Little India Riot Report: Heads Must Roll

The Commission of Inquiry into the Little India Riot last December delivered their report. You can read the text of the Ministerial Responses by DPM Teo Chee Hean and Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin, as well as the committee’s recommendations in these 2 CNA articles. [link] [link]

This blog entry might be a little late (blame the WC for it), but I think 1 factor needs to be reviewed that hasn’t been already. I am happy to note that some of the pointers I raised and explored in my previous blog posts regarding the matter were looked into by the Committee and recommended. Of course I’m not saying that I provided the inspiration or substance, it’s unlikely that a minor blogger’s views would be considered unless of course he said something defamatory, but that’s another issue. No my blog posts were just looking at it from a layperson’s perspective and came out with the most obvious points that somehow or rather were completely missed by the police management.

It’s good that the SPF are now learning the lessons from the riot and are being better prepared. But the important point that hasn’t been addressed and has been papered over is the issue of accountability. Until today there has been no proper apology from Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee or DAC Lu, the Tanglin Commander. Even worse is that neither has been sanctioned for what can only be described as the worst crisis of confidence in the SPF’s nearly 170-year history.

The issue is not what DPM Teo says, ‘the police did their best.’ Well Mr DPM, their best wasn’t good enough, not by any stretch of imagination. Yes lapses were made by the attending officers in failing to appreciate the sentiments and mood on the ground. The failure to cordon and show some sort of action was seen taken against the bus driver or coordinator. But their failures cannot mask the huge mistakes made at the top by DAC Lu for his poor management of the scene and failing to take a single iota of action, other than as he put it ‘look the enemy in the face’. The SPF is quick to highlight the ‘achievements of commanders’ when promoting them and these almost always deals with the good work done by men on the ground. But what happens when things go awry, when men make mistakes and leaders fail to lead? The same goes for CP Ng for allowing an attitude of complacency to set in. Worse is his failure to supervise his Commanders and to ensure proper equipment and training for men on the ground.

This debacle cannot be swept under the carpet with a ‘catch-all’ statement ‘that SPF did its best’. If its best means that public order breaks down, the public put in fear and the systematic damage of public property under the very eyes of watching police, then there is something terribly wrong in the way he as the Minister allows such a culture to pervade within the SPF. Changes have been made, yes, protocols changed, good, but what ever happened to taking responsibility? There has been a systematic failure from the top down in the SPF for a number of years and the Commissioner must be man enough to say, “It’s my fault, I take full responsibility.”

DAC Lu should be demoted and never allowed to take charge of a division until he proves himself. In the aftermath of the ‘Mas Selamat escape’ and the ‘death of a trainee at the Commando Camp’, supervisory officers were taken to task and disciplined. Why not here, in what can be termed as a huge disaster not seen in almost 40 years? As for the CP, if you don’t want to fire him, since it was you or your predecessor who recommended him, unqualified as he was in the first place, then at least spare the country from another mishap by sending him elsewhere. Make him an Ambassador or something but take away his leadership role. Why not give it to DC Hoong Wee Teck? Just look at DC Hoong’s record – he joined as an Inspector in the late 80s, rose through the ranks and has enormous experience especially in investigation. Just look at the sterling work he’s done as CID Director. Wasn’t he always the more qualified officer to lead the SPF?

Unless of course the message being sent to Singaporeans is – sorry, the elites are part of us. We appoint them because they will be loyal to us, we will protect them no matter what. Whatever is said of Lee Kuan Yew, I don’t think for a moment he would have stood for the kind of rubbish performance delivered on December 8th last by DAC Lu and CP Ng’s leadership and excuses galore. LKY would have been seething in anger, so the question to ask is why are you happy to continue to reward and excuse failure?

Sir Nelspruit

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