Ex-GIC chief economist Yeoh Lam Keong responds to S’pore police rebuttal

A swift response to a swift response.

By Belmont Lay | June 7, 2017

Yeoh Lam Keong, the ex-GIC chief economist and adjunct professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, has issued a response to the Singapore police’s rebuttal.

In a June 5 Facebook post by Yeoh, he wrote that alienation from the police was a big reason for the cause and poor handling of the riots in little India and that alcohol is just a convenient scapegoat.

On June 6, the police issued a statement in rebuttal:

This is the police’s statement:

Barely a day went by after the police response, Yeoh supplemented his points with at least two lengthy posts on June 7:

The first appeared on Yeoh’s personal Facebook page:

And the second in a separate and even lengthier comment response:

This is Yeoh’s comment in full:

I’d like to thank the Singapore Police Force (SPF) for the detailed reply to my comments on what I perceived to be one of the major causes of the little India riots in 2013 – inadequate community policing in the community in question.

This view was based on my personal macro observation that police numbers on the ground have not kept up with our population growth- particularly in the foreign worker community -due to its huge expansion over the late 1990s and 2000s.

I have also observed that policing in little India was often outsourced to auxiliary private police that may not have the same good training in community relations that our regular police receive.

I have shared these views in a seminar to senior home team members a few years ago and we have had a robust and helpful discussion on it.

This trend worries me because of the sheer numbers of unskilled foreign workers and the potential threat they pose to public safety and law and order if not adequately policed in terms of quantity and quality of police presence and good relationships with the communities there.

I’m glad that the SPF has clarified that community policing is still a cornerstone of police methods and training, and welcome the SPF’s elaboration on the COPS system and the SGSecure movement. These sound like great initiatives!

I have always found our home team members very professional, helpful and well trained and have a very high regard and appreciation for them, as I am sure do most of the public.

I appreciate this clarification and reassurance by the SPF as this is what public debate should be all about – and I am sure that the public will also appreciate the SPF’s explanation of its policies in greater detail.

I have no doubt that Singapore is one of the safest cities in the world and that the SPF is still doing very good work given its admittedly lean structure.

I just worry as a concerned citizen and economist that it may be inadequately resourced to keep up this excellent work in the future, especially in our large and rapidly growing population and foreign worker communities.

I am not alone in having such views. The police commissioner himself spoke far more eloquently and frankly than me in this at the end of the COI on the Little India riots in 2014

[Link to article in Today]

I hope the SPF does not read my comments as having any more intention than just giving my personal views on how to keep Singapore as safe as possible for all citizens

Another good point in our exchange i realise is that a certain level of civility is needed on both sides for constructive public discussion and debate. This will contribute much to community and police mutual partnership and cooperation which I would always be happy to participate in. In this spirit, I apologize if i had sounded unnecessarily strident and hope we continue to regard each other as partners in helping to improve our society together.

Yeoh’s clarification was to justify his original stance, which was his own observation regarding the “penny wise pound foolish policy decisions that have resulted in inadequate community policing in Singapore too”.

The Today article Yeoh used to illustrate his point is about Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee closing his testimony before the Committee of Inquiry (COI) in March 2014 with a plea for 1,000 more officers to be added to the police’s ranks to patrol hot spots.

The police has not responded to Yeoh’s recent posts at the time of this article’s publication.


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About Belmont Lay

Belmont can pronounce "tchotchke".

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