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Singaporeans call for COI to investigate death of police officer who alleged racism

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A chorus of voices is calling for an external and independent body to oversee the investigation, with many questioning the wisdom of having the SPF investigate itself in a case where its own officers are implicated in discriminatory practices

SINGAPORE: Mourning the loss of a Singapore son, citizens online are calling for the Government to convene a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to look into the allegations of discrimination Sergeant Uvaraja S/O Gopal levelled against senior members of the Singapore Police Force (SPF), just minutes before he was found dead at the foot of an HDB block in Yishun.

Sergeant Uvaraja’s untimely death has shocked the nation, and the tragedy is compounded by the grievances he expressed on social media about a toxic workplace culture within the SPF. The 36-year-old recounted a distressing account of a workplace mired in office politics, backstabbing, and a lack of recognition for his dedication.

Even more troubling were the revelations of racial insults, derogatory comments, and discriminatory treatment he experienced within the ranks.

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Sergeant Uvaraja claimed that he sought assistance by reaching out to his superiors and helplines within the SPF but his appeals allegedly fell on deaf ears, with indifference and even scolding being his only responses.

In the wake of the dedicated police officer’s death, SPF has said that it was aware of the challenges Sergeant Uvaraja faced and that it did offer him some assistance. Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, meanwhile, asked SPF to conduct a thorough probe into the allegations.

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A growing chorus of voices, however, calls for an external and independent body to oversee the investigation, with many questioning the wisdom of having the SPF investigate itself in a case where its own officers are implicated in discriminatory practices.

The severity of the allegations and the fact that they potentially implicate the police force itself have prompted widespread calls for an independent body to conduct the investigation. Critics argue that an independent inquiry would ensure greater transparency, impartiality and accountability.

By involving an external body, the investigation can be conducted without any potential bias or conflicts of interest. This transparency is crucial to demonstrate that the process is fair and that there are no attempts to shield or protect any individuals involved in the allegations.

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The involvement of the police force in the allegations may also raise doubts about the fairness of an internal investigation. Singaporeans assert that an independent body can review the case more objectively, ensuring the investigation is free from preconceived notions and providing an unbiased assessment.

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If the allegations are proven true, holding those responsible accountable is paramount. An independent body may have more credibility in ensuring that the investigation’s findings lead to genuine reforms within the SPF.

Some call for the case to be handled by an external investigation body similar to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), with some suggesting that the body should directly report to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the President.

Calls for the authorities to convene a COI have also gained traction online.

A COI is a formal and independent investigative body established by the government to investigate specific matters of public concern or importance. The Commission of Inquiry is typically headed by a chairman, who is often a retired judge or a senior legal professional, and it includes other members with relevant expertise and experience.

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The primary purpose of a Commission of Inquiry is to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the issues at hand. It is empowered to gather evidence, summon witnesses, and compel the production of documents related to the subject of inquiry.

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The findings and recommendations of the Commission are then presented in a comprehensive report, which is made public and can be used by the government to address any shortcomings or make necessary improvements in the relevant areas.

Commission of Inquiries is established for various issues, including public safety, national security, governance, public health, and other significant concerns that impact the nation and its citizens.

The COI process aims to ensure transparency, accountability, and public trust in investigating matters of public interest and importance, and proponents online have asserted that this aim is exactly why an official COI is needed to oversee this case.

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