SPF SG50 Pioneer Appreciation Night - Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry

Published: 31 July 2015

Pioneer Officers of the Singapore Police Force

Colleagues from the Home Team

Ladies and Gentlemen




1.     Good evening.  It is an honour and privilege to join you at this special event to acknowledge the contributions of our pioneers from the Police Force.


2.     It is fitting that we are holding today's event at the newly refurbished Capitol Theatre.  This building has withstood the test of time, and it has been an indelible part of Singapore's landscape since 1933.  Similarly, Pioneer Officers like you are an integral part of our history and development, having experienced and overcome the profound challenges and threats that we faced as a young nation.   


Early challenges and developments


3.     The history of our Police Force is deeply interwoven with that of our country, dating back to the founding of modern Singapore by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819.  Our Police Force was established with only one sergeant, 12 patrolmen and a jailer, headed then by Francis James Bernard.  Through the course of Singapore's history, our Police Force has been a pillar of strength, safeguarding our nation's stability and security, especially at crucial stages in our history. 


4.     In the 19th and early 20th century, secret societies, riots, gambling and other vices were rampant in Singapore.  Our rudimentary Police Force had to not just combat crime, but also fight pirates, run the jail, and fight fires.  With such a lean force, maintaining law and order was an uphill task, and many of these problems persisted into the post-war era and the early years of nation- building.


Tackling post-war problems - the tumultuous riots and public disorder


5.     Against the backdrop of political chaos, secret societies and social unrest in the fifties and sixties, the Police Force took steps to overcome the security challenges.  We introduced the Volunteer Special Constabulary, opened our doors to female officers, established the Security Branch and Dog Unit, and sought to improve our capabilities.


6.     The road to independence was fraught, but you faced the obstacles head on.  I am sure you would vividly recall some of the operations – the deployment of officers during the Referendum for merger with Malaysia in 1963; the fight against saboteurs during the Indonesian Konfrontasi; and the racial riots, to name a few.  The movie '1965', which we will be watching later, narrates the story of those tumultuous years through the eyes of a young police inspector.  Many of you will find the scenes in the movie familiar, and reminiscent of a turbulent time in our past.   


Chronicling Our Pioneers' Contributions – a formidable force


7.      Apart from social unrest, dangerous criminals such as gunmen, goldsmith robbers and kidnappers were a scourge in the sixties and seventies.  Our pioneer officers would be familiar with names like Loh Ngut Fong, Morgan Teo Ah Yat, Lim Ban Lim, and "Ah Huat".  Unfortunately, some of our officers made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives, in the course of ridding our streets and neighbourhoods of these dangerous criminals.  


8.     Despite the dangers and risks in those days, you answered the noble calling to serve as a Police officer; enforce law and order, and build a safer country for your fellow Singaporeans.  Your dedication to this mission is the reason we have a safe and secure Singapore today.  Your grit and determination have enabled our nation to progress and prosper. 


For posterity and inspiring the current serving officers


9.     Hence, in conjunction with today's event, an SG50 Special Edition of the Police Life Magazine (PLM) has been published, to recognise and honour our Pioneers who laid the foundations for our modern Police Force.  This PLM Special Edition captures the memories and insights of our Pioneer officers.  It will enable a younger generation to imbibe the spirit of our Pioneer officers by better understanding the challenges they had to overcome in the early years. 


10.     In addition, I am pleased to be launching the e-book, "Guilty As Charged" later this evening.  This collaboration with the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) features 25 high-profile cases since 1965, which gripped the nation and showcases the professionalism of our police officers.


Conclusion – A Fitting Tribute


11.     In conclusion, as we celebrate SG50, let us remember the fundamentals that shaped our journey of the last 5 decades, and pay tribute to those who have brought us thus far.  On behalf of the Singapore Police Force and the people of Singapore, I would like to express our deepest gratitude to you, our Pioneer Police Officers, for your dedication, service and sacrifice.     


12.     At the Senior Police Officers' Mess (SPOM) dining-in back in 1972, our Founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, said, "You can only draw from the past some of the virtues which will see you into the future.  But you have to be able to look forward and create new organizations, new values, new norms to meet new situations." (Lee Kuan Yew, SPOM dining-in, 21 April 1972)


13.     Indeed, even as we look back at how far we have come over last 50 years, the SPF must continue to reinvent itself and remain forward-looking.  This generation of SPF officers stands on the shoulders of the pioneers who preceded them.  And we can best honour them by continuing to build on their collective legacy, guided by the Police motto "Setia dan Bakti" (Loyalty and Service) and the SPF values of Courage, Loyalty, Integrity and Fairness. 


14.      I wish you a pleasant and enjoyable evening. Thank you.