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Keeping cool at the Fire-Walking Festival
Police Life Monthly - December 1996

"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 now."


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