The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has issued an extensive statement in response to the serious allegations of systemic racism, workplace bullying, and corruption within its ranks, made public by 35-year-old Sergeant Uvaraja S/O Gopal, a 10-year veteran of the force.
SGT Uvaraja was found unconscious at Block 393 Yishun Avenue 6 on 21 July. He later succumbed to his injuries in hospital, adding a tragic urgency to his accusations, which he had detailed in an extensive Facebook post.
The SPF confirmed in a statement to the local media that SGT Uvaraja had indeed “faced substantial challenges at work.”
They stated, “At this point, we can set out only the known facts, as not all the relevant facts have been established. It is also inappropriate for the police to make any comments, or come to any conclusions, pending detailed investigations.”
In addition, the SPF acknowledged that SGT Uvaraja had filed numerous complaints against his superiors and peers over the years, which were all “investigated and dealt with.”
The police force confirmed that some of these complaints “are being investigated again, in the light of the allegations which he had made just prior to his passing away.”
SPF detailed the steps they had taken to support SGT Uvaraja in the past, stating, “The officer was provided coaching to address his performance issues and that he was given transfers, at his request, to six work units in nine years.”
They also highlighted that he was granted additional leave since 2015 beyond his usual entitlements and had worked fewer than 30 days in 2022 and fewer than 25 days in 2023 due to various types of leave.
The SPF also mentioned efforts to address Uvaraja’s mental health.
In January 2023, he was assigned a para-counsellor from the Police Psychological Services Department after he reported work stress, and he was attended to by a psychologist after he “showed signs of being unstable” in February, which also led to him being relieved from carrying firearms due to safety concerns.
In addition to workplace issues, SGT Uvaraja’s complaints about his colleagues’ illegal activities, such as vaping and smoking within the police compound, were addressed.
The SPF stated that disciplinary action was taken against officers found smoking, but no evidence was found to support the vaping allegations.
Addressing SGT Uvaraja’s allegations of racial discrimination, the SPF confirmed they were initially made in 2015 and were found to be unsubstantiated.
However, they pledged to “review and investigate again these allegations,” and submit their findings to the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Minister for Home Affairs.
The SPF also disclosed family disputes involving SGT Uvaraja, including financial disagreements and allegations of assault against his brother, suggesting a complex picture of his personal life.
In light of the tragic incident, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam, made a public statement. “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.”
However, the decision to allow the SPF to handle the investigation has been criticized by netizens, who have expressed their preference for a more independent body to ensure impartiality.
Friend: Uvaraja destroyed his career when he first blew the whistle against his superiors
A close friend and former colleague, Raj Naga, who allegedly was the last person to have spoken to SGT Uvaraja’s untimely demise on Racial Harmony Day, shared a vivid account of the painful circumstances that led to Uvaraja’s tragic suicide.
In a heartfelt Facebook post just a day after his friend’s passing, Raj described SGT Uvaraja as a “highly disciplined police officer who was deeply passionate about policing and fighting crime.”
Raj wrote, “In early 2015, he argued with his Team Leader over a racial slur and reported the matter to his Commanding Officer (CO). However, he faced conflicts with his teammates who did not back him up and the Team Leader was not held accountable.”
This initial conflict seems to have set off a cascade of unfortunate events, from being ostracised by his teammates to rejected transfer requests and challenges with superiors who did not believe in his medical conditions.
In December 2015, Raj recalled a particularly distressing incident where Uvaraja’s CO questioned the validity of his medical conditions, used vulgarities, and shouted at him to resign. Uvaraja was on medical leave at the time.
The incident was so stressful that it triggered an investigation against the CO. Despite this, Uvaraja’s transfer request was turned down, and he received a low performance grade.
Raj also spoke of Uvaraja’s dedication to his ill mother and his struggles growing up in a household burdened with debt due to an alcoholic father.
In a poignant conclusion, Raj said, “Raja may have made mistakes during his time in the force, but who hasn’t? Everything he ever did as a Police Officer was in pursuit of ideals that he held dear…he destroyed his career when he first blew the whistle against his superiors. No officer deserves to be held back and thumbed down for so long.”