Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Just follow Law : An Incredible Story!

If you haven't heard Sandra Tan's story you can read about it below. It is worth a read. Some of you might wonder how this can ever happen in a country that is heading towards top first world status. Something has to be done because such behavior will endanger all of us...
Illegal to say the word 'bomb' twice at the Singapore Airport.
This is probably true. I wonder if our airport security officers are trained to pick up the word 'bomb' in other languages. What happens if I see a bomb lying around at the airport? If I report it to the airport security officials, they might detain me instead for saying the word 'bomb' to them, seeing how they behave, they will probably ask me to repeat it so that I break the law saying the word twice.
Are our security officers underpaid?
I can't help but think whether our security officers are underpaid.Imagine lives are at stake - yours and mine. The importance of security at the airport cannot be overemphasised. I want the smartest, most alert and specially groomed security officers to be there to catch cunning terrorists and safeguard my life. We must attract and retain the best people for this job and benchmark their salaries with the brightest people in the private sector otherwise we risk losing our lives to terrorists.
Imagine the pple who can't even understand the CONTEXT in which the woman uttered the word "BOMB". Do you trust them with your lives? What happens if smart terrorists try to bomb....are we to count on these pple to catch them?! Don't make me laugh.
Plse I want the best people to be there - graduates with Masters degree minimum. Make sure they are paid according to proper benchmarks so we can retain them against opportunities in the private sector - we wouldn't want our security personel to suffer a painful financial sacrifice while dedicating their efforts to protect our lives. It is a small price to pay for our lives to be protected - less than one candy bar per citizen per year.


Dear Mr. Foo,

My name is Sandra Tan (I/C number xxxxxxxx). 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 out-of-context. 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 family. 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 involved. 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 personnel. 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 xxxxxx I/C : Sxxxxxx
Blk xxx, Tampines Ave. 5
#xx-xx, Singapore xxxxx
Mobile : xxxxx


Anonymous said...

Recently I just flew back from an oversea trip, and already can't wait to try to shop for my C&C3 at the airport.

While browsing the game, 2 Ang Mo kids were also there, then one of them keep telling the other about how he can bomb this and bomb that in this game. They even mention the word 'terrorists' a few times.

KNN, if I know earlier that this is actually illegal and might undermine our safety, I would have alert the air-port security to detain these two kids.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, we have the best security officers without common sense in our world class airport. In fact I don't trust any of our uniform personnels. Why? There was once I was at the airport and I saw some of these security personnels doing patrolling. It was approx 10.00 am then, and I saw one of them with guns yawning while another one look listless. Most of them walk as if they are taking a stroll, no alertness can be seen on them.

Anonymous said...

This is unbelievable. Do humans have brains to think rationally? We have been telling our students to think 'out of the box', not just doing things 'by the book'.

This reminds me of the case of the police warning students not to wear 'white elephant T-shirts'at Buangkok MRT station some time ago.

I guess that was also a case of making decision 'by the book'.

狗奴材 said...

After reading the letter, I was totally outraged at her failure to understand how our beloved country works.

How could she blame the poor security personnals for not using their common sense? Does she not know that following the book has always being the second highest priority for singaporeans? (the first being covering your ass by following the book) I cannot even begin to imagine deviating from the rules just because of some trivial reason such as using their common sense.

The rules have been set by our highly trained professionals who have seen every kind of situation. And it is those rules that are designed to deal with every kind of situation. Yes, I do mean every single kind of situation. How could anyone even consider not following them? Do you know what would happen to those security personnals if someone (another dutiful singaporean)were to complain about their lax in duties? Do you think their supervisors would accept their absurd reason of using their common sense instead of following the book? They would be in serious trouble! Compared to that, how can it matter if a family is made to miss their long-planned vacation and waste thousands of dollars because they could not catch the flight?

I exhort every man, woman and children to continue following the rules laid down by out beloved country and we will be on our way to being a world class nation.

Anonymous said...

I agree.

We should pay world class salaries for these security officers. Imagine if they are underpaid and became corrupt?!!! they may not think saying the word "bomb" is a threat to national security and we will be doomed.

We should benchmark their salaries to the top 4 professions in the world. Nothing is more important than our national security.

I am disappointed that Wong Kan Seng is not fighting for their pay increase to 300% more.

Anonymous said...

See how our talented and 'underpaid' minister(of home affair) and his top civil servants had devise a new and incredible way to spot a terrorist.

This is thinking out of the 'box'...

Another case which can demostrate they are worth more than what they're paid now ....

Anonymous said...

Sandra Tan should know that she and her family are not protected by the constitutions of this red dot. Do you have millions to spend on legal action? Lack of human right is biting on you. Abuse of power is common but most victims are made silent by one mean or others. Sandra should take this case to Wong Kan Seng but do not hope for any redress because you are "nobody". If you are one of 66.6%, you deserve to have this experience and then hopefully, you will wake up forever to the reality.

Anonymous said...

This is a typical of NUTS in red dot culture. Small matter...ask Sandra Tan to keep quiet. Doesn't she know that we have the best security in the world? The IMF and WB were happy too when they were here for a meeting last year. This is just a small inconvenience for exchange for security. Worth it?

Anonymous said...

please lah.. wat can be more dangerous than wp timebombs? this anecdotal experience pales in comparison man.

Anonymous said...

Agree. Sandra Tan should keep quiet and forget about the case. She should even thank the customs for letting her know that those words are illegal in airport. If you discover one there, the immediate task is to think of any other better description before you talk to anyone. Recall that LKY has said " if he needs to kill 100 or 1000 in order to have stability for 100 years (refering to China), he will do it." So, the same logic applies. Sandra Tan's experience is an exchange for security.

Anonymous said...

Come on, Lucky Tan. Are you sure this Sandra Tan's experience is not a make up story? The letter addresses to Mr Foo without address. Where is this letter first published? I thought when those officers heard about that magic word, their balls have already dropped. You can only hear many ball dropping sound which will cover the explosion sound.

Anonymous said...

So, if someone really found a bomb at a corner of the airport, how do we expect him/her to tell the airport security/police, bearing in mind that you are not allowed to say the word 'bomb' twice. Beats me. Oh yes, maybe they will allow 'sign language'. No?

LuckySingaporean said...

Anon 2:07,

Our security officers are specially chosen and have to be well paid. Their balls will not shrink so easily. They are brave and fearless.

The story is from the newspapers:,4136,126161,00.html

Her email was spread around in the internet after she forwarded to her friends. I took out the details because the family have been flooded by phone calls from all over the world offering their condolences.

Anonymous said...

All values, rationale, conduct and ethics are suberize by its contextual rigidity and also fluidity of executorial impulsion.Where it originates it also ossifies.Where it ossifies, it petrifies into submodifier. Then a narrow verifiable justification shall complete the purifier process into incorporative appropriation.

Anonymous said...

good news. in our quest to fulfil the wishes of our ministers for exorbitant pay, some citizens have resorted to being 'money mules' for the country. bless their hearts for thinking of the greater good of the nation. be assured, all monies collected shall go into enrichment programs!

Anonymous said...

I think they are right by following the book as text books will provide all the answers.

Also by having lots of "YES MAN" we are in good hands because any sign of trouble is immediately arrested before it becomes a large problem of emptiness.

I think Singapore should also pay them well as they are "just doing their duty" They have shown no emotional intelligence and are very
hard when challenged.
This is what we need, "IROBOTS"

What I also like about the matter is the escalation of matters into the high heavens which eventually brings about a very colourful display of fireworks for all to see.

Nice and well done! (aka, just following orders!)

Please keep up the good work!


Anonymous said...

What would happen if its was some foreign talent ?

Anyone care to share?

Anonymous said...

hey, where is the young pap? so quiet about this?

Anonymous said...

hey, where is the young pap? so quiet about this.....

maybe it's 'just following law', task to infiltrate topic about minister pay hike only....

Anonymous said...

It appears that Sandra does not know her place in the S'pore heirarchy and needs further education. She and her entire family should have been sent to prison and educated. A lowly peasant dares to questions.

No FTs would ever have been subjected to such treatment. Stupid peasants!!!

part time cleaner said...

ok ok. story very long. also i catch no curry puffs. i see only bomb here bomb there. very dangerous words. but no fear. our police perfect perfect people and train. that why countries always safe,clean and have peace. we must support high pay. only high pay we can have good life us and future.follow law good.

Anonymous said...

Really unbelievable.

Do the custom police have quota to meet???


Prison have too many empty cells?

I wondered what is the outcome like.

Repressive force said...

this type of security guards might even be a source of terrorist. They are so unhappy with their jobs i think they are willing to bomb the place.. haha

Anonymous said...

Do not laugh, men. Just happened once and the economy will collapse. Do you want to see this happen? The security guys are just carrying out their duty. They would not know at that time if Sandra Tan and family are doing the real thing or not. It is better to kill one wrongly and let hundred escapes, as Chinese old saying.

Anonymous said...

This is a classic example of NUTS (no u-turn symtom) that first coded by Creative chief Mr Sim. This is also a very unique culture here. Suggest someone creates a website to collect this type of NUTS story. It is really fun to read them. After enough stories collected, we can even publish a book. It may becomes best seller.

Dao said...

is this a true story that has really happened? if so, where did u get this information and this letter from?

and guys here, pls stop being so sacarstic.

Anonymous said...

When my wife and I got back from Paris, after clearing immigrations; We proceeded to collect our luggages from the conveyor trolley, and I helped her push both our trolleys as she was walking by my side carrying her hand bag, bags of duty-free liquours and our leather jackets. An officer at the glass door pointed and barked at me in a very loud and rude manner saying that I cannot push two trolleys! Suddenly there was silence in the hall and eveyone stared at me. At that moment, I was stunned, feeling embarassed, shocked by his rudeness and angry by his shouting. I was merely being chivalrous in helping my wife push her trolley as her hands were already occupied. Perhaps, that officer could see that I am a Singaporean and was sure he could 'MAKAN' me. I merely apologise and made my way out smiling sheepishly. Singapore a World Class Airport? I don't think so! As for security personnel guarding Singapore, you will be surprised that many employed these days are foreigners, holding those posts, guarding our key installations, and I have found some of them sleeping occassionally on the job. Yes, I agree, pay these foreigners more money so they need not hold two jobs or burn the candle at both ends.

Anonymous said...

frankly, these security officers probably had nothing better to do. they shld be thanking their lucky stars that the 'worst' they hv to deal with is stuff like this, n not any real threat. they overdid it.. and i feel especially sorry for the 2 children who had to view this act of overreaction. the security officers had no right to be so rude to Ms Tan.
understood, they were 'acting according to the rules', but there is a certain amount of sense that needs to be applied, too. u dont talk to anyone, educated or uneducated, so rudely. unless the person has deliberately done something to provoke u. i bet sivamalar was having some problems at home and she vented her frustration on this poor passenger.
saying the word 'bomb' twice doesn't make a bomb magically appear and explode. this aint a magic spell or anything. these security ppl really need to review their policies. it's pathetic.

fighting fit said...

Those security officers can now qualify themselves to push buttons in a hotel lift for guests. It is a brainless job.
Times have changed so much. If you feel the urge to use the toilet for sai job, better not use the old primary school lingo, "I go toilet and bomb ok?"

Anonymous said...

i think its just a matter of pride on the part of the security officers and their security company.
they probably made a mistake and turned it into a big scene when they discovered they were wrong so as to cover up their idiocy
they acted like they owned the place and that they had the right to pull people out because of the supposed 'moral authority' they have been given.
they are no more than glorified security guards but their illogical and ridiculous actions have probably tarnished the name of our airport security service