Singapore Police Force honours pioneer officers

(From left) Assistant Commissioner of Police Melvin Yong, Commissioner of Police Hoong Wee Teck, Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran and Straits Times associate editor (news) Rahul Pathak launching an e-book by The Straits Times and Singapore
(From left) Assistant Commissioner of Police Melvin Yong, Commissioner of Police Hoong Wee Teck, Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran and Straits Times associate editor (news) Rahul Pathak launching an e-book by The Straits Times and Singapore Police Force on an iPad yesterday.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Some 600 attend event in appreciation of their work during S'pore's tumultuous years

From Konfrontasi to racial riots, pioneer police officers here have all played a role to safeguard Singapore's stability and security.

Yesterday, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) held a buffet dinner and movie screening in appreciation of their work.

More than 600 pioneer officers attended the event at the refurbished Capitol Theatre.

Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran said: "In the 19th and early 20th century, secret societies, riots, gambling and other vices were rampant in Singapore. Our rudimentary police force had to not just combat crime, but also fight pirates, run the jail and fight fires.

"Apart from social unrest, dangerous criminals such as gunmen, goldsmith robbers and kidnappers were a scourge in the 60s and 70s."

UNREST IN THE 1950S

The situation was so chaotic. After the riot, officers had to stay in the police station for two weeks and were not allowed to go home, in case anything broke out. We are living in harmony now, and we should appreciate that. I'm very proud to be part of the police and I hope younger officers can follow in our footsteps and work hard.

MR ISMAIL AHMAD, 85, who was an officer on the ground after the Maria Hertogh riots in 1950

Mr Iswaran added that maintaining law and order then was "an uphill task" and some officers even died in the course of work.

"Your dedication to this mission is the reason we have a safe and secure Singapore today," he said. "(Even) as we look back on how far we have come over the last 50 years, the SPF must continue to reinvent itself and remain forward-looking."

At the event, the minister also launched an e-book by The Straits Times and the SPF.

Titled Guilty As Charged, it features 25 high-profile cases since 1965, including the stories of ritual child killer Adrian Lim and Anthony Ler, who paid a teenager to kill his wife.

After the launch, pioneers watched the film 1965, which looks at the underlying racial tensions and the turmoil in the months leading up to Singapore's separation from Malaysia.

One officer who worked through the tumultuous period is 85-year-old Ismail Ahmad.

Mr Ismail, a guard police constable between 1948 and 1972, was an officer on the ground after the Maria Hertogh riots in 1950. His job was to control the crowd and disperse them.

He said: "The situation was so chaotic. After the riot, officers had to stay in the police station for two weeks and were not allowed to go home, in case anything broke out.

"We are living in harmony now, and we should appreciate that. I'm very proud to be part of the police and I hope younger officers can follow in our footsteps and work hard."

Mr Ong Swee Kee, who retired from the police force in 1988 after 25 years of service, hoped that such events could be held regularly.

The 71-year-old said: "I hope this can be organised as and when they can for the retired officers. It's difficult to keep in touch because during my time, we used pagers and not handphones."

Mr Ong took on various roles in the police including fingerprint searcher and examiner, as well as station inspector.

He added: "I saw a lot of old friends, I have not seen some of them in 40 years. It's a fantastic feeling to see them still healthy."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2015, with the headline 'Singapore Police Force honours pioneer officers'. Print Edition | Subscribe