The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has outdone itself once again. It has developed a rifle that will allow officers to fire pepper spray bullets. The P4.1 is to be used by riot troops against dangerous rioters.
The weapon serves a dual function. It allows the police to mark their targets so they can be identified and arrested later, and it also acts like a flying tear gas projectile. The bullets contain a substance called oleoresin capsicum which is basically pepper spray.
Shooting someone will therefore cause tearing, pain, temporary blindness and in some cases, death. Of course, a bullet to the eye could mean permanent blindness. But don’t worry, the SPF has said that this new rifle won’t cause unnecessary injuries or casualties. If you do get hurt, it’s because you were in a riot. Although they may sometimes be tardy, Singapore’s riot police are excellent marksmen—they never miss.
For most of us, this is great news. For too long now we have lived in fear of widespread public disorder. The SPF recently had to arrest two protesters who threatened to cause social upheaval by waving their placards outside the Istana. And in previous cases, officers had to surround and manhandle activists to protect them from themselves.
When a riot broke in Little India in 2013, the reason things went out of control was because our police officers didn’t have the P4.1. This had nothing to do with the lack of faith in our police officers and everything to do with alcohol intoxication. The best solution is to instil greater fear. If we cannot persuade our citizens to be peaceful, we can at least make them fearful.
Instead of relying on the good old baton, the SPF can now shoot ungrateful citizens. Gone are the days of naïve governance. The carrot and stick approach only works in Nordic countries. Here in Asia we just use the gun.
This is extremely good news. We are a vulnerable nation, surrounded by Muslim countries. We are also a multiracial country. And we don’t have a strong national identity. This means that the best solution is to continue to develop the state’s capability to use force. We must always be ready for Total Defence. If we aren’t, society will descend into chaos and we will not be able to walk the streets at night without fear of being raped.
A state that has a monopoly on violence is not good enough. It must continually seek to improve its ability to use force against its own people. That is the only way we can be safe. This is what nation-building means.
Other countries may be complacent, but if we are, we will not survive. We cannot let our guard down. We must constantly innovate and develop new ways to instil fear in the people who might dare to rise up against the democratically elected Government.
This is especially important given the growing demands for democratisation. As the Government’s legitimacy is threatened by an increasing realisation that fundamental democratic freedoms are lacking, it must retain its ability to shore up its legitimacy with the power of the gun.
After all, power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
[Postscript: Thank you @spacerog for highlighting an incident when a similar rifle resulted in the death of a protester in Boston. In 2004, a Boston police officer shot a woman with a crowd-control round and mortally wounded her. We are now developing the same weapon for use in our country. It will ready within months. The victim in Boston died after the pellet opened a three-quarter-inch hole in the bone behind the eye, broke into nine pieces, and damaged the right side of her brain. Her family sued the police department for wrongful death and won a $5.1 million settlement. Because of the incident, several police forces, such as the Seattle Police Department, discontinued use of this weapon. Despite this, and as if there are no risks involved with the use of high-velocity projectiles, the SPF claims that the use of this weapon will not cause “unnecessary injuries or causalities”. The reason why such a seemingly dangerous weapon can be seen as a welcome development is because we have come to imbue a rhetoric of vulnerability. Consequently, the Singapore Police Force has no qualms about developing more and more advanced ways to utilise force against Singaporeans.]