Police issue clarification over Thaipusam spat caught on video

(PHOTO: Facebook video screengrab / Pradeep Thana)

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has responded to videos posted on social media of an altercation between officials and a group of participants involved in this year’s Thaipusam procession.

In doing so, the SPF also refuted allegations that its officers followed and filmed the group for 30 minutes.

The issue arose after Facebook videos of the incident posted by user Pradeep Thana earlier this week began circulating online. In the accompanying text, Pradeep claimed that a police officer along with a member of the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) had stopped a kavadi procession on 31 January and accused its members of singing too loudly.

“Not only did they disrupt our procession, they surrounded our kavadi and started taking a video of each and every family member and supporter of our kavadi. These two officers followed us for a good 30 minutes while we were singing and trying our very best to ignore the fact that we were being filmed for no apparent reason,” Pradeep said.

In its response posted on Facebook on Wednesday, the SPF said that its officers – together with HEB officials – had intervened as the Thaipusam participants in question had broken the law by playing live music and amplifying their singing through portable loudspeakers.

Each engagement between police and devotees lasted no longer than 10 minutes, said the statement, which noted that the incident took place at around 4am. The SPF said that a HEB official had advised the group – which was about 16-members strong – to stop playing their musical instruments but one member of the group denied that any instruments were being played.

The group eventually complied with the official’s advice and continued with the procession, said the SPF.

Police officers and HEB officials intervened a second time at around 4.30am along Selegie Road, near a residential estate, when the same group was observed to be amplifying their singing. The group was then advised to lower its volume, said the SPF, which added that a noise disturbance complaint relating to the Thaipusam procession had been received earlier that night.

“The allegation circulating that the group was filmed and followed for 30 minutes is patently untrue,” the police said. “Police officers and HEB officials were accommodative during the engagements despite the group having broken the law and challenging them.

“Both engagements were filmed in their entirety by Police for evidentiary purposes, both in the interests of the devotees and the Police.”

Musical instruments were prohibited during Thaipusam processions from 1973 to 2015. From 2016, live music has been permitted at three points along the procession route along with 23 static music transmission points.

The singing of hymns during the procession is also allowed if no amplification devices are used.

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