Was Iskandar Rahmat given help?

Iskandar RahmatI thought Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee was smart to pre-empt any potential backlash against his force when he gave a sombre statement bracing his men for “an outcry critical of the police, questioning the quality and integrity of police officers. Some of it will be unthinking and plainly unfair. And still some will be deliberately malicious”.

Maybe the pre-emption worked, or maybe the majority of Singaporeans are just more rational than he thinks, for I have not seen much of the supposed outcry blaming the police force for the tragic Kovan double murder. Personally, I see no reason for doing so; black sheep exists in every organisation. In fact,  I would have more problems with our law enforcers if recent allegations of police brutality against the Chinese bus drivers or of CPIB using strong-arm interrogation tactics in the corruption cases are proven to be true, for these are systemic issues.

There were, of course, some suggestions that Iskandar Rahmat’s actions came after he became privy of the safe deposit box belonging to the elder Mr Tan, and that he might have taken advantage of his position as a policeman to maintain contact with the victim even though he had been taken off the case. But as these are yet to be officially confirmed, it’s best not to prejudge the case.

In the meantime, the Police Commissioner must investigate into how this member of staff had fallen so dramatically from one who had won commendations for great service and outstanding work to a suspended officer, a bankrupt and a murder suspect. Rather than pre-empt the public’s reaction, it is even more important to look into how the tragedy could have been prevented.

Iskandar was facing disciplinary proceedings because he failed to declared his debts. It is right to regard “financially embarrassed” officers as a risk and perhaps remove them from front-line duties, but did this likelihood lead him to keep his troubles a secret? Is there a strong support network for staff facing such difficulties? He was subsequently declared a bankrupt after owing OCBC Bank a sum of $62,000. While this is not a small sum, it is not unreasonable to assume a person with a good career with the police could have paid it off given time. A check on the Police Co-op website reveals loan schemes available to members. Were these schemes available to Iskandar? Was he even aware of such help? These are the questions that need to be asked as the police force goes through this difficult period.

It is a sad irony that the most recent newsletter from the co-op, published in April, was a piece titled “Helping hands — Where to get financial assistance?” For Iskandar, this came too little, too late.