"It is an uphill task," says SC/Cpl Sivabalan
Subramaniam of Kreta Ayer Neighbourhood Police Post, who was one
of the officers controlling crowds at this year's Hindu fire-walking
ceremony in the Sri Mariamman Temple at South Bridge Road. "With
such huge crowds and the noise and heat, people tend to get excited
and sometimes tempers flare. We have to understand that. As police
officers, we have to be extra patient and sensitive."
The Singapore Police Force was called on to control crowds as it
has done since time immemorial. This year, some 250 officers from
"D", "E", "G" Divisions and Special
Operations Command came together as early as noon to set up a command
post for communications between the officers.
"We prepared way in advance for this event which is a main
item in our calendar," said NSPI Teo Yeow Seng, Assistant Operations
Officer from "A" Division. "Yearly we plan the route
and provide support to the temple officials. Much coordination and
effort goes into this but it certainly puts our policing skills
to the test."
Every year about two weeks before Deepayali, the fire-walking festival
takes place involving hundreds of devotees and drawing tens of thousands
of spectators. The devotees gather at the Sri Perumal Temple in
Serangoon Road and walk to the Sri Mariamman Temple in South Bridge
Road where the firepit is situated. This year's ceremony on 28 October
drew about 2,100 fire-walkers.
VC Saravannan Subramaniam from Police HQ had a special function
to perform at the event, not as part of the police team but as a
firewalker. " This is not my first ceremony but it is my first
as an officer," he said. "Now I see the festival from
another perspective, and realise how much effort is required to
maintain order at the event . I respect our officers so much more