The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) have this afternoon (14th March 2017) issued an official statement dismissing all of activist Han Hui Hui’s “inhumane treatments” claims as “baseless”. [ CNA ]
In its statement, MHA said that Singapore Prison Service (SPS) have interviewed the officers involved and reviewed the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage and documents on Ms Han’s custody.
Ms Han’s allegations
Ms Han had, on 23rd February alleged on her blog and in a Facebook post titled “Alone In Cell” that she and fellow female prisoners were treated inhumanely and harshly by the prison officers guarding the lockups at both the States and High Courts. [ LINK ]
Taking MHA’s statement at face value, it appears that Ms Han was lying and had “fabricated false and misleading accounts” in an attempt to “undermine the integrity of our law enforcement agencies”, but did she?
Maybe she did, maybe she told half-truths or maybe she was telling the truth?
In any case, lets try to dissect the saga from a neutral perspective, taking both the MHA’s statement (as reported by CNA) and Ms Han’s allegations at face value – solely for the purposes of discussion.
They say versus She Say
* The quotes are for easy reference and not actual words written.
Ms Han alleged:
She was subjected to a “humiliating” strip search in front of “about ten female officers with male officers passing by at the gate”. There was a privacy screen but “(the authorities) simply put it there for show rather than really using it”.
She was not subjected to a strip search, but was instead searched by a female officer and had remained clothed for the entire duration.
Her allegation that male officers had walked past while she was being searched is also untrue as she was in the women’s wing of the lock-up, which is not accessible to male officers …a privacy screen is deployed when a search in progress.
According to MHA, CCTV footage has shown that Ms Han was not subjected to a strip search, so Ms Han had probably ‘cook’ that up a little or maybe she was referring to other female prisoners who were subjected to a strip search that she witnessed?
MHA said that a “privacy screen is deployed when a search in progress” (standard protocol), but was that screen deployed on the day in question?
Protocol also states that male officers are not allowed in the women’s wing of the lockup, but was the protocol breached on the day in question?
Why bother citing a protocol when it was suggested that it had not been adhered to? Were these allegations investigated and if so, why were the findings not included in the statement?
Note: Prison protocols also states that a prison guard cannot have any intimate contact with an inmate, but wasn’t one male prison guard convicted of soliciting sex from an inmate just last year?
Ms Han alleged:
There was no tissue and soap provided in the prison, and prison officers would gather at the CCTV whenever a prisoner was using the toilet and mock them for being unable to clean themselves.
This was also untrue as toilet paper is made available to detainees.
Granted that toilet paper was made available and prisoners probably have to request for it, but confirm no soap since it was not mentioned in the statement, right?. Then Ms Han wasn’t fabricating about the “no soap”, right?
What about the alleged peeping and mocking? Did MHA avoided (or forgotten) the more disturbing allegations made by Ms Han, that of the prison officers watching the female prisoners relieve themselves via CCTVs and even joked about it. Isn’t that more serious than a missing roll of toilet paper? Female prison officers peep and mock female prisoners is alright?
Ms Han alleged:
The basement lock-up was run by auxiliary police officers from Malaysia, who made disparaging remarks about Singaporeans including one comparing them to dogs.
This was “unfounded”. The team overseeing the lock-up consists of prisons officers supported by both Singaporean and Malaysian auxiliary police officers.
If one were to read Ms Han’s original post, she had acknowledged that there was a Singaporean, but suggested that most were from Malaysia. MHA refuted with “both Singaporean and Malaysian auxiliary police officers”, isn’t that what Ms Han had already acknowledged? A case of “taken out of context” to accuse Ms Han of making “unfounded” allegations?
Ms Han wrote: “Other than the first police officer at the high court who was a Singaporean, the rest were Malaysians.”
Ms Han was in custody with her movements restricted, wouldn’t it be fair statement if she had made the comments based only on what she had experienced and saw in the lockup? There could be another 100 Singaporean prison officers in the Court’s rest room, but can she see them?
On the doggy allegation, Ms Han specifically mentioned one presumably Malaysian prison officer who compared Singaporeans to “dogs”.
LIM KAH LAN then added “lap up the sky juice” and both Malaysians walked away, laughing loudly saying Singaporeans are dogs.
Why no statement on this, that corner conveniently no CCTVs?
Ms Han alleged:
She was brought into solitary confinement at the High Court at 12.30pm, half an hour after lunchboxes were distributed. She was only given lunch at the State Court at 2.30pm.
Ms Han was provided with lunch during her temporary custody.
Seriously, is that the best talents at MHA can come up with? Ms Han did not dispute that in her post, she did acknowledged that she was given food, but it was late. English got problem or another case of “taken out of context” and selective rebuttal?
More serious allegations conveniently omitted?
MHA appears to be refuting trivialities instead of addressing the more serious allegations.
Some of which made by Ms Han were:
1. From my viewpoint, I could see that they were surfing the web, mostly facebooking (sic) while they were working.
Did MHA’s investigation address this? Were the prison officers allowed to surf the net during working hours?
2. Whenever someone pass motion, they started shouting and asked everyone to gather at the CCTV. The police will then mock how people wash themselves without any tissue and soap.
Surely footage from the CCTVs would have either confirm or deny this, why no clarification on this?
3. Since the water only come out when being pressed, they laughed at how the inmates were unable to clean their hands properly.
Ms Han had described in details what a holding cell looked like and the position of the supposed 1.7m tap. Did officers from the SPS or MHA visit the lockup to confirm if that was the case, i.e. taps so high making it very difficult for prisoners to even wash their arse and hands?
Is there any logical rationale for a tap to be 1.7m high?
4. The walls are filled with blood. It appears that people have either fought or tried to self-harm in prison. There were blood stains all over and the walls were scrubbed. Some paints were falling off and there were more layers of blood stains when seen closely.
Were the prisoners manhandled while in custody? Were the prisoners attempting suicide or were the prisoners fighting among themselves? Why the blood?
Ms Han most probably had exaggerated her ordeal while in lockup, but there are more pressing questions like those listed above which members of the public are more concerned with, rather than the selective trivialities addressed by the MHA.
What do you think?
P/S: Out of curiosity, who reviewed the CCTV footage, was it a female officer, a male officer or a team comprising of both male and female officers?