Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Ministerial Statement Is Not Helpful

As the Minister for Law and Home Affairs, I think it’s fair to say most Singaporeans expected K. Shanmugam to defend the actions of the police yesterday. However, if it was Mr. Shanmugam's intention to cool things down, then I’m afraid his Ministerial Statement in Parliament is having the opposite effect.

This is what we know. 

An 11-year old girl accused 14-year old Benjamin Lim of molest. The girl’s family made a police report. 5 police officers went to Benjamin’s school to pick him up. They interviewed him without his parents or a lawyer present for 3 and a half hours and then the boy was released. He was found dead hours later at the foot of his HDB block. Everyone, including the police, believes he jumped to his death.

Mr Shanmugam said that a Coroner's Inquiry will try to establish the cause of Benjamin's death and that the rules of Sub Judice generally preclude any discussions which may influence proceedings. I find this part of the statement very strange.

These are the facts. They are not in dispute. Whether you are defending the actions of the police or not, no one is doubting this chain of events. This was what happened. Saying there was no basis linking the death of Benjamin Lim to the way the police acted does not hold water because it is clear the boy jumped to his death due to him being picked up by the police.

Now the boy might be guilty. It's possible he jumped because of a guilty conscience, but to say his death is not linked to the actions of the police is just not correct. They clearly are. 

However I think the biggest mistake Mr. Shanmugam made yesterday was in another part of his statement, Mr. Shanmugam said that when the police went to the school, they were unaware of Benjamin's identity. He also said that in most cases like Benjamin's, the person involved will be let off with a warning.

When I read this, I (like most Singaporeans) have to ask why it required 5 police officers to pick up 1 lone 14-year boy? I applauded the speed of the police but by the minister's own words, this is a minor case. Even if the police did not know who he was at that time, surely the police has better things to do than to send 5 officers to pick up 1 young teenager. 

In many ways, that's the crux of the problem for Mr Shanmugam. The statement from the minister does not really help the case of the police. Legal or not, some of the actions of the police were very strange and I don’t think the Parliamentary Statement yesterday was helpful at all to them. I’m not the only one. Almost no one I spoke to who knew about the case thinks so either. 

Coroner's Inquiry or not, I think Mr. Shanmugam need to step up and give a proper statement to the Singapore public. His Ministerial Statement in Parliament is doing more harm and good, and he need to step up to defuse the situation he just helped inflamed yesterday. Cooling things down is in everyone's interest. 


Ah Meng said...

Hmmmm....I dont think anything he says will cool anything down. Whether the actions of the police caused him to jump is the question. We dont have the facts of the interrogation. Did they threaten him into admitting his guilt? We dont really know but the boy jumped to his death after the interrogation. The cause of the suicide was probably a mixture of the boy's sensitivity/fear (guilt feelings?) and the interrogation.

Ghost said...

He need to at least try. Even friends I have who are very pro-government thought his statement was bad. He need to at least try to defuse the situation.

Ah Meng said...

and take some responsibility for what happened

Ghost said...

That I disagree with. Mr. Shanmugam is not the reason the boy is dead. The boy jumped himself. There are reasons for the sad incident, but Mr. Shanmugam is not one of them. He did not set the police procedures or sent the 5 officers to the school. Maybe you can argue he should update the police procedures for dealing for minors but that's it. Mr. Shanmugam need to defuse the situation, and not blame the boy for what happened but he is not the reason the boy jumped.

Ah Meng said...

We are not blaming Shanmugam nor the police for Ben's death but some of the actions of the police and school may have contributed to this young boy taking his life. By not admitting to some responsibility he is indirectly blaming the boy for what happened. This may not have been his intent but thats the message I am getting. By claiming that Benjamin would have been let go with a warning is a subtle way of saying that Benjamin's suicide was an overreaction and that the system is benign and that the police are understanding to young first offenders. WAS BENJAMIN TOLD THIS UNDER INTERROGATION? We do not know this.

I hope Sham's statement is not an attempt to inoculate the police from bad PR.

Shanmugan as leader should lament the causes, both direct and indirect, which caused the suicide.

Anonymous said...

Most of the comments posted have placed the blame for Benjamin's suicide on the police. No one will ever know except Benjamin himself. Has anyone ever considered whether Benjamin's parents might have unconsciously pushed their son to his death. Again no one will know except for Benjamin and his parents. Do you think any parent will react very casually to their children's misbehavior in public especially if it concerns molest or rape. It is very natural for parents to give their children a very severe dressing down. Could it be the the straw that broke the camel's back? Again, we will never know. Imagine a 14-year old boy molesting an 11-year old girl, must suggest that Benjamin is psychologically unstable. In such a condition, anything can push him over the edge. Again we will never know.

Anonymous said...

One advantage of sending 5 officers to pick up a suspect is to warn the suspect of the seriousness of his alleged offence, especially if he is likely not to be charged.

Ah Meng said...

Sending 5 officers to communicate the seriousness of the ALLEGED offense in a school was disproportionate. We need to also factor in the public humilliation and ridicule Benjamin knew he would have to face. The thot that his friends, student body and teachers knew of the alleged incident would have been a pressure point. Even adults would have a very hard time coping with this. It was likely that the intent of the 5 policemen was to communicate the seriousness of the incident but they did not take into account the public humilliation.

Gary said...

This has to be a blatant lie because before proceeding to the school, the police had already viewed the video clips from cameras mounted at and apparently also inside the lift itself. This has to be the case when they started the investigation based on a police report lodged by the father of the alleged victim. Otherwise, can the minister explain the basis for the beeline made by the FIVE policemen to Benjamin's school? They were looking specifically for Benjamin Lim who was taken from the tuck shop to the principal's office by one of the teachers.

Either the minister had deliberately lied in parliament or he had been so busy that he did not even think about what he was given to read by the SPF!!!

One more good reason not to swallow hook, line and sinker all that we hear in parliament, esp. from the government side! They are getting so arrogant that they do not even make sure whether they make sense, let alone have the facts when they open their mouths in parliament.

Ghost said...

To me, whether or not the parents scolded Benjamin does not matter. Honestly, we don't know enough about what happened to make an informed opinion at this point. What we do know is that Mr Shanmugam's statement made things worse than better. Coming forward again won't solve the problem but the important thing for me is that he should come forward and defuse it as much as possible. That's a good first step forward.

Anonymous said...

Dream on if you expect Sham to cool things down. Anyone who has any dealing with this guy, especially in his lawyer days, will know that he is arrogant & high-handed. He & his close friends will call it supreme self-confidence. That's just his character, shaped by his upbringing and life experiences, particularly as a litigation lawyer. You never appear to be sorry or contrite in legal matters, whether in words or in behaviour.