by Teo Soh Lung
Anyone who takes an arrest of a person in Singapore lightly, does not know what it is like to live in Singapore.
I live in constant fear of that knock on my door. It is a reality which I cannot get use to and I am sure Singaporeans and foreigners alike feel the same way as I do. We have seen enough cases brought before the court for very petty matters, which in any other country would not have bat an eyelid.
At about 10.45 am yesterday, lawyer and politician, Lim Tean was arrested at his office. He was in the midst of discussing the upcoming defamation claim by the prime minister of Singapore with his client, Leong Sze Hian.
His arrest sent shock waves throughout our island. On video, Lim was shown to be handcuffed, despite his request that they do not do that. It was sheer display of power by the police. Unfortunately, their unreasonable act was caught on camera and broadcast to the world, bringing immense shame to Singapore.
The police were quick to justify their uncalled for and unjustified action by informing Mothership that Lim had been given opportunities to attend a police interview earlier, but that he had declined. They had therefore to arrest him at his office in the presence of his staff.
This is bunkum. Where is the urgency to arrest? We can see that many rich and powerful have never had to experience the humiliation which Lim did. Further, Lim had told the police that he would attend the interview after the case is completed, where is the need to arrest him at his office?
The police detained Lim for nine hours, locking him up in a small bare cell after he refused to answer their questions. Lim was handcuffed throughout. Shame on the police that they did that to him.
But according to Lim, he defied them. He was made of sterner stuff. He was not rattled because he believed his arrest was politically motivated – to disadvantage his client, to prevent him from his preparation of a very important case before the High Court on Tuesday, 6 October.
In an immediate reaction soon after his release on bail, Lim told the world about what happened at the police station. He said he had refused to answer any question from the police (which was his right), and he was deliberately punished by being dumped into a bare lockup without table or chair but with a shit hole. Not satisfied with such a disgraceful and uncalled for conduct, they called him up for another interview. Lim was firm. After about half an hour, the police again punished him in that shit hole lockup.
At about 7 pm, the police had no choice but to release him. It was past 7 pm. He had spent more than seven hours in the lock up and nearly two hours in the interrogation room. At all times, he was handcuffed.
When a person who is arrested tells the police that he does not wish to answer any question, the police should release him. They are at liberty to charge him in court but it is every person’s right to remain silent. Why then did the police send Lim to the lockup? If it was not an attempt to intimidate and break him, what can it be?
The conduct of the police is shameful and disgraceful. To treat a lawyer in this way is unjustified and unacceptable.
Remember my lawyer, the late Mr Francis Seow? He was arrested in 1988 when he came to interview me in prison. I never saw him and the lawyer who accompanied him was never told that he was arrested. What kind of justice system do we have? What rule of law can we boast of?
The Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) and whoever is in charge of law and order must take immediate action to rectify this unsatisfactory and sorry state of affairs which has been going on for too long.
Recently, Parti Liyani has shown us how perverse our criminal justice system has become. It is time to stop the rot. If the government does not have the will power to do that, we, the people have to stand up for what is right for our country.