What are your priorities, Mr Policeman?

This evening, as I made my way from Orchard MRT to the Myanmar Embassy to sign the petition to voice my revulsion at the brutal quelling of peaceful protests in Myanmar last week, I saw two prostitutes in front of Orchard Delphi (near the junction with Claymore Road) soliciting for clients. Their target clients were clear: single, Caucasian men.

A short distance down, as I walked up St Martin’s Drive where the embassy is located, I saw two policemen and a policewoman in plain clothes doing nothing but standing there eyeing every one walking up towards the diplomatic mission. At the embassy’s entrance, where a round-the-clock candlelight vigil is being held, another three or four policemen where there doing nothing productive except manning a videocamera mounted on a tripod, filming all the visitors as they went by.

I walked back down towards the MRT station a few minutes later. Those two prostitutes were gone (presumably with their clients). But again, in front of Delphi, another three prostitutes were there, smiling at Caucasian men who walked by and sometimes taking them by the hand and whispering something into their ears. None of the men succumbed to their charms.

I felt frustrated by this situation. Many tourists come to Singapore expecting a clean, wholesome place, free of vices normally associated with inner cities and Third World countries. Many of those men who were approached probably had a whole different story about Singapore to tell to their friends and family back home.

I decided to call the nearby police station to report this. The officer on the line told me he had sent in a request to the patrol, and that police officers will be there very soon. I waited for 10 minutes, and seeing no police car arriving, decided to just go home. However just down the road, I saw another policeman who looked like he was booking a motorist for a traffic violation. I approached him and reported the soliciting prostitutes. He told me plainly (albeit politely) that he did not have the authority to approach them, but would call in the anti-vice unit to have them handle it.

I don’t know what the outcome of this is. Perhaps the policemen eventually came. But what I can’t fit together is why our police would waste the manpower of six to 7 officers to eye a small candlelight vigil, while taking so long to respond to actual criminal activity taking place nearby.

What are their priorities? Keeping our streets safe and free of vice activities, or playing Steven Spielburg and filming and intimidating people who are peacefully expressing their genuine concern for their fellow human beings in Myanmar?


I wrote separately to the police’s “SPF Service Improvement Unit” to complain about the lack of enforcement all these years. This was their reply:

“Dear Sir

We refer to your email of 4 October 2007.

Police will continue to monitor the situation in Orchard Road closely and
will take enforcement action where necessary against any illegal

We thank you for your feedback.”

I encourage readers to call the police to report every time you see prostitutes soliciting in the Orchard Road area (prostitution is not illegal, but soliciting is). The number to call is 1800-7359999 (Orchard Police Post).

Once they get more complaints, they will feel under pressure to act on it. If no one complains, they will just continue to “close one eye” to the situation.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

8 thoughts on “What are your priorities, Mr Policeman?”

  1. Now, now…those policemen are just salaried uniform workers like many of the citizens. Perhaps they just dun want to stir up too many unnecessary fuss during their tour of duty, ya?

    After all, when the IR is up, such red-light district activities will probably become part of the local attraction, too.

    In the not too distant future, Singapore is going to become the next Macau, if not better. Talk about irony…

  2. Come, come, sir.

    Even the police have to be pro-business. They are tourists and they helped the economy.

    Protestors do not help the economy.

    To our high level economy planners, sleaze is good. Or else, we will be called a sterile city. Remember someone said that mothers and daughters becoming maids.

    Policemen are another set of digits.

  3. Have anyone ever considered the possibility that the video clips may eventually find its way to the Burmese Junta, Than Shwe, no less because of the ‘very close cooperation’ between Singapore Inc and the latter?

    This will help weed out potential ‘trouble makers’ for both countries. If the peaceful vigil is not view as a potential threat to the peace AND PROSPERITY (remember, this is the be all and end all of this red dot?) why would our superefficiency conscious govt bother to waste its policing resources in this manner?

    The Burmese can burn for all they care, but it would be tragic if the junta decides to take its money and business elsewhere because of our ‘uncooperative’ disposition, such as standing up in whatever small ways for the human rights and safety of Burmese.

  4. prostitution is legal in singapore.

    however, solicitation is not. (ie: the john may approach you, but not the other way round).

  5. You’ll need to say JBJ, CSJ, CST and some prostitutes are holding a demo.

    When the PLATOON of Gurkhas arrive 2 mins later, they will find the prostitutes.

  6. These policemen in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Singapore are not different from those soldiers shooting peaceful protesters in Myanmar. They are just taking orders.

    They should quit if there is no hounour or conscience in the job they are told to do.

  7. Who gave the orders to film and harass the protesters? Its about time the real instigators in the Police Force come out and explain their actions. Their orders are making the policemen’s job very difficult!

  8. Welcome to reality. I hope this little experience has somewhat opened your eyes. I could recite a long list of eprsonal experiences similar to yours, but instead, I’ll just sum up and say, It’s all politics. There’s the law. There’s enforcement. And there’s politics. You’ll understand when you’re older.

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