In a story first released by Channel NewsAsia, the life of a Singaporean patrol policeman turned royal bodyguard Mr. Prem Singh was featured.
The royal bodyguard is not hard to miss with his height reaching 1.87m tall and his buff stature. He can be seen accompanying the crown prince of Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim throughout the latter’s numerous state and personal affairs. Throughout the photos captured of Mr. Singh, he is always seen exuding professionalism with his serious expression, focused and ready to protect the royal at all costs.
The 40-year-old who grew up in Hougang has become a good friend of the crown prince throughout his nine years in service. In a Facebook post last December, Tunku Ismail shared a photo of himself in the middle of Mr. Singh and Leftenan Kolonel Samsyawal bin Muhamad from the Malaysian Special Forces (Gerak Khas). The crown prince shared his hopes of a peaceful resolution toward the maritime and airspace as symbolised by the picture of him in between his two friends from Singapore and Malaysia.
“On my right is Prem Singh from the Singapore Special Branch. He has been taking care of me for nine years. On my left is Leftenan Kolonel Samsyawal bin Muhamad from the Malaysian Special Forces (Gerak Khas), who was my sniper buddy when I did my Young Officer’s course in PULADA in 2002. He has been working with me for the last three years. I don’t need to introduce myself, I’m from Johor.
Here I am in the middle between Singapore and Malaysia. The three of us are good friends, working well in the same organisation. I hope the countries can find a solution that is a win-win situation to prosper together and not get entangled in unnecessary issues.
HRH Major General Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim, Crown Prince of Johor”
The journey from patrol policeman to royal bodyguard
Mr. Singh shared his story about his humble beginnings as a police officer with the Singapore Police Force during his national service days. He was then deployed to Hougang Neighbourhood Police Centre after his basic training in 1999. His job consisted of patrolling and guarding the rooms where accused criminals are held. In 2001, he signed on as a regular with the SPF.
After four years, Mr. Singh felt a greater calling and felt his skills could be further put into good use when he signed up for the Police Security Command. Here, he was in charge of protecting all of Singapore’s ministers and even those foreign dignitaries visiting Singapore. After just four months of intense training, he was sent off to protect senior politicians and also got to handle “one-man operations” (OMO) when he escorted former US president Bill Clinton and former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd when the foreign dignitaries visited Singapore. Mr. Singh noted that he preferred OMOs and that his training in being professional and disciplined prepared him for his current role.
He recalled that it was during one of those duties at a dinner event in Singapore that he got to meet Tunku Ismail. It could have been his towering presence or his dedication to the job that caught the eye of the crown prince, but the event was not even over when Mr. Singh was approached by Tunku Ismail’s aide who told him that the crown prince wanted to put him onboard as part of the royal security detail.
This was Mr. Singh’s big break, and he accepted. “It did not take much thought and I said yes. Who in their right mind would turn down such an offer? Escorting a member of the Johor royal family – and that member being the crown prince – is a dream for anybody,” shared Mr. Singh.
When he went for his interview, he was greeted by Tunku Ismail in his Royal Johor Military Force uniform, and it was then that Mr. Singh knew he had made the right choice. Since then, he has been an integral part of the crown prince’s daily schedule, from workouts to meetings, Mr. Singh’s ensures that Tunku Ismail is kept safe. Aside from accompanying the Johor royal on overseas trips to Singapore, the United Kingdom, Argentina, and Spain, the royal bodyguard also protects the royal family which includes Tunku Ismail’s wife, Che Puan Khaleeda and their two children, Tunku Khalsom Aminah Sofiah and Tunku Iskandar Abdul Jalil Abu Bakar Ibrahim. Mr. Singh sees his job description as “no easy feat” with minimal space for error, yet he is honoured in doing so. He said, “I am sure a lot of people envy my job, but the responsibility is great. Now that (Tunku Ismail) has two children, my responsibilities have expanded. Ensuring their safety and security is also my duty. But that’s what I have sworn to do from the start. I am dedicated to protect the royal family of Johor with my life.”
On “valuable life lessons,” Mr. Singh explained how he looks up to Tunku Ismael. “One lesson that he taught me has become an ethos I live by – that our greatest weapon in life is our attitude. (Tunku Ismail) is very disciplined and expects the people around him to be the same. I have matured after working with him,” said the royal bodyguard.
A job that requires teamwork
Regardless of their nationality or cultural differences, Mr. Singh noted how the crown prince’s security detail puts great emphasis on teamwork. With officers from the Malaysian Commandos, the Malaysian police’s Special Operations, and Johor’s Military Elite Forces, he sees how the different units function as one with only one duty, and that is to protect the crown prince and his family. Even with almost a decade of experience, Mr. Singh still sees much room for growth and added that “We all share our different working experience with each other and we learn from one another. There is an ethos I live by – ‘There is no perfect bodyguard. Every day is a learning lesson.’”
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