Kovan murders: Confidence may be hit, but public says police force will recover

SINGAPORE - While public confidence in the police may take a hit following the arrest of officer Iskandar Rahmat for last week's Kovan murders, Singaporeans interviewed by The Sunday Times expect the force to recover from the setback.

"This will be quite a shock to the public and this will affect the public's confidence in the police," said Member of Parliament Edwin Tong, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law.

But he added: "At the same time, we should be mindful that there are at least 10,000 other police officers out there. We shouldn't tar them with the same brush."

The committee's chairman, Mr Hri Kumar Nair, felt there should not be any loss of confidence in the police because there was no "systemic or other failure" within the force.

"To make a connection between a suspect who happens to be a police officer and the failure of the system is really an illogical leap," he said.

Former policemen interviewed found it unthinkable that a serving officer had been arrested for the gruesome double murder.

Security Association of Singapore president T. Mogan, a retired narcotics officer, said that if guilty, Iskandar was clearly a bad hat who would have tarnished the police force. "There are black sheep in all professions," he said.

Retired detective Lionel de Souza would be unforgiving if the officer was guilty. "It may be his personal problems, but I don't see any excuse for murder, especially once you're a member of law enforcement," he said.

Fifteen people interviewed near the Hillside area where the murders occurred found the news of Iskandar's arrest shocking, but were also glad that the police had swiftly cracked the case.

Retired lorry driver Chong Ya, 71, said this was the first case he had come across of a policeman here being accused of murder.

"I am glad he has been caught so fast and I hope he is fully punished by the law if found guilty."

Retiree Lai Sun Yew, in her 80s, thought confidence in the police would be affected, but added: "I don't think we should judge all police officers just because of this man."

While Singapore buzzed online and in coffee shops on Saturday with news of the officer's arrest, those in the Hillside neighbourhood were relieved.

Coffee shop owner Sam Toh, 53, who lives in the same row of terraced houses as the murder victims, said that the arrest will bring relief to his 10-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son.

"My daughter didn't dare to sleep alone after the incident, so we all slept together in the same room. Now, she won't be scared anymore."

At Ngai Heng Battery some 500m from the murder scene, a shopkeeper who gave her name as Madam Tan said that the murder was the talk of the neighbourhood in the past few days.

"It is good that the suspect has been caught. Now we can go back to our normal lives in this neighbourhood," she said in Mandarin.