A lone traffic policeman, captured on camera charging at a violent mob in Little India with a baton in hand, was commended on Thursday for his bravery by the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Dec 8 riot.
Sergeant Fadli Shaifuddin Mohamed Sani had testified earlier that he charged into the crowd two more times, before he was ordered to stand down. He had to pull back later to avoid being cornered and possibly having his firearm snatched from him.
His evidence, presented on the seventh day of the public hearing, was the first time the committee had heard of a police officer engaging the rioters with force. In the past few days, COI members had repeatedly asked why the police failed to "gravitate" towards the rioters or engage them before their vehicles were burned during the riot.
Sgt Fadli told the inquiry that he was dispatched to the scene at about 10pm on Dec 8. When he arrived in Race Course Road on his police motorcycle, glass bottles and other projectiles were being thrown at two police cars down the road.
About 50 of these "active" rioters standing near Kerbau Road began throwing projectiles in his direction. He then decided that his duty - to divert traffic away from the accident scene - had to take a back seat to restoring some semblance of "law and order".
"Instinctively, I charged at them with my baton drawn as I wanted them to know that the police were still in control of the scene," said the 27-year-old officer from the Traffic Police.
Video footage presented during on Thursday's inquiry showed Sgt Fadli, who still had his helmet on, rushing at the crowd with his baton raised, and single-handedly scattering the mob towards Kerbau and Serangoon roads.
He is seen later back-pedalling to Race Course Road. Asked why he did so by State Counsel Sharmila Sripathy, he replied: "To have eye contact with the rioters and to show them I mean business."
It drew nods of approval and praises from the committee. COI member and former police commissioner Tee Tua Ba said: "What you have done is a very brave act; you wanted to assert control."
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