Tuesday, 26 September 2023

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Netizens call for Commission of Inquiry into death of Sergeant Uvaraja: Racial discrimination, bullying, and corruption alleged

In the aftermath of Sergeant Uvaraja S/0 Gopal’s death, an alarming number of online users have called for an independent investigation, expressing skepticism over the Singapore Police Force (SPF) conducting its own inquiry.

Sgt Uvaraja, a dedicated officer of the SPF, was found unconscious at Block 393 Yishun Avenue 6 on 21st July 2023 and later succumbed to his injuries in hospital.

In an extensive Facebook post prior to his death, Sgt Uvaraja revealed a history of workplace discrimination, bullying, and systemic corruption within his team at Ang Mo Kio North Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC).

The post, now removed, had received nearly 400 shares and raised questions about racial bias, favoritism, and toxic work culture within SPF.

These accusations and the circumstances surrounding Sgt Uvaraja’s death have led to a wave of public criticism, demanding a transparent, independent investigation.

Minister for Home Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam, weighed in on the situation stating, “I have asked SPF to investigate the matter thoroughly. We will get to the bottom of it. And be accountable. We have a clear policy of non discrimination.”

“All officers are entitled to be treated fairly. SPF as an organisation is committed to that principle. We will investigate the facts.” said the Home Affairs Minister.

Many netizens voiced concerns on Mr Shanmugam’s Facebook post, expressing dissatisfaction with the Minister’s decision to direct SPF to handle the investigation.

One netizen wrote, “I hope that a more neutral and independent team can look into not just the racial discrimination but also the other illegal things mentioned in [Sgt Uvaraja’s] post. Else it will be another ownself check ownself issue.”

Others argued for a separate body to conduct the inquiry. “Dear Mr Shanmugam, I think you need to put together a special commission to investigate this and not have SPF do it,” one user expressed.

This sentiment was echoed by several others, suggesting a conflict of interest if the police force investigated itself.

A Facebook user suggested that the Special Investigation Branch of the military police and a commission headed by a member of the judiciary should handle the investigation, while others insisted that those mentioned in the allegations should be suspended until the investigation concludes to prevent possible interference.

“Minister, this requires the setting up of a Committee of Inquiry (COI) chaired by a senior civil servant to inquire into the serious allegations made. The SAF has such a process in place. An SPF investigation will not be independent nor impartial and therefore unacceptable,” another netizen wrote.

There were also calls for a review of the existing whistleblowing policy within the SPF and civil service, with suggestions for a more robust system that allows anonymity and takes complaints seriously.

“Sir, thank you for opening an investigation. I think we need a “whistleblower” system in the SPF or even the civil service so that when proper complaints are raised, it can be done anonymously and be taken seriously,” one netizen commented.

Others worried about the implications this incident could have on the reputation of the SPF and other uniform groups. One mother shared her son’s struggles with discrimination in a uniform group and the difficulties in addressing these issues to higher management due to fear of retaliation.

The Internal Affairs Office (IAO), which usually investigates police misconduct operates as a department within the SPF, lacks accountability to the public, and is not truly independent.

Furthermore, TOC notes that responses from the IAO to complaints shared by members of the public often lack detail. They typically state that investigations found no supporting evidence, but rarely provide specific findings.

Given the weight of these allegations and the tragic death of Sgt Uvaraja, the calls for a thorough, independent inquiry grow louder each day. As one netizen put it, “Sir, you are our only hope to ensure fairness and justice prevails.”

The Facebook post which was removed

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