By: Yoong Siew Wah
“Nero fiddled while Rome burned”. This famous quote could not be more poetic in portraying the bizarre reticence of the Honourable Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam when the whole of Singapore is agitated and livid over the questionable tactics of the police in the handling of the case of a 14-year-old student Benjamin Lim which resulted in his tragic suicide.
Minister K. Shanmugam is known to be very loquacious at other times especially in his crusade against the cruelty of cats. Does this mean that a human life is less worthy than a cat in his lofty views? Just like the Chinese saying: To treat the people like grass.(視人民如草芥).
A young life has been cut short which could be attributed to his traumatised experience at the hand of the police. While Singaporeans are questioning the antiquated police procedure in dealing with a minor and are waiting for a decent answer from the police, it is beyond logic and belief that the Honourable Minister K. Shanmugam could be turning a deaf ear to all these deafening rumblings by Singaporeans for social justice.
The public would certainly like to know what he has to say about the questionable police tactics and the tragic suicide of the minor. The police department comes under his control and it is incumbent upon him to give his unbiased views on the issue.
On the other hand the police seem to be dragging their feel in the long overdue review of their antiquated procedure in dealing with minors. While they are sitting on their arses wrangling among themselves, there may be another tragedy waiting to happen.
How can they be impressed of the urgency of finding a quick solution to the problem? They seem to be waiting for a cue from their Honourable Minister which is taking a long time to come. So the opening quote of “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” is not misplaced.
PM Lee Hsien Loong has prided himself on a prompt and efficient civil service. It would be interesting to hear what he has to say on both the police tardiness in reviewing their procedure and the funkiness of Minister K. Shanmugam in giving his views on such a grave matter.
The Minister for Education could also not escape the admonishment of the public for staying aloof of all these discreditable happenings. Did he not find something remiss in the conduct of the principal of the school and should not there be a review of the procedure in the handing over of a minor to the police for investigation making it less stressful to the minor?
Benjamin Lim was in a state of starvation and the principal would be remiss in not noticing it. And his tardiness in responding to the minor’s father who called him after his son’s suicide cannot be condoned. He returned the call only the next day.
Republished from Mr Yoong’s blog ‘Singapore Recalcitrant’.
The erudite Mr Yoong was the Director of Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD) from 1971 to 1974. He was Director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in the 1960s, and had a distinguished career in the Singapore Special Branch in the 1950s.
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