Know your rights .

This afternoon at 3.20pm , after collecting my luggage at Changi , I was asked by Officer Eugene Ng , an Immigration & Custom Authority personnel to scan my belongings . I was curious and jokingly asked him what he saw in my outlook that made him pick me instead of dozens of people also leaving the airport with their belongings . I wasn’t even wearing my shades this time haha . He ignored me and I guess that was his right to do so but I wondered if he actually heard me , so I asked again . I raise my voice this time to make sure I would be heard . Then he demanded me to give him my passport and he took it to record my details . I was truly curious and I asked him why he asked for my passport and what my details were being recorded for . His reason was because I raised the volume of my voice . Shocking ! So for raising my voice the authorities took down my personal details ? I had already gone through immigration before I collected my luggage , and his job was really just to check my luggage at the scanner .

I was angry because he was holding me without cause . I asked him again for the purpose of taking down my details ; instead of answering me , he ordered me to follow him to the search room . Naturally , I refused . I asked him what he was planning to search and why I was being detained. His response was I should know the answer . Now , why and how would I know ? Nothing illegal showed up in my belongings on the scanner . I needed to know what I was being suspected for ; he refused to answer and again , demanded me to follow him to the search room . I refused again .

At this point , afraid I would be dragged away against my will , I started taking video of the events that would follow . He tried to snatch my phone but I reminded him of my rights to take images of public places including airports and that even the police have no rights to take away my phone unless they have a warrant . This officer then told me the area is restricted and I cannot take videos of him . The luggage belt / custom area was a public area . Ten of dozens of people were moving around us . However , respecting his order , I asked where was the sign that says I cannot take videos but he couldn’t show me and said he needed to ask his superiors . All this time he held onto my passport and refused to return it to me and kept wanting to take my phone and demanded me to follow him to the search room . Finally his superior returned and guess what ? ….. his superior let me go within 10 seconds . Now the truth is clear . I did nothing wrong and officer Eugene Ng was just being an ass ! The officer detained me , held my passport , took down my personal details , demanded me to follow him to the search room , and tried to snatch my phone ; his superior let me go within 10 seconds upon his return . So who’s the one really carrying out his duties ?

What kind of people are we hiring these days as public servants to serve us ? This is clearly an abuse of power and an infringement of my rights . This officer had intimidated me and if I had followed him to the search room I could not imagine what would happen next . I was so afraid for my safety and what this officer and / or his other colleagues would have done to me if I had been dragged to the search room .

For this and many other similar reasons , I had left my country to live overseas . There are simply too many similar encounters every time I return . This one was indeed too scary and frustrating , thus I am sharing . I am sure there will be strong supporters of the system (a system where we are not to question the authorities and when we do , even if it was an innocent question , we would face the consequence of intimidation and harassment) but we should all be reminded of our rights , the rights and duties of this officer but not to forget my rights either .

As a result of this injustice , I was late for my business meeting . I have various businesses in Singapore that pay taxes . I wish officer Eugene Ng a successful career checking luggages at Changi .

PJ Wong

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