It does look like the relevant authorities could only be moved to do something about existing shortcomings and deficiencies in SOPs, regulations and specifically in this case, the PGO (Police General Orders) and MOE guidelines to school leaders, only after someone had died to expose them.
I am reminded by 14 year-old Benjamin Lim’s suicide of how a young prisoner, Dinesh*, had died from asphyxiation, after he was brutally manhandled with excessive force by several Prisons Officers during an incident and left lying restrained on the floor of a cell in an awkward position that directly caused his eventual death by asphyxiation.
*Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah died inside Changi Prison on 27 September 2010.
It does look like to Singaporeans that the government and ministries seems to demand HUMAN SACRIFICES before they would relent and deign it necessary to take another look at some of their existing methods and procedures, regulations, guidelines, general orders, and what have you, governing the conduct, work and actions of public officers when dealing with people in the course of their duties.
In the case of Dinesh, public assurances were given to the effect that existing prisons SOP pertaining to the handling of defiant/difficult prisoners would be changed to prevent a recurrence. But I do not recall any subsequent announcement or publicity given to whatever improvements and safeguards that were finally put in place since the incident, even though an undertaking was given in parliament by a minister/minister of state that it would be done. So the people are supposed to take it at face value that something has been done and accept that this is the way the government operates, its M.O. (modus operandi) of maintaining a wall of silence because certain matters or details are ‘confidential’ and/or only on a need to know basis)? So the general public do not need to know?
On the other hand, I can recall reading reports on the alacrity and haste with which the several prisons officers involved were mass ejected from the Prisons Service through resignation, and a subsequent fine imposed on their supervising officer at the end of court proceedings. What improvements or changes have in fact been enacted/implemented to prevent another prisoner from suffering a similar fate as Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah appeared not to have been publicised or at least not given the level of publicity it deserved. That’s only my opinion. Did I miss any public announcement in this respect?
This time round, let’s hope there will be more transparency and wide publicity regarding any definitive changes and improvements that would be made to the existing SOPs and system of both the SPF and the MOE.
Perhaps, it may be timely too for the government to CRITICALLY review and audit all of its existing civil service SOPs, guidelines, regulations and general orders for civil servants with a view to remove/modify/attenuate/improve/update any such potential TIMEBOMBS that may be lurking within the complex and mammoth bureaucratic machineries that is the civil service and government. One can arguably argue that two lives have already been sacrificed in order to surface just two of such discrepancies. Are there anymore?
It would not be easy, but it has to be done for otherwise still more human lives are potentially at risk, if no deliberate cleansing is undertaken to remove the ‘scourge’ in such encounters with government officials which are often heavily loaded against the ordinary person. The government has vast resources at its disposal. It is only a question of whether it has the will to do it instead of kicking the can further down the road for the next 50 years.