by Teo Soh Lung
It was reported in Channel News Asia yesterday (2 Mar) that the refusal of Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Suet Fern to attend police investigations “RAISES QUESTIONS”. (Emphasis mine).
Senior Minister and Co-ordinating National Security Minister Teo Chee Hean added: “If they maintain their innocence, the investigation will give them the chance to vindicate themselves. They should participate, take the full opportunity to give their side of the story, and clear their names.”
Easier said than done. Does he know that many do not trust the criminal justice system?
Attending police interviews is not an invitation to tea. Those called up have to be prepared to have their mobile phones, computers, other electronic devices and even the shirts they wore seized by the police.
They can also expect to be arrested and sent to police lockups for at least 48 hours and have their travel documents confiscated. The police are fully aware of their enormous powers. They are emboldened by the law.
Just look at section 112 of the Criminal Procedure Code which for convenience I reproduce below:
Surrender of travel document
112.—(1) Despite any other written law —
(a) a police officer of or above the rank of sergeant, with the written consent of an authorised officer;
(b) the head or an authorised director of any other law enforcement agency or a person of a similar rank; or
(c) any officer of a prescribed law enforcement agency, with the written consent of the head or an authorised director of that law enforcement agency or a person of a similar rank,
may require a person whom he or she has reasonable grounds for believing has committed any offence to surrender the person’s travel document.
This power to seize travel documents have been used extensively since 2018.
Many Singaporeans have been inconvenienced and embarrassed. Business people have been prevented from travelling abroad when their passports were seized while under investigation which can take years. They could not affirm any official documents before a Commissioner for Oaths without suffering the embarrassment of informing the Commissioner that their passports are with the police. The Commissioner would of course advise them to go to the police station to retrieve it for the purpose of affirming the documents.
The enormous powers given to the police are frightening. No one can be safe when called for police interviews. This applies to activists too.
I had my fair share of the rough treatment of the police some years ago. They treated me like a murderer even though the alleged crime was a very minor one of breaking some Cooling Off Day rules.
When inside the interrogation room, the police demanded my mobile phone which I refused to hand over. Then I was driven home in a car with four officers. When I reached my estate, a team of another four officers who introduced themselves as from the “Forensic Department” came along and 7 or 8 officers crammed into my little flat. They took photographs of my flat and of course seized my computers and mobile phone.
I wasn’t the only victim of their powers. Many others were treated in the same manner – Roy Ngerng, P J Thum, Terry Xu, Daniel DeCosta, Rocky Howe, Kirsten Han etc etc.
I can appreciate the reason why Lee Hsien Yang and his wife Lee Suet Fern decided to leave Singapore. They didn’t want to be harrassed by the police. No one wants to voluntarily leave the country of their birth. I know of many exiles and I know how tough life is living as an exile. But what choice? Suffer here and take all the nonsense that our leaders do to us? Some of us take this path but not all want to do this. And why should they?
The senior minister (a post which in my opinion is most superfluous, as I think he should have gracefully retired), is talking nonsense when he claimed that Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Suet Fern’s refusal to attend police interviews “raises questions”.
Singaporeans have tolerated the People’s Action Party (PAP) regime for too long. There are many sycophants in high places who prop up the regime. The ordinary folks live quietly because they fear getting into trouble. We are a damaged society which no amount of wealth can heal us.
Finally, why did the PAP choose to pursue the matter now? Many have guessed the answer, and I may write about it another time.