Honours for those who kept S'pore safe

Honours for those who kept S'pore safe
On 26th March 1991, Singapore Airlines flight SQ117 was hijacked by four passengers who claimed to be members of the Pakistan People's Party and were reportedly armed with explosives and knifes.

She remembers the people streaming in with bloodied faces, a few with limbs attached to their bodies by just shreds of skin.

The 1969 racial riots left many injured, and senior staff sergeant Evelyn Wong worked long shifts as the police grappled with the street fighting.

Two decades later, Madam Wong was with the airport police division when Singapore Airlines SQ117 was hijacked, and again she found herself in the thick of things with the police preparing for the possibility that the attackers could blow up the plane on the Changi Airport runway.

Commandos from the Singapore Armed Forces managed to kill the four hijackers and bring all 114 passengers and 11 crew to safety.

Those were just two incidents in Madam Wong's 31-year career with the Singapore Police Force.

The 70-year-old is one of some 2,000 Home Team Pioneers being honoured this year for their contributions to Singapore's safety and security.

About 150 of them gathered at the Home Team Academy yesterday and were the first to receive SG50 commemorative medallions and plaques, in conjunction with Singapore's jubilee celebrations.

"The harmony, order and stability that we all enjoy today would not be possible without our pioneers' contributions and sacrifices," said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at the event.

He recounted the city-state's tumultuous early years, marked by struggles against communism, terrorism, drugs, and civil emergencies.

Home Team officers were the ones who made the "ultimate sacrifice", putting their lives on the line.

Two were killed in the 1955 Hock Lee Bus riot, and another nine assassinated by "communist killer squads" between 1950 and 1956, noted DPM Teo, who is also the Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs.

From 1963 to 1966, 37 bombs went off, with the worst attack being the one at MacDonald House which killed three and injured 33.

The rampant crime and violence are etched in Madam Wong's memory. "Those days there were lots of gangsters, a lot of armed kidnappers," she recalled. "They had parangs, some... had guns."

Drugs, too, were a huge problem.

Long-time Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officer Kandasamy Renganathan was roped in during the 1977 Operation Ferret, which resulted in more than 900 traffickers and addicts being arrested within four days.

Among the abusers he came across were a 10-year-old girl and her mother, both on heroin.

"We had a lot of addicts roaming the streets," said the 67-year-old Mr Kandasamy, who has been with CNB since 1972.

DPM Teo said the Home Team Pioneers helped clean Singapore up and make the Republic the safe home it is today.

"Today, Singaporeans are able to go about their daily lives, raise a family, carry on their business freely, free from the constant worry for their safety and security.

This is a mission that Home Team officers continue to uphold to this day, every day."



This article was first published on May 29, 2015.
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