Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Is the Singapore Police Force inadequately prepared for outdoor protests?

There was a Channel Newsasia report on 12 September 2006: "WTO summit showed outdoor protests can turn violent: S'pore Police".

The report noted, "International Risk says, on hindsight, this episode uncovered a key problem - that the Hong Kong authorities did not adequately prepare for such a thing to happen, and it is a risk the Singapore Police Force is not prepared to take."

Immediately after this, the man shouldering the prime responsibility of security for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings was quoted.

Soh Wai Wah, Chief of Staff, Singapore Police Force, shared why these meetings pose key risks for Singapore. He said, "This underscores the point that outdoor protest can be unpredictable. They may appear harmless, but they have a huge potential to turn disruptive or violent unexpectedly. Singapore has been a terrorist target for a number of years and now. On top of that we have this high profile meeting, VIPS coming from all over the world. So we are even more attractive than ever. The threat of security is very real and that is whey we are taking it very seriously."

It is appreciated that the report intended to show the security risks facing Singapore.

But a reasonable person reading the report was likely to come away with the impression that, having factored in the unique security risks for Singapore during the IMF/World Bank meetings, the Hong Kong experience at the World Trade Organisation summit and its own level of preparedness for such risks, the Singapore Police Force concluded that it was ill-prepared for the risks of outdoor protests and has therefore opted to ban them.

Simply put, the report appears to imply that the Singapore Police Force is not taking on the risk of outdoor protests because it is not adequately prepared for such a thing to happen.

To what extent is this true?

Firstly, this appears to run contrary to what the Singapore Police Force has been assuring members of the public about its level of preparedness. It has been quoted extensively in the media that it is prepared to deal with outdoor protests fairly and firmly. It has also invested substantially in assets that will enable it to address effectively public disorder situations.

To a competent policeman, there can be no better baptism of fire than having to really face and control such security situations.

Unfortunately, despite this, it seems that the hands of the Singapore Police Force are tied on this issue, as much as the Singapore Police Force has shown and is showing that it is highly prepared for the risks of outdoor protests.

Perhaps, there are some who do not share this same level of confidence as certain members of the public or the Singapore Police Force itself.

As a result, the prohibition on public gatherings, unless authorised, continue to be enforced NOT because Singapore Police Force is ill-prepared but for other reasons.

I hope that the media will appreciate the unique situation the Singapore Police Force finds itself in, and treat these public servants as fairly and firmly as they would others.

Dharmendra Yadav


Anonymous said...

There will never be any major unrest in Singapore because of the fear of brutal treatment by the police force. The police know this and their 'concerns' about unpreparedness are just a cover for the ongoing suppression of ANY sort of dissent in Singapore. People in real democracies take great pride in their freedom to demonstrate (and to cause trouble for goverments) and such protests are huge catalysts for positive change.

Anonymous said...

As long as local singaporeans are alright with the ban on protests, outside organisations like the world bank really have no legitimacy to comment.
shivani ratra