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Home Team Volunteers at a Vibrant Thaipusam
Volunteers from across the Home Team played a crucial role in ensuring the safety and security of Thaipusam devotees and the general public.

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The One Home Team spirit (top row, from left): CPT Sasi, SSGT Sivakumaran, SGT Jia Li and SGT Sherinnya; Minister for Law and Home Affairs Mr K Shanmugam with Home Team officers and volunteers during the Thaipusam deployment. PHOTO: Fatris Jasmin

The weather was unpredictable on the second day of Thaipusam, alternating between heavy rain and hot sun. But this didn’t dampen the spirits of the kavadi-bearers and devotees who’d gathered at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple along Serangoon Road. 

Also on the scene was Captain (CPT) Sasi Kumar of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). A Thaipusam regular, CPT Sasi has attended the festival since he was a youth. For the past three years however, he has taken part in a different capacity, as a Home Team volunteer.

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Outside Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Serangoon Road. PHOTO: Fatris Jasmin

Thaipusam is celebrated by the Hindu community in honour of Lord Subramaniam, said to be the destroyer of evil. Every year, the procession attracts a large number of participants to Serangoon Road and other public spaces along the procession route.

To ensure the safety and security of all involved, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) works closely with other Home Team Departments as well as the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB). Home Team volunteers play a vital role on the ground. Stationed at various points along the procession route, they serve as liaisons between Home Team officers, HEB representatives and festival participants, rendering support and advice whenever needed. 

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Ready to serve: SPF officers on duty at Serangoon Road during Thaipusam. PHOTO: Fatris Jasmin

All this is a far cry from CPT Sasi’s usual job scope as a Rota Commander at Bishan Fire Station. “As Home Team volunteers, we always try our best to balance the sensitivities of those involved with the need to maintain order,” the 37-year-old veteran firefighter explained. “Now, more and more people understand what we do, due to engagements between Home Team Departments, HEB, temple representatives and participants.”

Devotees and stakeholders have welcomed the changes that came from this engagement. This year, participants were allowed to play percussion instruments for the first time since 1973, and musicians could start playing music from 7am (an hour earlier than last year). Devotional music and songs were also broadcast at 35 points along the festival route (that’s 12 more points than 2018).

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Home Team officers braved unpredictable weather to discharge their duties. PHOTO: Fatris Jasmin

For their deployment at Thaipusam, many Home Team volunteers performed their duties alongside SPF officers, in the hot sun and rain. This was the case for Staff Sergeant (SSGT) Sivakumaran, 52, of the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA). “I took leave to serve as a volunteer today,” said the ICA Ports Command officer. “It was more than worth it to play my part as a Home Team officer, and to give back to society.”

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Devotees at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple and along the procession route. PHOTO: Fatris Jasmin

This “One Home Team” spirit was much in evidence along the procession route. Among the non-Hindu Home Team volunteers at Thaipusam this year was SPF Sergeant (SGT) Tan Jia Li, 25. She first volunteered back in 2017 after being invited by her colleague SGT Sherinnya Chandrasekaran, 24. They’d met when they were assigned to the same team at Woodlands Checkpoint. 

“I wasn’t familiar with Thaipusam and decided to become a volunteer, to learn more about it,” said SGT Jia Li. “Even though this is the third year we’ve volunteered, we’re still amazed by what we can see.”

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Managing traffic along the procession route in the Dhoby Ghaut area. PHOTO: Fatris Jasmin

Curiosity and a commitment to serve were also the reasons why SGT Sherinnya volunteered. “My family doesn’t celebrate Thaipusam, so it has been interesting to see the festival for myself, and speak to participants,” she said. “Serving together with Jia Li has only strengthened our friendship.”

This sentiment was echoed by CPT Sasi. “I’ve met many colleagues from other Home Team Departments whom I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t volunteered at Thaipusam,” he said. “I find it meaningful to contribute to such a special event while supporting our fellow officers. This is what motivates me to step up for future deployments.”

 


  1. by Fatris Jasmin
  2. 25 January 2019
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