Parliamentary Speeches

Allegations Surrounding Suicide of Sgt Uvaraja S/O Gopal – Transcript of Ministerial Statement by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 06 February 2024

1. Thank you Sir, for allowing me to speak on this.


2. On 21 July 2023 last year, police officer, late Sgt Uvaraja, committed suicide. 

3. Just before his passing away, he put up a Facebook post. He made several statements.

4. He said that:

(i) One, he had been bullied and ill-treated by his superiors and colleagues;

(ii) Two, that some officers’ misconduct had been covered up;

(iii) Three, that his performance appraisals were unfair; and

(iv) Four, that he was ostracised by others at work.

5. I asked the Police to investigate the allegations. 
6. Safety and security in Singapore is based, among other things, on very high levels of public trust and confidence in the Police.

7. In this matter, allegations were made against the Police, by a Police Officer.

8. A full investigation is important. If there is wrongdoing, it must be dealt with, and it will be dealt with. And errant officers must be taken to task. 

9. If we do not do so, over time, the public will lose trust in the Police.

10. However, if the allegations are unfounded, the facts have to be set out, and we will defend the Police publicly, and robustly. 

11. If that is not done, and untruths are allowed to fester, morale in SPF will go down, and public trust will be eroded. 

12. We have seen this, and many other things, happen in the US, UK, and many other countries over the years. Public trust in these police forces has been affected. And the morale of their officers have suffered. 

13. And, we don’t want to go down that path. 

14. So I directed the SPF to investigate the claims and for the AGC to review the findings of the Police. 

15. And I am setting them out publicly here. 

16. I will deal with four aspects in this Statement. 

17. First, I will deal with the allegations and the findings in respect of these allegations.

18. Second, I will set out how the Police had supported Uvaraja. 

19. Third, I will touch on the framework in SPF to deal with workplace harassment and grievances. 

20. Fourth, I will address the mental health support that is provided to Home Team officers.  

21. I have asked my colleagues, Xueling and Faishal, to also deliver further Ministerial Statements on my behalf in Mandarin and Malay.

Allegations and Investigation Findings

22. First, the allegations, and findings. All the allegations concerning Uvaraja including those shared by officers who had already left the Force were looked into.  

23. Out of respect for Uvaraja’s memory, and in consideration for his family, I would have preferred not to go into the details of these findings. 

24. But for the reasons I mentioned earlier, we have no choice but to set out at least some of the facts. 

25. So I go into the facts with some regret. 

26. We have explained this to Uvaraja’s family. They have been told in detail what I am going to say. They know and understand why we have to set out the facts. Uvaraja has made serious allegations, and it is in the public interest that these allegations are dealt with.

27. In the course of the investigations, witnesses, from current to ex-officers, were interviewed.

28. Past documentation and records were looked at. 

29. The investigations were thorough. The investigations found that:

(i) One, some of the allegations were true. And in respect of these, there had been investigations at the time the complaints were made, and actions had been taken at that time. And some officers had been disciplined, punished.

(ii) And Second, some of the allegations made by Uvaraja were untrue.  

30. After the Police had completed their internal investigations, their findings were reviewed by AGC. 

31. And AGC was satisfied and determined that no further actions were needed. 

32. Let me now deal with the allegations in detail. 

Allegations of Ill-Treatment and Bullying

33. First, Uvaraja said that he had been ill-treated and bullied by his superiors and colleagues. 

34. Specifically, he said:

(i) One, there was name-calling; 

(ii) Two, shredding of his leave form; and

(iii) Three, abusive language used against him.

35. First, on the name-calling. Uvaraja said that racially-inappropriate language had been used against him. 

36. Police records show that Uvaraja had made this complaint in 2015.

37. Internal investigations were conducted at that time. They found that the officers involved were talking amongst themselves. 

38. The remarks were not specifically directed to or aimed at Uvaraja.

39. But, and this is an important point: the remarks were not acceptable at all – it doesn’t matter whether they were directed at Uvaraja or they were not directed at Uvaraja. They were and are not acceptable. Period. 

40. Uvaraja’s superiors made that clear to the team that such language cannot be used even as a joke.

41. The officer who made the remark apologised to Uvaraja immediately in front of the whole team. 

42. If he had not apologised, he would have been made to do so. And disciplinary action would have also been taken against him. 

43. Uvaraja’s superiors continued to monitor the situation, to make sure there were no further recurrences. 

44. Uvaraja was updated of the outcome of the follow-up and his Deputy Commander had offered the option of lodging an official complaint. But Uvaraja decided that there was no need to file a further complaint. 

45. Since the incident, the Police conducted a review of their policies. 

46. And there is a framework or approach for these cases. 

47. Cases involving racial slurs or casual racism, will be investigated as possible misconduct, as a disciplinary breach. 

48. This is to ensure that there is a record of such an incident, and that disciplinary action would be taken, and the officer's subsequent behaviour will be closely monitored.

49. The Police will also continue to engage officers, shape culture, and engage in frank discussion on such issues around racial slurs/ casual racism. 

50. This will be done, has been done, through platforms such as the annual Ethics Seminar, as well as the Police’s Manpower Department’s engagement sessions with officers.  

51. We cannot tolerate racism. Nor can we tolerate casual racism, snide remarks, jokes which are racist. 

52. Uvaraja also alleged that in 2019, his superior had shredded his leave form, and uploaded a video of this action within a chat group.

53. The context is this: Uvaraja had applied for discretionary time-off. This does not require the submission of a leave form. 

54. Uvaraja’s sent this application at the last minute, when other officers’ leave had already been approved. Nevertheless, Uvaraja’s superior approved his application. 

55. It was not the first time that Uvaraja had done this, applying for time-off at the last minute. 

56. On previous occasions, his teammates who were on leave had to be recalled to cover the manpower shortfall.

57. In this case, when Uvaraja applied at the last minute again the superior spoke to Uvaraja about him inconveniencing the entire team.

58. But Uvaraja maintained his request for time off and asked the superior to end that conversation, in the personal chat. 

59. The superior then shredded the leave form, and uploaded a recording of him doing so on the team chatgroup. 

60. He said he did this because the form was not required for Uvaraja’s time-off application, which he had already granted in any case. The form contained personal information, and had to be disposed of.

61. The superior’s conduct was not professional. He should not have done that. Even though one can understand his unhappiness. 

62. Uvaraja had raised this matter up the chain of command, and the superior was then reprimanded. 

63. Uvaraja was temporarily re-assigned to a different unit so that both officers could have some time to cool off. 

64. Allegations were also made that different superiors had used abusive language against Uvaraja.

65. This was not supported by the investigations. 

66. On the contrary, Uvaraja would often directly message or call his various superiors, and they had responded to him professionally. 

67. So looking at Uvaraja’s three complaints, in this first part, namely (1) the making of racist remarks, (2) the shredding of leave forms and (3) the use of abusive language by superiors were all investigated, when he made the complaints. And in respect of the two complaints which were made out, action was taken and Uvaraja was told about the actions that had been taken. And he did not further pursue the complaints. The third complaint was not made out, and he was also notified about that.

Allegations of Cover-Ups of Officers’ Misconduct

68. I will now move on to the next topic. Uvaraja claimed that his complaints against fellow officers vaping within Police compounds had been covered up.

69. Investigations found that Uvaraja had made a complaint in 2021 to his superiors, about officers vaping. 

70. Acting on the information he provided, Uvaraja’s Commander had directed an independent superior from a different unit to conduct a surprise check. 

71. All the lockers and personal belongings within the Police compound were checked, even though Uvaraja’s complaint was directed only at a few specific officers. 

72. The officers concerned were interviewed as well. 

73. The complaint was not made out. 

74. Throughout this process, the identity of the whistleblower, in this case, Uvaraja, was not disclosed to the independent superior nor the officers concerned.

75. For context: In a separate incident in January 2023, Uvaraja reported fellow officers smoking within a different Police compound. Investigations did find evidence of this. 

76. The officers involved were referred to the Police’s Internal Affairs Office for investigations and disciplinary action was taken against them.

77. So when the complaint is made out, disciplinary action was taken. When the complaint was not made out, he was told that a complaint was not made out, no cover up. 

Allegations of Being Unfairly Held Back

78. Third, Uvaraja claimed that he had been unfairly held back in his career and was given unfair performance appraisals. 

79. These are untrue. 

80. Uvaraja was given opportunities to apply for postings, like his colleagues in the Police Land Divisions. 

81. When Uvaraja asked to be transferred, his superiors had facilitated and acceded to his requests, wherever possible. 

82. At Uvaraja’s request, he was transferred to six different work units in nine years. Those who know about the Police force will know that this is a significant number of postings. This is significantly more than what is normally given. 

83. Two of his transfers were related to his whistleblowing on the alleged smoking offences because Uvaraja felt uncomfortable working with the colleagues against whom he had reported.

84. On performance appraisals, investigations found that his performance grades were a fair assessment of his work contributions. He was also awarded the COVID-19 Resilience Medal.


85. Fourth, Uvaraja alleged that he had been treated like an outcast by his team. 

86. He said that he had invited his team to his wedding, but nobody had showed up.

87. This was untrue. 

88. He had invited his Officer-in-Charge (“OC”). 

89. His OC had accepted the invitation. But he was unable to attend as he had fallen sick on that day. And the OC had apologised to Uvaraja. 

90. Uvaraja had also informed his Commanding Officer (“CO”) about the wedding but did not follow up with an invitation. 

91. Nevertheless, his CO had congratulated Uvaraja in front of his teammates.


92. So in summary, Police have done a review of the allegations. The findings for this case were also reviewed by AGC. 

93. I have reviewed Police and AGC’s findings and assessment myself. 

94. Some of his allegations are untrue.

95. As for the allegations which were true, actions had been taken when he made the complaint and Uvaraja had been told of the steps that had been taken.

Personal Challenges and Professional Support

96. More broadly, moving to the second aspect of my Ministerial Statement, I will set out how the Police had supported Uvaraja. 

97. Investigations showed that Uvaraja was dealing with a number of personal issues, some at the time of his passing, and some for periods throughout his Police career. 

98. These included health problems as well as family problems.

99. First, his health issues

100. Throughout his career as a Police Officer, he had frequently applied for medical leave, for periods that sometimes ran into several months in a year.

101. In some of the years, Uvaraja had also applied for no-pay leave, to manage his health issues after he had fully used up his paid leave entitlement.  

102. Police then granted him the unpaid leave. I will come back to this later. 

103. In addition, Uvaraja seems to have faced psychological stresses and chronic insomnia. Since 2017, he had attended multiple psychological consultations for his chronic insomnia.

104. He also displayed anxiety and depressive symptoms. 

105. I am setting these out in summary, without details because it would be preferable not to go into too much detail about an officer who has passed away. 

106. Second, Uvaraja seems to have had a tense relationship with both his wife and his family of origin - meaning mother, father, brother, and so on. 

107. In April 2023, Uvaraja’s wife called for Police help during an argument in their matrimonial home. 

108. She had been stopped by Uvaraja from leaving their home. 

109. On 13 July 2023, the Police received multiple calls for assistance from Uvaraja’s parents’ residence. 

110. His brother alleged that Uvaraja had assaulted him over financial matters.

111. On 14 July 2023, the next day, Uvaraja’s mother lodged a Police report against Uvaraja, saying she feared for her safety. 

112. On the same day, Uvaraja’s sister-in-law called for the Police because Uvaraja had come to her house to look for Uvaraja’s parents.

113. There is more background, there are more facts, relating to these events. 

114. We need to say some of the facts, because Members need an understanding of the situation he faced at the time when he committed suicide; and the stresses he was under. I am trying to convey the position to Members, without going too much into the disputes he had with his wife, his mother, his brother, his sister-in-law, which led to the Police reports; and some background to the psychological issues he had and was receiving help for.

115. In summary, at that time when he passed away, he was the subject of three ongoing criminal and disciplinary investigations.

116. First, he was under criminal investigation for offences under the Penal Code and under the Protection from Harassment Act. 
117. Second, he was under internal disciplinary investigations for disobedience of orders, arising from the incidents in July 2023.

118. He had been granted medical leave from duty at that time, to rest and recover. 

119. Instead, he left his house on multiple occasions. And that is  a disciplinary offence in the Police Force. In fact, he not only left his house, but he got into an argument with his family of origin, at their flat, which led to calls to the police and police reports. 

120. Uvaraja had previously been investigated for similar behaviour in 2016 – going out while on MC. 

121. At that time, he had left his place of residence while on medical leave to attend a relative’s graduation, and he was given a verbal warning.

122. Third, in April 2023, he was under another internal disciplinary investigation for disobedience of orders. 

123. He had left his uncompleted work unattended and refused to comply when told to return to finish the tasks. He only did so after being told a third time.

Professional Support

124. Sir, now I will turn to the professional support Police gave to Uvaraja.

125. First, leave arrangements. The Police had allowed Uvaraja to take substantial amounts of time-off over the years. 

126. In some of the years, Uvaraja had used up all his paid leave entitlements. So he applied for no-pay leave, and his requests were approved.

127. From 2014 to 2023, Uvaraja took an average of about 120 days’ of leave every year. This, as Members can appreciate, is well beyond normal leave entitlement, and much more that than what a typical Police officer would get. 

128. Sir, with your permission, may I ask the Clerks to distribute an Annex, with a table setting out some information on the number of days of medical and no-pay leave that Uvaraja had taken since 2015? 

129. Members may also access this Annex through the SG PARL MP mobile app.

Table 1: Yearly Breakdown of the Late Sgt Uvaraja’s Medical and No-Pay Leave Records

Calendar Year

Medical Leave

No Pay Leave1




























[1] Where an officer has exhausted his quota of medical leave and annual leave, should he require more time off for medical reasons, he would be required to take No Pay Leave.

130. Members will see that in 2016, 2017, 2021, 2022, and 2023, he took respectively 70 days, 56 days, 59 days, 80 days, and 60 days of medical leave. And in addition, in 2015, 2016, and 2022, he took more than a hundred days of No-Pay Leave. That is the way the Police have supported him. It’s a very significant level of support in terms of giving him time-off.

131. Beyond this, since 2016, Uvaraja’s superiors had also arranged for counselling and psychological assistance for him.

132. In January 2023, Uvaraja reported that he was experiencing work stress. 

133. A para-counsellor was assigned to him.

134. On 16 February 2023, Uvaraja reported to a new unit, following his request to be transferred. 

135. On that day, Uvaraja showed signs of being unstable. 
136. He was counselled by a para-counsellor on the same day, and later attended to by a psychologist from the Police Psychological Services Department. 

137. Third, Coaching

138. While Uvaraja was at work, his superiors assessed that his performance was generally below average and had provided guidance to him. 

139. This took the form of face-to-face engagements, reviews on the plans for him, and setting of achievable targets.

140. For example, when he was at the Community Policing Unit from 2018 to 2021, various work templates and resources were given to him to help him carry out his job functions.

141. Uvaraja’s passing and his allegations has affected his colleagues. 

142. His fellow officers who had worked with him across various postings and who were aware of his situation felt sad that he had taken his life.  

143. But they were also disappointed with the untrue claims and allegations that he had made against the Police Force.

144. One officer who had partnered Uvaraja shared that she had encouraged him to start afresh when he was given a new posting, despite his past unhappiness. But she was disappointed when he frequently did not show up for work. 

145. Another officer recalled how he had spent efforts to arrange 1-on-1 chats and meals with Uvaraja and sending him well-wishes on his birthdays to motivate him. 

146. I only mentioned two officers. But there were several others, who helped him, during his period in SPF.

147. These teammates had worked alongside Uvaraja. They tried their best to help him, to care for him. They covered his shifts when he was absent from duties, sometimes even when they had made prior leave plans. 

148. So it is fair to say that many officers pulled together to help him, and they were sad to see a colleague pass away in these circumstances. But there is also a considerable feeling amongst the many officers who helped him, that despite so much being done for him, by them, in their individual capacities, and by SPF, as an organisation, because SPF went to considerable lengths to accommodate his needs, including his leave and medical needs. Despite all that, he seems to have externalised many of his issues onto his colleagues and the SPF. And there is considerable sadness at that.

MHA’s Internal Framework to Deal With Workplace Harassment and Grievances

149. The third aspect of my Ministerial Statement: I will now describe the Home Team’s framework to deal with workplace harassment and grievances. 

150. We had answered PQs on this issue last September as well.

151. There can be no tolerance for any form of harassment or discrimination in the SPF.

152. The responsibility starts at the top, from me, down through MHA management, to the respective agencies’ leaderships, and then the ranks below.

153. A core pillar of the framework is training. 

154. During induction and training of new staff, from the junior ranks to senior officer levels, officers are trained on the SPF’s code of ethics, workplace harassment and the actions to be taken if they are victims or witnesses. 

155. Supervisors are also specifically trained on ways to create a harassment-free workplace and support victims of workplace harassment.  

156. In terms of investigating the allegations, every functional unit in SPF has a discipline committee headed by the Commander or Director.

157. In terms of how they function, these discipline committees can convene formal inquiries on their own, or they can refer issues to the Police’s Internal Affairs Office (IAO) for further review. 

158. The IAO reports to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, and is directly accountable to the Commissioner of Police. 

159. All cases of sexual harassment and serious workplace harassment are referred to the IAO for investigations.

160. If wrongdoing is uncovered, the Police, or in appropriate cases, the Public Service Commission, will take disciplinary action.

161. If criminal offences are disclosed, the Police will recommend prosecution. The Courts take into account the officer’s duty to uphold the law, so the punishment that a Police officer faces is usually more severe than what any other defendant in the Courts, any member of the public can expect to face.

162. In the past five years, the Home Team Departments have investigated 310 cases of allegations of workplace grievances including harassment, discrimination and misconduct. Nine of these were reported to the Public Service Division and Ministry headquarters. Of the 310 cases, 131 were found to be substantiated, and the offending officers were subjected to various disciplinary actions. 

163. I will give two examples from the Police.

164. In 2019, two female officers reported that a male officer had touched them inappropriately on multiple occasions. That was investigated by the Internal Affairs Office. The male officer was charged in Court. He was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment and was dismissed from service.

165. Second example: In 2020, a Station Inspector (SI) attending a course made sexually insulting and offensive remarks against, or in respect of his fellow trainees. 

166. The SI was told by the course coordinator to refrain from making such remarks. But he continued. 

167. He was investigated by the Internal Affairs Office and then charged at the Police Disciplinary Board, where he was found guilty and sentenced to a reduction in rank. 

168. Now, these are the small number of exceptions. The vast majority of our officers hold themselves to a very high standard of conduct. 

169. We cannot allow a small minority who do wrong to colour the perception of the rest of the Force.

170. And coming to racial insults - of the 310 cases, six complaints were on racial discrimination. Three were substantiated, and action was taken. 29,000 officers in the Home Team, six complaints, three were found to be substantiated, in the last five years. 

171. On the ground, the Ministry conducts (1) six-monthly Pulse Surveys, (2) biennial Public Service Employee Engagement Surveys, and (3) triennial 360 Degree Surveys of supervisors. These are all avenues where officers can also provide anonymous comments and feedback, including on workplace issues. So that the Ministry has a good idea of how officers are perceiving issues, and what the feelings are on the ground. 

Mental Health Support for Officers

172. Finally, the fourth aspect of my Ministerial Statement: I will touch on my Ministry’s efforts to support the mental well-being of our officers.

173. Our officers have access to a range of support, such as (1) MHA’s in-house Psychological Services, (2) peer support programmes where fellow officers are trained as para-counsellors, (3) a 24/7 helpline managed in-house by our psychologists and para-counsellors, as well as (4) external, agency-administered services. 

174. Officers can go and get these measures without needing to report that they have done so, so that it preserves confidentiality. 

175. Officers also attend workshops and courses on how to cope and adapt when dealing with operational and work stresses. And they are sensitised to common mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, suicide, and the helplines that are available. 

176. In October of every year, the Home Team Psychological Services community organises a month-long campaign. The aim of the campaign is to build awareness of the importance of mental health, the importance of self-care, and where to seek help when needed.

177. This approach and culture have been in place for some years now.  

178. And we regularly review and update them to try and ensure that our programmes continue to be relevant.


179. Sir, let me conclude by briefly setting out our perspective on how we handle these matters. 

180. Policing is not easy, and it is not getting easier, either in Singapore or around the world. 

181. In the UK, a survey by the Police Federation of England, which was released last year, showed that 87% of police officers said that morale was either low, or very low, and 7 in 10 said that they would not recommend others to join the police force. 95% said that their morale was harmed by their treatment by their own Government. 

182. In the US, Gallup found, in 2022, that public confidence in the police was just 45%. The US Department of Justice said in October last year, that law enforcement agencies across the US are facing an “historic crisis in recruiting and retaining qualified candidates”. 

183. Police Forces around the world are facing increasing challenges, for many reasons. Some of them are: 

184. First, there is a trend of laws in other countries being progressively weakened against law enforcement, making it more difficult for the police to arrest, more difficult to  investigate, and more difficult for the state to prosecute and get convictions. 

185. It is easier for people to commit crimes due to laxer laws, and it is easier for those who have committed crimes to walk away. 

186. The mentality is often one of the “individual versus the system” – where the system – the law enforcement institutions, are usually painted out to be the villains. Officers feel like the situation is stacked against them. It is difficult to do their job.

187. And this is compounded by a second reason. Around the world, many police forces are struggling to pay their officers adequately. I have spoken about this before. If conditions of service are not good, it will be difficult to attract and retain good people for this tough job. 

188. Third, some police forces are also struggling with corruption in their system, arises due to many factors – poor discipline, low morale, poor leadership, amongst others. 

189. We have to guard against all of these developing in Singapore. And to make sure our SPF continues to retain the trust of Singaporeans. 

190. Finally, a fourth reason, which is unfair attacks against the police. 

191. Let me speak about this in Singapore’s context. 

192. The Home Team has about 29,000 regular and civilian officers, with another 7,700 National Service Fulltime officers. The Police Force alone has about 10,000 regular officers and about 4,000 National Service Fulltime officers. There will be officers who do wrong.  

193. For example: 

(i) A few months ago, in Oct last year, a Police Commanding Officer, Superintendent Lim, was convicted after being charged in Court. He was caught drink-driving at a Police roadblock. 

(ii) Second example, in March 2020, Ground Response Force officer Sergeant Lim was convicted in court of Criminal Breach of Trust, and sent to jail. He had misappropriated for himself more than $200 in cash from wallets that had been handed over to him while he was on duty for safekeeping. 

194. In many countries, I dare say, these offences by Police officers, which were picked up by other Police officers, would have never seen the light of day. A police officer who drinks and drives, and caught in a Police roadblock, he will not be charged. But in Singapore, he will be. Because the Police Force takes a very serious view of errant Police officers. 

195. Members might also be aware of the case involving Staff Sergeant Kevin Chelvam, who allegedly stood by while his domestic helper was abused by his family members. He was charged for abetting his wife in starving the domestic helper, causing hurt to the helper, removing evidence and lying to the police. And he is currently on trial. 

196. When we come across these situations,  action is taken, is dealt with publicly. No cover up.

197. But as I said, these are the exceptions – a very small number of exceptions.

198. The vast majority of our officers are honest, they have strong ethos, strong esprit de corps and integrity. 

199. They go on duty day in, day out, put their personal safety on the line, to keep Singapore safe. 

200. And so, when we find that statements made against officers, or the Force, are unfair, then we will defend the police officers and the SPF robustly. 

201. I think Members will agree that the facts I have set out today paint quite a different picture, compared with the accusations that were made in the posting, and the conclusions that some people had come to last year.

202. I said in May last year, at the Police Workplan Seminar: “Our officers know that when there are false or unfair allegations, we will act quickly and decisively to tell the truth and stand by the officers. And that starts with myself, and the Permanent Secretary, and the entire Police leadership. We will stand by our officers and defend them.” 

203. That remains our position. 

204. This is a larger issue.  
205. We cannot allow what has happened to the police forces in some other countries, to happen in Singapore. 

206. We will set out the facts, defend our officers clearly and strongly, if they have done no wrong. 

207. They must know that that is our position, in contrast to the position in many countries, where the Police and the public service are often made the scapegoats, in public debates. 

208. Thank You Sir.