In January this year, I interviewed former SMRT bus drivers, He Jun Ling, Gao Yueqiang, Wang Xian Jie and Liu Xiang Ying. They were said to be key instigators of Singapore’s first strike in 26 years and as a documentary filmmaker and journalist, I was eager to find out their stories. A fifth driver, Bao Fengshan was by then, already serving a six-week sentence for participating in the stoppage. I met him in China several weeks later.
Back then, I was collecting material for a longer documentary and had no intention of releasing any of the footage before the film was done. But during their interviews, He and Liu told me something disturbing – they said they were beaten while in police custody. These were unsettling allegations that I felt, had to be addressed urgently. The Attorney General’s Chambers, Prison Service and the Ministry of Home Affairs did not respond to my requests for comment. On the 28th of January this year, I released clips of He and Liu’s descriptions of the assaults on my blog. What followed is documented here.
It is now two months since my seven-hour kopi session at the Internal Affairs Office (IAO). I’ve not received any updates on the IAO’s investigation. He and Liu have finished serving their sentences at Changi Prison and are no longer in Singapore. It remains unclear what investigators will do next.
I spoke to He and Liu recently. They said representatives from the IAO paid them two visits each while they were in prison. The officers asked both men if they wanted to pursue cases against their alleged assailants.
“I told them that on a personal level, I preferred to close the chapter.” He explained during our telephone conversation.
Liu felt the same way. The officers then instructed both men to issue signed statements indicating that they would drop the matter. No lawyer was present during the visits. Neither were the men told to seek legal advice.
“Before signing the document, I told them everything I said [about being beaten and intimidated] was the truth,” Liu explained.
He Jun Ling went a step further – he insisted on including a line in his statement making clear that he stood by all his allegations.
“I was very firm about this. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have signed.” He said.
Given the latest developments, it is unclear what the IAO will do next. When contacted, Superintendent Lim Chan Huat, who is in charge of the case, declined to comment.
“Personally I am not interested in going after the person who beat me,” He said when I asked if he thought the investigation should continue, “but surely, the police don’t need my permission to proceed?”
There’s logic to his reasoning. In February, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a press statement that it took a “serious view” of He and Liu’s allegations. The IAO was tasked to commence investigations (arguably in a slightly bizarre manner) even though neither of the former drivers had lodged police reports. Superintendent Lim told me himself that he and his team would get to the bottom of the matter.
He and Liu were interviewed by the IAO prior to their sentencing. They provided information about the events surrounding their alleged beatings and were able to identify their ‘assailants’ from a set of photographs. Neither man, it appears, has retracted his story. If the IAO could act without police reports from the two alleged victims back in February, then surely it can continue to investigate even if He and Liu aren’t interested in pressing charges? After all, we’re not talking about straightforward cases of assault here. This matter concerns the very credibility of our police force. The IAO should get to the bottom of the matter.
The Attorney General’s Chambers did not respond to questions sent via email.