Rants and raves about stuff happening in and around my life in Singapore

Friday, January 24, 2014

Singapore a Police State?

Is Singapore at risk of becoming a police state? It’s a question I’ve been pondering on reading about the bill to enhance police powers at little India. This of course is in response to the recent riot there, the first to happen in Singapore in over 40 years.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is introducing a temporary Bill that would provide Police with enhanced powers for one year to deal pre-emptively with potential threats to public order in Little India. No doubt this temporary measure is in lieu of something more permanent that still needs to be trashed out.

Under the enhanced powers, police officers would be allowed, for instance, to search a person for alcohol. Police officers holding the rank of sergeant and above would be empowered to raid any place within Little India, without a warrant, if the officer reasonably suspects an offence has been, is being, or likely to be committed. And while I’m sure there are enough regulations to ensure there is no abuse of these powers, the fact that they exist at all is a little scary.

Search on suspicion, raid without warrant on suspicion, and that’s just the beginning.

The Bill also proposes that the Commissioner or an authorised officer have the power to ban people from entering Little India for up to 30 days if their presence or actions are likely to threaten public order. Although how that would be enacted I’ve no idea given that I’ve no idea how a it will be deemed that a person’s presence or actions are likely to threaten public order. It’s very broad.

Other features of the Bill include a general prohibition against the sale, supply, and consumption of alcohol within this area, with a permit regime to be introduced to allow such activities to be carried out under specific conditions. There will also be powers to allow the swift cancellation or suspension of any business licence of a licensee who commits or is reasonably suspected of contravening the law.

I’ve no issue with banning the consumption of alcohol in public places. In fact it’s a pretty good idea. And I’ve no idea (nor do I think anyone has at this stage) how much alcohol is responsible for the recent riot, no doubt there are other factors that we may never know about and no doubt it was probably a combination of them all that caused the problem.

What does concern me is that we have built an invisible wall around little India, with an invisible gate and an invisible border crossing system wherein different laws are being applied. And it looks like this is only the beginning.

What’s next I wonder?