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Singapore police needs to earn trust and not expect it

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By: Ben Matchap

The Singapore Police Force has recently lashed out at Reuters saying:

“It is regrettable that Reuters had decided to carry unsubstantiated allegations from the organisers, and cited an unrelated case from 2014 in its reporting on the Speakers’ Corner. This was clearly an attempt to stoke fears about the use of the Speakers’ Corner and sow distrust from the Police.”

The Police were responding to 2 paragraphs in a Reuters report titled ‘Water price hike sparks rare public protest in Singapore‘.

“The organisers of Saturday’s protest said more people would have turned up if they had not feared a police crackdown.
“In 2014, six people were charged with creating a public nuisance while protesting against a compulsory tax savings scheme.”

It is incredible that the Police found an article which factually reported what the organisers of the water price hike protest said and the fact that six people who protested in Hong Lim Park were prosecuted, would “sow distrust of the Police”.

A country does not run just on money but also on trust. Trust in the public institutions like the police force and the government has got to be earned and not just expected.

If the police felt that the article might have sown distrust of the Police, then maybe the Police has to look at their own actions and see if they might have caused that themselves.

Like when political activist Teo Soh Lung and Roy Ngerng’s houses were raided and personal belongings were confiscated just for posting comments in their Facebook during Cooling Off day.

Till now it is a mystery why the police force had to raid their house and take away their personal belongings for an alleged offence of posting their views as individuals on an election in their own social media platforms.  Was the motive to intimidate opposition supporters? Such arbitrary actions by the police only serves to weaken the public trust towards the them.

Also, how can mistrust of the police ferment in a country like Singapore where the media is tightly controlled by the Government? Unless the seeds for the mistrust are sown by the police as well as the government themselves.

I acknowledge that the Police’s job of maintaining law and order in a country like Singapore is not easy and appreciate them for it. But I also feel that the Police themselves are victims of a political system which makes use them to enforce laws which are sometimes seen as being harsh.

I am not sure if you have seen filmmaker Martyn See’s Singapore cornered.

If you have, you may understand why some Singaporeans mistrust towards the Singapore Police Force.

Maybe if compulsory recordings during police “interviews” were allowed – maybe if the police read a ‘Miranda Rights’ kind of rights acknowledgement of an individual before they arrested them – maybe if an accused is given rights to a lawyer at the earliest possible – then maybe the general public will better trust the Police.

Afterall, better trust between society and its Police Force can only be a good thing!

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