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Security Policy

Have you noticed the recent change in Singapore since the terror attacks started around the world? I know Singapore is world-reknown to be kiasu and stuff, but don't you think that this is a little too much?

I mean, have you noticed the number [or lack of] of rubbish bins in Singapore? Previously you could find rubbish bins at every turn you make just because Singapore was trying to emulate the 'Clean and Green' policy to the public. But immediately after the terror attacks, you had to hold your rubbish for an average of 10 minutes [yes, I physically counted before] before you could throw it away into a rubbish bin. And even then, you wouldn't be throwing it as you happen to pass by a rubbish bin, but rather spot a rubbish bin in some secluded area of the shopping centre and have to specifically walk to it to throw your rubbish. I think they are just encouraging us to litter.

And that's not all. I believe most of you would have received this email by now, but if you haven't here's a look at how prepared our security officers are to protect us from crisis...

Dear Mr. Foo,

My name is Sandra Tan (I/C number 7328669G). It is with great
disappointment and distress that I am filing a complaint to you with
regards to my situation.

My family (including myself, my husband, my daughter, and my son) planned a
Darwin holiday for the March school vacation period and was supposed to
depart on 09 March. Unfortunately, we were put in a situation by the
security officers at the departure terminal, that was way beyond our
control and we were not able to make our trip. The following is an account
of what had happened : -

I entered the Immigration gantry at about 7.15pm with my daughter (Belle
Lee, 13 yrs old) to have our passport scanned and our hand carry luggage
checked whilst my husband (Lee Ming Chong) stayed behind with my son (Caius
Lee, 8 yrs old) at the ticketing counter to sort out my son's visa. After
having mine and my Belle's passport scanned, we proceed to the security
gantry to have our hand luggage and our bodies scanned. Belle passed the
security gantry first, whilst I followed right behind her. A lady officer
asked me to remove my boots for scanning, and I did as told immediately and
put my boots inside the basket provided, for it to be scanned together with
my hand luggage. I then proceed to the metal detector of which I cleared
without the gantry beeping or detecting any metal objects. I was then asked
to collect my luggage and my boots. In the mean time, Belle was throwing
away a sweet wrapper and retuning to me and saw me putting on my boots.
Belle then asked casually "Mummy, why do you have to remove your shoes?"
Whilst putting on my boots, I replied her and said that "they (the security
officers) are afraid that we might keep bombs in our shoes (which is why I
need to take it off to have it scanned)"

Immediately, a security officer standing at the conveyor belt (Stephen S
Naidira) who was standing in front of me said with a very rude tone "repeat
what you just said". I clarified with him what he meant - is it for me to
repeat what I had told my daughter? He said loudly again, to repeat what I
had just said. So I did exactly what he told me. I said to him that "my
daughter asked me why I need to take off my shoes, and I told her that you
guys (the security officers) are afraid that we will keep bombs in our
shoes." He immediately asked me to stand aside and said that he had to
report it to his superior that I said the word "bomb" twice. Then an Indian
lady (Sivamalar) at the customs started hurling at me and my daughter and
said that I said the word "bomb" twice and it is against the law and I can
be sent to jail and they are calling the police. She (Sivamalar) was so
loud and rude and she shoved us to the side, and refused to listen to my
explanation. In fact, she got so aggressive that another officer Ricky Lim
(I guess it's her supervisor) had to come forward to stop her from further
attacking me and my daughter verbally, and specifically asked Sivamalar to
"shut up". I told Ricky Lim that I would like to know the names of his
staff because their attitude and rudeness were simply beyond any acceptable
level. Immediately Sivamalar got so angry and aggressive that she started
charging at Ricky Lim and hurled "What?! What?! What?! She (she meant me)
said the word "Bomb" twice, so what is wrong with arresting her (which is
me) and we were told that if we heard the word twice, we will arrest!!" At
that time, Stephen S Naidira came to me again to intimidate me further by
asking me to repeat what I said earlier to my daughter again. I refused to
repeat again then because I believe he was deliberately asking me to repeat
so that he can count the number of times that I mentioned the word "bomb".
I also believe that that the officers were deliberately provoking me by
being rude and intimidating, in the hope that I will retaliate in kind,
thereby making their unreasonable actions justifiable.

Despite my anger and the fact that my daughter was scared to tears by the
situation, I knew I had to keep my cool. I sat aside with my daughter
taking down names of the personnel involved on my mobile phone. I was told
to wait for another officer of a higher rank to decide on the matter, and I
was still hoping whoever the higher ranked officer that was coming will
have the logical thinking to acknowledge that what I had said to my
daughter was a simple, harmless private conversation taken completely

At about 7.30pm, the Sergeant-in-charge, Amran Buang came. After I
explained the full context of the incident to him, he refused to make a
decision and decided to escalate it further to the Auxilary Police and
State Police. He said that the word "bomb" is very sensitive and I should
not have mentioned it twice. I explained to him that I did not know saying
the word "bomb" is against the law, and I further explained that I did not
say the word "bomb" in a threatening context to the officer, the word
"bomb" was taken completely out of context as part of an answer to my
daughter's question. Despite my explanation, he said he cannot make the
decision and my case has to be escalated to higher authorities.

Meanwhile, at about 7.40pm, my son's visa cleared and my husband and my son
came in through the customs. After knowing what had happened, my husband
tried to talk to Sergeant Amran Buang, further explaining to him that we
are just a family going on holiday and what I have said to my daughter had
been taken out of context. Again, no one was bothered to listen. And again,
we were told to wait for another officer with an even higher ranking. With
time ticking away and at 7.55pm with no sign of the higher authorities
appearing, we knew then our hope of boarding our flight had diminished.

Whilst waiting, Stephen S Naidira (the security officer) gathered with a
few security officers at the side, including Sivamalar to discuss how they
should present their statement to the police when they arrive later to make
sure that they are adequately covered, and that they are just following the
rule and doing what they were told to do. They said by insisting that they
are taking actions "by-the-book", they would be ok.

I hope by now you have a clear picture of the situation. My kids were both
crying then, with more and more policemen arriving which scared the living
daylights of them, and with no hope to continue our holiday plans. I
believe every action inside the terminal is recorded and I would insist
that your review the CCTV recordings on that night to know that I am only
stating the truth without exaggeration. You can also see that during the
entire episode, I was not at any point defiant or rude or refused any
further check by the officers, despite the infuriating situation that me
and my family were put through.

I know it is important to stay vigilant to protect Singapore. I have young
children, I know how important it is, which is why I complied without
complaining when I had to remove my boots for scanning. However, here is an
obvious case of the security officers trying to get away with their
rudeness and aggressiveness by taking things way beyond what was necessary,
in the name of following the security protocol. They were really angry when
I asked for their names from Mr. Ricky Lim, and they knew very well then
that they can abuse their power to make things very difficult for me and my

At around 8.05pm, we were informed by the Tiger Airways personnel that the
plane will have to depart and they will off-load our luggage from the
plane. At around 8.10 p.m., the State Police and other policemen arrived to
take our statement.

In the entire episode, the State Police and the SWISS PORT personnel were
the only ones who conducted themselves professionally and offered us
consolation and meaningful advice. They have also at some stages
expressed their personal views that they acknowledged this incident was
gravely mis-handled on the part of the security officers. The State Police
further confirmed that there is no case against us, and they would just
need to complete the paperwork.

The Budget Terminal manager came to meet me and said that whilst he
empathized with our situation, it is an airport security protocol and
frankly, it's "just too bad" that this happened to us.

My statement and my daughter's statement only completed at about 10.45p.m.
The counter service staff, Ms Nur Aisah Bte Ali Hassan was very helpful and
advised us on our next steps. She was kind enough to ask us to return the
next day to change the traveling dates and advised the additional charges

I am not given a report for this case, but my case number with the State
Police is P/20070309/0015. I was already told by the State Police that the
case is closed without further action.

For the ordeal that my family had been put through, I would want an
official reply from CAAS and all relevant authorities addressing the
following : -

Whether the security officers were trained to handle passengers with such
bad attitude and rudeness and if such actions by them are condoned by
authorities. I would insist you to refer to the CCTV recordings during
the period of the incident.

What actions would be taken by CAAS and all relevant authorities with
reference to both the security officers, Mr. Stephen S Naidira ad Ms.
Sivamalar, for their unruly behavior and attitude? Surely, characters as
such do not belong to a national airport that aspired to be a world class
traveling hub.

What actions would be taken by CAAS and all relevant authorities with
reference to Sergeant Amran Buang, who had the authority to end this
episode promptly, but instead decided to prolong our ordeal for no
justifiable cause? Is it a protocol that even after establishing the
facts that we, as a family poses no security threat, there is still a need
to escalate the matter to the authority and have the State Police and other
policemen carry out a full investigations only to end up in vain? Why is it
that even at level of Sergeant, whom I reckon is better educated,
experienced, and able to make logical sense of the whole situation, refuse
to make a simple decision and end our ordeal quickly? Is this a Singapore
civil service practice where decision making is pushed and shoved from one
level to another no matter how obvious what the final decision should be
from the very beginning?

Whether all the officers concern are properly trained and competent to
handle such situation. Besides hardware ( i.e. the protocol book), are they
taught to apply the software (i.e. common senses)? Is it really a protocol
that as long as the word "bomb" is mentioned twice by a person (once being
asked to repeat by the officer) ??then no matter what context, tone,
situation and profile of the person who said it, it would not be taken into
consideration? What if my
daughter instead of asking me a simple question about my shoes,
decided to say: "mummy, according to news report, there are speculations
that the recent Indonesian air crash may be attributed to a bomb inside the
plane." Would your security officer would come up to her and ask her to
repeat one more time, and she would be put under arrest? Your staff kept
telling me that saying the word "bomb" in the airport is illegal and I can
go to jail. They quoted newspaper examples of how people have gone to jail
because of that. I think your staffs need to be trained to understand and
differentiate situations and circumstances. As far as I knew, the people
that went to jail had VERBALLY THREATENED staff members in the aviation
service or had DELIBERATELY caused public alarm using sensitive words. My
case was clearly none of the above. Even if, I am saying if, indeed its
illegal to mention the word "bomb" in the airport no matter what context,
the person involved need to be warned ahead of time. You cannot arrest a
person for committing something illegal when the person has no idea that
the word is illegal in the first place. Your staff could have given me a
verbal warning to say that such sensitive words should be refrained in the
airport and I would have walk away remembering the warning. But instead,
they decide to let the matter escalate further.

Who is to compensate for the expenses that are already incurred and
forfeited for this trip, and our emotional stress and duress during the
entire episode? The total cost incurred, including air tickets,
accommodation, and land tours amount to about $4,200. We had to put up with
hours of humiliation with more than twenty policemen and officials
surrounding us, questioning us, checking our luggage through and through.
We had put up with never-ending questioning from different departments, and
best of all, repeated checks on my same pair of boots. My kids were
terrified, puzzled, disappointed and exhausted from this entire ordeal. My
husband and I are left with one week of applied leave and no vacation and
holiday to look forward to.

I would like to state that not everyone that we came across in this episode
had been unpleasant. I wish to take this opportunity to express my
gratitude for the empathy shown by the State Police and the SWISS PORT

I will be waiting for your reply. Please let me know when to expect it in
email. In the mean time, I may seek legal advice for my rights and
entitlement in this incident.

Yours sincerely

Sandra Tan Hong Lian
I/C : S7328669G
Blk 148, Tampines Ave. 5
#04-284, Singapore 521148
Mobile : 81236990

Anyhow written on Apr 17, 2007 at 2:21 PM

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