Perhaps, Mindef had recognized the tunnel vision of SAF commanders when decades ago defence minister, the late Howe Yoong Chong, first decided to expose SAF officers to real ‘battlefield’ conditions by allowing their attachment/deployment to various global trouble spots under UN auspices. That was the precursor of the present almost routine deployment of our army, air force and navy individuals and contingents overseas. Basically, it is to acquire real life work experiences. Perhaps the MHA minister should consider attachment schemes for SPF personnel to overseas police forces particularly to those countries whose citizens are represented in huge numbers here given the global reality of things today?
I can understand a little of DAC Lu’s tunnel vision or frog in the well syndrome for you can’t expect someone to be able to imagine beyond his actual but limited wealth of actual hands on policing experiences in such situations. The same reason why we seriously doubt the scholars who are oftentimes parachuted straight into totally civil/private and often alien environment as bosses. It is a pitfall to think or expect that they are all men for all seasons.
I am also reminded of some comments made by an OCS instructor whom I happened to share a table at a dinner. This was many years ago. Our topic of casual and random discussion happened to be on a high flying senior SAF commander then – Boey Tak Hup, a contemporary of LHL. The OCS instructor told me about an encounter between BTH and an Australian half-colonel who was a Vietnam war veteran, and who had wondered out loud to BTH about senior SAF officers being so young. The Aussie half-colonel was a much older soldier than BTH who was already a COL then. According to the OCS instructor, the rejoinder from BTH to the Aussie was that being younger they can think faster in a given situation. Well, my own rejoinder to the instructor was, while the younger SAF commander may HAVE TO THINK about what and how to respond in a given situation, the Aussie commander would more than likely had already experienced it, been there and done it, already.
This is perhaps the kind of situation we have at the Little India riot. The Singapore Police Force has been so used to the mostly docile, timid and tame local population that they are totally unprepared for any contingency out of the norm here.
IMO, the lion’s share of the blame has got to do with the proliferation of laws that curb virtually every form of public dissent imaginable (and considered ridiculous in many other civilized countries). Consider, for example, the outlawing of mass “flash” activities. Just not too long ago, a few youngsters got into trouble with the law for dressing in black in the vicinity of a place where people were asked on online media to wear black and congregate as a sign of peaceful protest. And also not forgetting the law which allowed the labelling of even a SINGLE person’s public protest as an ‘illegal assembly’! Perhaps, the only country in the world to do so. Also, who can forget the trio charged with contempt of the judiciary merely by “wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the image of a kangaroo in judicial robes” . A blog on it: http://singaporedissident.blogspot.sg/2009/02/singapores-high-court-judge-judith.html
(Note: I do not necessarily agree with the views expressed by the blogger. I am merely using his blog to illustrate my point.) So, compared to other ‘tougher‘ countries, policing in Singapore is almost like a walk in the park, until Little India quite literally exploded onto the scene?
Perhaps, yet another reason could be the SPF’s ‘over dependence’ on the political masters to decide how policing should be done – where and what to police and not to police or where and what to turn a blind eye to. Arguably, the Little India riot happened because it was very much a riot that was waiting to happen. The huge congregation of South Indians in Little India, especially at weekends, the lax policing, and the ‘free’ flow of potent alcoholic drinks dispensed by over 200 (more?) licensed establishments/retail outlets in the area, was something that has been going on for years until… All that was needed was a little random spark, like that tragic traffic accident, to trigger that uniquely Indian street mob mentality into full play?
I suspect that one of the fall-outs perhaps is that the govt has now been forced to impose a hefty tax on alcohol to dissuade the bottom level foreign workers, from India in particular, to drink less? A word of caution is in order here, i.e., the responsible govt agencies should now ramp up their vigilance on bootlegging and the lethal adulteration of ethyl alcohol with methyl alcohol by unscrupulous syndicates which has led to mass poisonings quite often reported in the Indian sub-continent. The vulnerable would be the many who would still require their fix to deal with the tough ‘frontier-like’ living and working conditions in our fine city!