FEATURES

17 October 2018

The Resolve: Story of Courage, Mettle and Strength

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By Denise Luo (Photos: Public Affairs Department)

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As an inhabitant on the pacific ‘ring of fire’ region, Indonesia is at the mercy of natural disasters that often strike so quickly and fatefully, leaving victims barely seconds to react and make that life-and-death decision. Caught in a 6.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Indonesia’s picturesque island of Lombok on 5 August 2018, the Singapore delegation who was there for a security conference at Mataram – the worst-hit region – was fortunate to have made it out safely with the protection of a group of Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) officers who took the lead in ensuring the delegation’s safety. This was also an incident that tested the resolve of our SPF officers to fulfil their mission despite the chaos and immense challenges posed by this disaster. An experience that must be shared, Police Life caught up with this group of men in blue to learn more about their harrowing encounter!

The Police Instincts


Ensuring the personal security of the Minister for Home Affairs & Minister for Law, Mr K Shanmugam, was the primary mission of the Police Security Command’s (SecCom) Personal Security Officers (PSOs) who were part of the Singapore delegation attending the security conference at Mataram. Well-trained and highly dedicated, the security team, which comprised Inspector (Insp) Andy Peh, Senior Station Inspector (SSI) Gavin Tan and Sergeant (Sgt) Tan Yi Loong, coordinated seamlessly as they made incisive decisions on the go and took cues from one another amidst the chaos.

“The building was shaking very violently. Just as how we assessed the building to be unsafe, Minister, who shared the same sentiment, was already at the door when we dashed over to his room. We immediately escorted him out. As the situation was too chaotic, we made use of sign language to communicate with one another. We knew exactly what our next course of action was as we made eye contact and read each other’s signals,” said security team leader Insp Peh who has 26 years of experience in the field.

With the clarity of mission and a presence of mind, the PSOs also relied on their strong police instincts to protect their principal and retrieve his essential materials and belongings.

“As we were evacuating and making our way to the ground level via pre-identified escape
routes, we shielded Minister from the falling debris with our hands and bodies until we were out of the building,”
recounted SSI Tan.

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“His safety was our main priority and concern,”  the trio said unanimously.

Grateful for the rigorous SecCom trainings which have equipped them with the relevant skillsets to defend and shield their principals from danger, it was also the thorough preparatory work which they did prior to the conference that contributed to the success of this mission. “It has always been our core training principle that we must be prepared for all types of situations,” asserted Sgt Tan.

Besides sending an advanced security team to Lombok to familiarise with the local terrains and conditions, the PSOs also worked closely with the team of delegates from the Ministry of Home Affairs to dovetail contingency plans, which were carefully thought through to navigate various types of scenarios.


The Interlocutor

While the PSOs were instrumental in ensuring the safety of their principal and the Singapore delegation, Superintendent (Supt) Ahmad Najib Mohamed Naim, an SPF attaché based in Jakarta, also played a key role in helping to secure assistance from the local police, which greatly mitigated the predicament that the delegation was caught in. 

As a police attaché, Supt Najib’s role is to establish, build and maintain a good relationship between the SPF and the Indonesian National Police. Although it has been less than a year since Supt Najib assumed his position, he has cultivated strong networks and built friendships even in the far-flung capital of Mataram.

“It is important to understand the local police culture and how things are done in Indonesia. Knowing and understanding the language and local lingo also help to facilitate clear communication, especially when conversing with the local police,” explained Supt Najib.

As an interlocutor, Supt Najib who speaks their vernacular, not only facilitated the advance security team’s recce efforts, but more importantly, he was resourceful in helping the delegation gain access to the local airport police post for refuge after evacuating the hotel. As a testament to Supt Najib’s networking efforts, the delegation was also accorded local police protection, which was imperative as the island was in disarray in the aftermath of the quake. Without the bridge that Supt Najib has built between the two police forces, the Singapore delegation would not have been able to make it home safely within a short span of time. Supt Najib also stayed on in Lombok until 9 August to assist the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officers as they offered consular assistance to the Singaporeans who were stranded in Lombok.

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The True Spirit

Looking back at what they went through in Lombok, our PSOs and police attaché have indeed embodied the true spirit of the police force with their staunch work ethics. Many a time, we see them putting others before themselves. While trainings and preparations are important, no amount of it can adequately prepare one for a natural disaster like the Lombok earthquake. Given the uncertainty of the situation, many decisions had to be made instinctively, even if it meant changing the plans. Our SPF officers who were there, survived this ordeal. Not only did they overcome the adversity with courage, mettle and strength but what was also commendable was their strong sense of loyalty and commitment to their work.

Kudos to the team!

Last Updated on 17 October 2018