The following was first published on Facebook by Teo Soh Lung on 15 March 2013.
“I’ve got a few names.”
Those were the words of DSP Tan Hui Kuan when I asked him if he managed to find the persons who assaulted me when I was first arrested in 1987. DSP Tan was from the police headquarters and had been tasked by the Ministry of Home Affairs to investigate the complaint lodged by my brother. He had complained that I was subjected to physical abuse. I never saw DSP Tan again after that interview. And I was never informed of the outcome of the investigation.
I wrote about the investigation conducted by DSP Tan into the conduct of ISD officers in Chapter 23 of my book “Beyond the Blue Gate”. 25 years have gone by and I am still not informed of the results of the investigation. Do all police internal inquiries share the same fate? What will happen to the investigation that is being carried out by the Internal Affairs Office (IAO) on the allegations of the two SMRT drivers, He Jun Ling and Liu Xiang Ying who claimed that they were mistreated while under police custody?
In “I Have Ways To Make You Confess”, released online on 28 Jan 2013, He and Liu spoke of their ordeals to filmmaker, Lynn Lee when they were arrested for instigating and participating in an illegal strike in November last year.
Quite soon after the release of the videos, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced on 5 Feb 2013 that they were taking the claims of the drivers seriously and had instructed the IAO to investigate. The IAO started their work on the same day by visiting the residence of filmmaker Lynn Lee and demanding the handing over of the hard drive which recorded the interviews. What followed was the harassment of Lynn Lee for the next few days. Lynn Lee recorded her own ordeal a few days later and published it here.
As a retired lawyer and one who had experienced how our police carry out their work, I naturally took a special interest in the matter. Together with Tan Wah Piow, who was himself a victim of grave government smears in 1987 and more than a decade ago, we then spent many days drafting and finalising an article titled “Taking Rights Seriously.” We questioned the manner in which the investigation into the complaints of the SMRT drivers was carried out and opined that institutions such as the IAO may not promote public confidence in our police force. The article was published in TR Emeritus. Since that article was published on 9 March 2013, the IAO has still not published the outcome of its investigation. Neither did they respond to Lynn Lee’s article or comment on ours.
In the parliamentary sittings before the budget debates, the government assured the public that the IAO is still carrying out its investigation. How long will it take and when will the results be known? Will the results be released only after the bus drivers have served their term of imprisonment and deported to their homeland? They were convicted on 25 Feb 2013 to 7 and 6 weeks imprisonment respectively. If we go by the usual prison practice of granting a remission of one third of the sentence for good conduct, He will be deported on or about 27 March 2013 while Liu should be out on or about 24 Mar 2013. Will the IAO complete its investigation before they are deported? And if their complaints are borne out, will the police compensate them for the physical and mental abuse they suffered?
By standing up for their rights, He and Liu have taught us that we too must stand up for our rights. We must know our rights, take our rights seriously and take action when our rights are infringed. If we let matters pass and take injustices lightly, very soon we will be left without rights. And what will become of our police force? There are already utterances that it is politicised, incompetent and bias. The latest shadow has been cast by the parents of the late Dr Shane Todd. Can we afford to do nothing? Can the government continue to do nothing?
(You can read more about Teo Soh Lung and her memoir, Beyond the Blue Gate: Recollections of a Political Prisoner, here).