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Police raps ex-GIC chief economist for making sweeping statement on Little India Riot

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The Singapore Police Force (SPF), in a Facebook post has taken to task Mr Yeoh Lam Keong. Mr Yeoh was formerly the chief economist of GIC and is a vocal critic of the government.

On 5 June, Mr Yeoh shared an Independent article titled ‘I am a serving firearms officer – the Government is wrong to say police cuts have nothing to do with recent attacks’, in his Facebook and commented: “Unfortunately we’ve made the same penny wise pound foolish policy decisions that have resulted in inadequate community policing in Singapore too. Alienation from the police was a big reason for the cause and poor handling of the riots in little India. Alcohol is just a convenient scapegoat.”

The article faulted the Government of Theresa May for making budgetary cuts which removed police officers from the streets of Britain.

“This kind of rhetoric may seem persuasive and eloquent but, as so often with politicians trying to avoid blame, it is untrue. It is untrue because it misses a key and huge fundamental point to the protection of our national security: community policing intelligence.
Police officers embedded in the community, there to help, there to listen, there to understand the community they serve. It is in the community where the best intelligence is learnt and gathered, from the people who notice a change in behaviour of their friends and neighbours, allowing early intervention and monitoring.
Theresa May’s cuts have removed these officers from the streets. The intelligence they brought in through local knowledge and community engagement has dried up and collapsed, and the local bobby known to all has gone, replaced by a reactive police “service” that is inadequate – as the press is always so quick to point out when mistakes are made and splashed all over their front pages.”

Unfortunately we've made the same penny wise pound foolish policy decisions that have resulted in inadequate community…

Posted by Lam Keong Yeoh on Sunday, 4 June 2017

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The Police said Mr Yeoh’s sweeping statement is not only inaccurate, but that it showed a clear lack of understanding of what happened during the Little India riot and an ignorance of Singapore’s community policing efforts.

The Police pointed out that the Committee of Inquiry (COI) found the primary cause of the riot to be a fatal road traffic accident, and that a confluence of other factors, such as consumption of alcohol and a desire for “street justice” by the rioters, escalated the violence.

Alcohol, in particular, was found by the COI to be a “major contributory factor” in the riot, contrary to what Mr Yeoh had deemed as a “convenient scapegoat”.

The Police admitted that it had a lean structure, but that its community-based policing has been a key strategy in its efforts to keep Singapore safe and secure. The statement further said that SPF is regularly reviewing its policing model to meet changes in the community’s safety and security needs and that it had introduced several programmes to bring police officers closer to the community.

SPF in referencing a 2016 public perception survey, pointed out that Singapore is one of the safest cities in the world, and that there is a high level of trust and confidence between Singaporeans and the police force.

The statement said that it was regrettable that Mr Yeoh did not check his facts before commenting on areas he has little knowledge of.

“His distorted points on the Little India Riot and Community Policing will mislead others who don’t know the facts,” the statement said.

Mr Yeoh Lam Keong in his Facebook posting of 5 Jun 2017 asserted that there is “inadequate community policing in…

Posted by Singapore Police Force on Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Prominent playwright Alfian Sa’at responding to SPF’s post asked how much training the auxiliary police officers who are deployed in Little India have had, in terms of interacting with migrant workers.

“Thank you so much for your clarification. I would like to ask, however, about the auxiliary policemen who are deployed in areas such as Little India. How much training have they received in terms of interacting with migrant workers? Are there sometimes language barriers that can lead to miscommunication, and do you have auxiliary police who are conversant in the main languages used by the migrant workers there, such as Bengali and Tamil? Could cultural differences and even a possibly brusque or high-handed approach lead to this ‘alienation’?
When we talk about ‘community’, we are not just talking about a generalised Singaporean community. We should also address whether specific cultural sensitivity training might be required for those whose job is to police specific communities, such as that of the migrant worker community. I think before you get defensive, you should try to understand where a commentator is coming from. Also, your suggestion that one should join the police before crtiticising its practices is childish and unbecoming. I believe you are better than that.” – Alfian Sa’at

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