Fri, Jul 24, 2009
The Straits Times
From teen gang member to future cop

By Sujin Thomas

WHEN Mr Winson Liew was 15, he got involved with gangs, was arrested after a gang fight and dropped out of school.

Now, seven years later, Mr Liew, who is set for a career in the police force, has been given an award by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for his final year in polytechnic. It will cover his $16,000 final-year tuition fees and allowance, and reimburse him for up to 40 per cent of the costs incurred in his first two years.

He was among eight recipients of the new Home Team Merit Award (Polytechnic) which is given to existing polytechnic students as well as those awaiting admission. The award, introduced in February, attracted 300 applicants.

Mr Liew, who is studying network systems and security at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, will serve in the police force when he graduates next April.

It is a remarkable turnaround for Mr Liew, who ran afoul of the law when he was in Secondary 3. Although he was not charged, he had to report to a police officer every three weeks to be counselled and to have his progress checked.

Seven years later, he credits that police officer - whom he has lost touch with - for his transformation.

After dropping out of school at Sec 3, he worked at fast food joints and as a sales promoter for a year before going back to school. He topped his class at the N-level examinations in 2004, went on to the Institute of Technical Education and is now pursuing his diploma.

Mr Liew, now 22, said: 'Everybody deserves a second chance. Everyone said I was hopeless but after a few sessions with that police officer, I realised what I was doing in gangs was stupid.'

Awards were also handed out by the MHA yesterday to four recipients of the Home Affairs Uniformed Services Scholarship and 14 recipients of the Local Merit Scholarship.

Minister for Law and Second Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam said in a speech before handing out the awards: 'This is part of our commitment to grow talent from within and to develop every officer to maximise his or her potential.'

Mr Shanmugam also announced a new initiative by MHA to fully sponsor outstanding officers who have served at least two years in a Home Team department to study at one of the three local universities. Called the Home Affairs Learning & Growth Programme, it is extended to officers who possess polytechnic diplomas or A-Level certificates. The pioneer batch will be selected next year.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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