Half a year has elapsed since the heartrending suicide of Sergeant Uvaraja S/0 Gopal, a committed officer of the Singapore Police Force (SPF) on 21 July last year. The silence surrounding the follow-up investigation into the circumstances of his death is becoming increasingly conspicuous.
This silence is particularly troubling given the gravity of the allegations Uvaraja made against his colleagues and superiors at the Ang Mo Kio North Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC).
Sergeant Uvaraja’s detailed account on social media revealed distressing experiences of racial discrimination, bullying, career sabotage, and systemic corruption within the force. These allegations depict an environment rife with hostility and discrimination.
Racial Discrimination: Uvaraja claimed he was consistently undermined and demeaned because of his race, affecting both his career progression and daily interactions.
Bullying and Ostracization: He described a work culture where he was frequently bullied and ostracized, contributing to an oppressive and demoralizing environment.
Career Sabotage: Uvaraja alleged that his superior actively sabotaged his career, mismanaging his performance evaluations and undervaluing his contributions.
Incidents of Unfair Treatment: He highlighted specific incidents, such as the destruction of his leave application by a superior, which showcased the unfair treatment he endured.
Whistleblowing Repercussions: His role in whistleblowing against corrupt practices allegedly led to increased hostility and further ostracization within his department.
Personal Struggles and Lack of Support: Uvaraja spoke of his personal struggles, feeling unsupported and unacknowledged by his peers and superiors.
The severity of these allegations underscores the urgent need for a transparent and thorough investigation.
A close friend and former colleague, Raj Naga, had earlier stepped forward to share a vivid account of the painful circumstances that led to Uvaraja’s tragic suicide.
In a heartfelt Facebook post just a day after his friend’s passing, Raj described Uvaraja as a “highly disciplined police officer who was deeply passionate about policing and fighting crime.”
In December 2015, Raj recalled a particularly distressing incident where Uvaraja’s CO questioned the validity of his medical conditions, used vulgarities, and shouted at him to resign. Uvaraja was on medical leave at the time.
The incident was so stressful that it triggered an investigation against the CO. Despite this, Uvaraja’s transfer request was turned down, and he received a low performance grade.
Raj also spoke of Uvaraja’s dedication to his ill mother and his struggles growing up in a household burdened with debt due to an alcoholic father.
This backdrop highlighted the desperation and strength of Uvaraja’s resolve in face of personal and professional challenges.
Raj said, “Raja (Uvaraja) may have made mistakes during his time in the force, but who hasn’t? Everything he ever did as a Police Officer was in pursuit of ideals that he held dear…he destroyed his career when he first blew the whistle against his superiors. No officer deserves to be held back and thumbed down for so long.”
Regarding the allegations of racial discrimination, the SPF stated that it takes a firm stance against such practices.
In its July statement, the Police acknowledged awareness of the allegations made by the late Sgt. Uvaraja in 2015 and stated that they had been investigated and found unsubstantiated.
“There are avenues for SPF officers to raise complaints about discriminatory workplace practices – to their unit Commanders, Police Headquarters (HQ), or the Ministry HQ, and such complaints are taken seriously,” said the SPF.
The SPF added that it would review and investigate these allegations again and refer the findings to the Attorney-General’s Chambers. The findings will also be submitted to the Minister for Home Affairs for his decision on whether the findings should be further reviewed.
Six months on, the lack of transparency in the follow-up investigation is more than troubling; it’s a glaring omission in the face of serious allegations. Allegations that Sergeant Uvaraja felt so strongly about that he chose to end his life to prove his point.
The lack of communication and updates from the SPF on the re-investigation not only disrespects Sergeant Uvaraja’s memory but also raises serious questions about the force’s commitment to addressing internal issues.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam promised a thorough SPF-led investigation, but public scepticism was high regarding the independence and impartiality of the SPF investigating its own officers.
The issues raised by Sergeant Uvaraja before his untimely death are critical and reflect systemic issues within the SPF. These issues, if unaddressed, could significantly undermine public trust in law enforcement.
On that note, wouldn’t it be within the powers of the Singapore President to convene a Commission of Inquiry to look into the matter so that the public can be assured of the circumstances?
Only through such an investigation can trust be restored and similar tragedies be prevented in the future.
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