copy.
I expect the forensic officers to have cloned the hard disks of my computers. They would have obtained much more information than they require. What do they do with such information?
Singapore is a police state. Like the Soviet Union, Israel and North Korea, it is the business of the secret police to know everyone’s private life. There is no law that require them to return seized properties within a reasonable period of time. Our judges are powerless for the police do not need their warrants to seize.
Parliament has given our police tremendous powers. But are they permitted to abuse their power? Are we to remain silent and let the police behave like thugs, seizing and forfeiting our properties as and when they wish?