Zero Tolerance

The fish rots from the head, SAJ has often stated. As Minister of the Interior, will he give due attention to the issue of law and order?

Irresponsibility and indiscipline unscrupulously displayed by road users have gone unhindered to a point of extreme violence. A few months ago dozens of young men speeding on motorcycles in Desforges Street in the capital as if the road was an extension of their private territory ran over a couple riding back home on their motorcycle. Husband and wife were thrown on the asphalt, and the young men did not even bother to stop. An old man passing by hailed a taxi to take the couple to hospital. They were urgently and properly taken care of at Jeetoo Hospital, stopped working for three months and used crutches to move around. When you come to think of it, it shows how the life of normal law-abiding citizens can be suddenly and violently turned upside down by people who selfishly indulge in group pleasure on public roads in total disregard of other citizens’ security.


“The most shocking violent attack on policemen broadcast worldwide was that of rebellious young men of the Nuit Debout movement in France. Far-left wingers were joined by hooded suburban youths who seize any opportunity to infiltrate political demonstrations and gatherings and go on rampage in the streets, throw stones at policemen, smash shop windows and cars. One particularly shocking scene showed young people setting on fire a police car with policemen and a policewoman inside…”


The latest motor rally gone berserk in Goodlands rings the alarm bell for the authorities, lawmakers and society at large. First, it shows the difficulty of exercising authority when a single policeman on duty is confronted with a group of enraged young men who want to have their own way. Whatever be the tone in the heated verbal exchange and the true or false spitting incident is not the point here. Physical assault of a policeman on duty sends shockwaves and sparks unanimous public condemnation of mob violence against a representative of law and order. A group of young men armed with iron bars and machetes, heading to a policeman’s home and wildly smashing his car and house is a totally new phenomenon of reprisals in the local landscape of violent conflict management.

Youth on Rampage

Violent interaction with police forces broadly occurs in fairly developed countries where young people are more inclined to give free rein to their desires and wishes. The spirit of rebellion that characterizes youth sometimes takes a nasty turn when claims are not tempered with reason. Television scenes of young people attacking policemen in foreign countries are likely to negatively influence unruly elements elsewhere. In an increasingly connected world, thoughtless mimicry knows no bounds.

The most shocking violent attack on policemen broadcast worldwide was that of rebellious young men of the Nuit Debout movement in France. Far-left wingers were joined by hooded suburban youths who seize any opportunity to infiltrate political demonstrations and gatherings and go on rampage in the streets, throw stones at policemen, smash shop windows and cars. One particularly shocking scene showed young people setting on fire a police car with policemen and a policewoman inside. A tall sturdy policeman of West Indian or African descent fearlessly and quietly walked towards the aggressors who started stepping backwards.

It all seems like a phenomenon generated by attitudes like anti-Establishment, anti-authority, anti-police, anti-this and that initiated by Black artist groups in songs and music in Harlem ghettoes decades ago, and propagated later on, as usual, in Europe and elsewhere. In that spirit of mimicry, rap singers from the suburbs of Paris aired anti-government and anti-police slogans, sometimes in vulgar language, translating ‘F… the police’ into ‘Nique la police’. Most of these rappers, so-called artists, hail from North African and African migrant stock and sell songs replete with their own identity grievances in their host country. They ‘niquent’ other people’s mothers and sisters indiscriminately, abusing the freedom of artistic expression given to them in liberal societies.

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Motor riders’ claims? No revolutionary political claims, no angry fists raised high towards the sky, no protests against rampant consumerism, no demand for social change or whatever. Most unlikely. On the contrary, they have been raised in nuclear families and pampered by parents who showered them with instant gratification. They expect that gratification to be granted to them by society at large. They bear no animosity against the institution of the Police Force. Despite being young adults, which they may not be aware of, they just want to have their own way. Play hide and seek with policemen, speed fast and disappear in secondary roads until the next rally.

Peer pressure often has a negative impact on the behavioural pattern of young men. A negative sense of solidarity urges them to gang up and set off in punitive expeditions against representatives of law and order.

No Lenient Measures

Attacks against policemen are an extreme form of anti-social behaviour and call for very strict laws to deter further assaults. The state of disorder created by unruly young men in liberal western societies should make local authorities think twice before adopting and applying too lenient western laws.

Indeed, there should be a right combination of laws applied in democratic societies, and of no-nonsense laws and punishment meted out to offenders in authoritarian regimes like Singapore and China. Social degradation is to be expected if only western rules are applied.

In the early 90s, a 24-year old American young man living in Singapore felt free to smash car windows in a destruction spree. The Western press was outraged by the Singaporean corporal punishment the man was sentenced to. An opinion poll conducted in his home town in the US revealed that 78% of the inhabitants were in favour of Singaporean law!

People had rather the youngster get several beatings on his bum than a soft sentence.

This is not merely a matter of strict law. From a cultural point of view, Chinese and Singaporean citizens, and those in a few other Asian societies do not vent their anger by committing acts of vandalism, ransacking public property and assaulting public officials. Neither do young people in small towns in Europe today.

Why not keep the attackers in prison straight away for a few days? Deprivation of freedom is certainly a powerful deterrent to start with. There is no need for policemen to vent their rage by beating up the offenders. We are not talking about Chinese law relating to death penalty according to which the family foots the bill for the bullet used in execution.

There should be an examination of new laws which make families accountable for the delinquent and violent behaviour of their offspring, be they minors or young adults. Financial payment made to victims from parents’ bank accounts is most likely to rein in wild erratic behaviour in the public space. Long hours of community work to impart a caring attitude and a spirit of service to others may help create awareness of necessary rules and regulations which are the basis of a civilized society. Surely, the focus should not only be on providing motor rides with a proper rally ground somewhere in the island.

Police Trade Union

Allowing the Police Force to have a union is not enough. Other grievances expressed by policemen should be attended to. Under-staffed police stations is certainly an issue. Police solidarity with their hapless colleague is most laudable. So is the help offered by other citizens to repair the policeman’s house.

It was refreshing to hear the president of Police Union denounce political interference in police dealings with the public. Offenders likely to be political agents get away with illegal acts by politicians getting cases against them cancelled, and instead punish police officers by arbitrary transfers! This is a typical behaviour of Third World dictatorships. No more no less.

Enough is enough. This is the forceful message sent by the Police Union president when he aired his concerns fearlessly. How can rules and regulations be respected when elected members of Parliament who vote for these laws in Parliament are the first who break them?

The fish rots from the head, SAJ has often stated. As Minister of the Interior, will he give due attention to the issue of law and order?


* Published in print edition on 13 September 2018

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