By Teo Soh Lung
These days I cannot help thinking and comparing the investigative skill and responsibility of the police in Singapore and that of Germany.
Remember the “Little India Riot” on 8 Dec 2013 which was sparked by a fatal accident? An estimated 300 “rioters” necessitated the deployment of about 300 police personnel. More than 20 police officers were injured and 25 emergency vehicles were damaged with five vehicles set on fire. Many foreign workers were arrested and 33 were charged in court. Fifty three migrant workers (as of 31 Dec 2013) were deported without trial. Where was the rule of law?
It is sad that the High Commission of India did not stand up for their nationals who faced such injustice. They did not even murmur a protest despite gross human rights violations committed by the Singapore authority? These poor migrant workers spent huge sums of money to come to Singapore. Imagine the hardship they and their families had to bear. Similarly, we Singaporeans should not feel smug in the face of our government committing such injustice.
Contrast the restraint and care exercised by the German police in the recent Berlin Christmas Market attack (19 Dec 2016). The driver of a truck was murdered and 12 people died while 48 others were injured when the truck ploughed into the stalls. Two people were arrested shortly after the incident. Both were released within 24 hours. We do not hear of deportations after the attack. The murderer was identified within a day by the German police and killed by the Italian police.
The reaction of the police in Singapore and Germany are glaringly different. While in Singapore the police went on an arresting spree soon after their numbers were beefed up, the police in Germany commenced investigations before arrests were made. Despite the fatalities involved, they did not embark on unnecessary arrests or deportations.
Not long after the riot and even before a full investigation was conducted, the sale and consumption of liquor were restricted in Little India. Special Zones were created. The Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Act 2014 was enacted. Owners of shops selling liquor suffered loss of business and people were inconvenienced. The adverse effect of such restrictions on business would have caused protests in other developed countries but not in Singapore. Two years after the riot, Channel News Asia reported that “some of the smaller businesses in the area are still struggling to get back on their feet, but tougher liquor laws have not made it easy.”
So what conclusions can we draw from these two incidents?
It is obvious that Germany practises the rule of law while Singapore does not. Both are developed countries. While the Singapore police possess vast power of arrest, they take the people for granted knowing that no one will raise an objection. This attitude ultimately affect their investigative skill. They become arrogant and adopt the bad policy – arrest first and look for evidence afterwards. If confessions can be extracted within a few days of relentless interrogations and possibly torture, there would not be any need for any other evidence. If they fail to obtain any evidence, deportation becomes the convenient and easy solution.
Incidentally, the Singapore police also lack courage. The footage produced at the hearing of the committee of inquiry into the riot recorded the embarrassing conduct of our police officers. When the doors of the driverless ambulance were flung open by an unarmed person, uniformed police officers leapt out one by one and fled. No one confronted the unarmed person! No one thought it his duty to protect public property. Such cowardice and neglect of duty, I am sure will not be exhibited by the German police.
The Singapore Police Force have a great deal to learn from the Germans. Singaporeans and all those who choose to work here have a right to be treated better and with respect by our police.