The last time I saw so many police officers at a Hong Lim Park event must have been some time back involving the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). You know how paranoid the police are when it comes to the SDP. So I was a little surprised to see them turn up in numbers – I counted at least 20 of them, in plainclothes – at Speakers’ Corner on Sunday where Jolovan Wham had organised a solidarity with M’sians event. The only other speaker besides Jolovan was Alfian Sa’at.
You can easily identify the policemen by several traits/signs:
1. They wear black ear pieces.
2. Their video recording teams work in pairs, and almost always only males.
3. When you approach and talk to them, they either avoid/ignore you completely, or they only say a few words.
3. There is a senior officer in charge who goes around instructing his men to record various things/people.
4. They gather once in a while for instruction, away from the crowd. You see this especially at election rallies, if you are observant enough.
5. After the event, you can see them gather at the police vehicles/cars.
There is no need to be unnerved by the presence of these policemen. They are just doing their jobs, as instructed from above, undoubtedly. So, I am more reluctant to criticise or place blame on these rank and files, unless they behave in dubious ways. As long as you conduct yourself peacefully, there is nothing the police can do to you. Don’t forget that there are many other ordinary citizens who also have cameras recording proceedings.
I don’t really know why there was a need to send so many officers there on Sunday – keeping in mind that the park itself has about 8 CCTVs on its grounds already. But one can guess the reason – that there is bound to be foreigners involved. The authorities, no doubt, were spooked by Jolovan’s original invitation online for M’sians to join in the event. Although Jolovan later announced that foreigners would not be allowed to participate, the police must have wanted to play it safe.
Still, why the need to trail, for example, the two speakers (Jolovan and Alfian) all night with video cameras? Why the need to do this? This is the same thing which happened to Dr Chee and others in the past. And at one point, the police were even filming friends of the two men. I know this because I was one of those being filmed.
I was standing chatting with friends and we were standing in a circle. A pair of video-recording policemen trained their camera on us and filmed us as we chatted. Why the need to do this? Is it supposed to intimidate us? Or to intimidate others?
Another problem is this: policemen not identifying themselves, even when asked. This is a problem especially when they film people up close, or use flashlights in people’s faces. When plainclothes policemen do not identify themselves, it gives rise to potential problems – those being filmed may be unhappy and start to argue with them. If any altercation should ensue, you could be charged for assaulting a public official, which is a serious charge. It is also in the nuances of how they do the filming. You will have to be there to see for yourselves to understand what I am saying. There is one account of how the police went filming a group which had sat down at the park, and the police went up to film each one up close.
Why do they not want to identify themselves, especially when asked? Isn’t the police suppose to do so? Have the police considered the potential problems their behaviour could give rise to?
If the police do not identify themselves, then anyone can claim to be a policeman or woman.
While we do appreciate the police doing their job, at the same time I feel that they ought to do so professionally and while respecting others as well.
It would be a sad day if our men in blue started to behave like gangsters, resorting to intimidating ordinary members of the public who – by the way – were legally there to attend a legal event at a legal venue organised legally by Singaporeans.
Keep the cameras to yourself. And respect the citizens of Singapore, please.
This is not a police state. Or is it?
“If law and order was the purpose for their vigilance, it would have been better to send 20 uniformed police to the park. Singapore is a first world country and it is awkward that our police should behave like some communist countries in the 1960s. Why not be open like the policemen in London and New York. That way, we know that the police means business, that those who use the park have to behave and keep peace. When policemen sneak around disguised as civilians armed with cameras and tape recorders, we cannot help but suspect that they have another motive.” – Teo Soh Lung.
“All police officers are issued with a Singapore Police Force Warrant Card, which is proof or verification that the officer is a police officer. If our officers are in plainclothes, they will identify themselves by producing the warrant card. A genuine warrant card will have identification features such as the Police crest, the photo of the officer, his name and NRIC number.
“As each situation is unique, the public is advised to verify the identity of the police officer before complying with the instructions of the officer. If in doubt of the identity of the person claiming to be a police officer, such as when he is unable to produce his warrant card, you should call ‘999’ for assistance.”