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“Cardboard Mata” a Cheap Trick to Paper Over Lack of Policemen On the Ground

The government does not seem to have learnt any lesson from the Little India riot in Dec 2013 which disgraced the Singapore Police Force (SPF). During the riot, our men in blue were forced into a retreat, police cars were stoned, overturned and burnt.

At the Little India COI, Police Commissioner (CP) Ng Joo Hee confirmed the size of the SPF has not kept pace with the population increase and said police resources have been stretched to near breaking point. It appears our scholar civil servants have understood the urgency of having increased police presence ie hundreds of ‘policemen’ have been dispatched and permanently stationed all over Singapore. Except they are made of cardboard.

Are shopping malls are now more secured with anti-crime message from this policeman?

Was there any study conducted to confirm a would-be thief would be deterred from committing a crime by a piece of cardboard?

Besides such a uniquely Singaporean idea, the SPF has certainly made police presence felt by the hundreds of SPF ‘Crime Alert’.

Will thieves not steal from Isetan because 12 of their kind have been caught in less than 10 months?

At a nearby supermarket, there were 21 cases of theft. What action will the SPF take if the number of cases keep increasing?

If all these efforts are simply to show our SPF has been working very hard, then it has also backfired. SPF is also announcing to the world Singapore is not as crime-free as foreigners have perceived. In 2013, there were 17,075 cases of theft/related crimes out of a total of almost 30,000 crimes committed. By continuing with such an approach, cardboard policemen and crime alert signs should soon become part and parcel of Singapore’s landscape.

Besides shopping malls, the public are also alerted to crimes committed at public bicycle parking facilities. Where next?

The above are a joke unless the SPF could provide statistics to confirm their effectiveness.

Jokes aside, the SPF had better start taking the shortage of manpower seriously. Some facts:

In 2009, minister Shanmugam said Singapore had 247 police officers per 100,000 people. With a population of almost 5 million then, the total number stood at about 12,350. Five years later in October 2014, outgoing CP Ng stated the number of police officers to be “12,000 or so”.

But with our total population at 5.47 million in 2014, an increase of 470,000, how could the number of police officers have been reduced?

What the MHA should be concerned about is another potential riot, one which Ng has already warned the government about – the “potential powder keg” in Geylang.

We have already witnessed what PRC blue collar workers are capable of, from protesting on top of a crane to the SMRT strike in 2012. A riot by PRCs will of course not pan out according to this simulation. Foreign rioters are likely to be work permit holders working in the construction industry.

In 2014, the number of foreign construction workers was 321,200, an increase of 75,500 from 2009. The PAP talks about the use of IT as if human beings can easily be replaced. If, say, only 2% (6,000) of foreign construction workers riot, Singaporeans will have to pay a very heavy price for poor planning. We need real policemen, not the cardboard type.

That vice is now rampant in Geylang, according to Ng, is confirmation of the SPF being behind the planning curve. It is illogical to expect an already-overstretched SPF to be able to control a riot in Geylang. With social media, a riot erupting in Geylang may quickly spread to other areas.

The PAP has to bear in mind that foreigners come from vastly different cultures and may value life differently. It should not mistakenly believe they are as docile as citizens. Don’t kid with PRCs and put our lives at risk.

MP Sylvia Lim has been highlighting the lack of police resources since 8 years ago. Like public housing, healthcare, and transport, the PAP has turned a deaf ear to every non-PAP feedback, resulting in Singaporeans paying a heavy price.

There is a huge social cost (security) in ramping up our GDP with a red-carpet-for-foreigners policy. Our scholar civil servants seem to believe cardboard policemen and SPF signs will work wonders in reducing crimes. If that is true, perhaps the government should consider replacing NSFs with aggressive looking cardboard soldiers stationed at strategic locations in Singapore. Companies should also employ cardboard security guards to improve productivity and lower costs.

Hmm… ideas from our scholars never cease to amuse.

This commentary was written by Phillip Ang.
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