S Rajagopal

Life experiences mold many people’s career decisions. Mr Rajagopal, an ex-policeman is one of them. It started when as a young boy; he accidentally got kicked by a rioter during the Hock Lee Bus riots. He was just a bystander. At that time, he told himself, someday, he would become a policeman.

From young he witnessed what happens when a country is without proper law and order. His desire to become a policeman became even stronger when he had the opportunity to hear Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s speech. He was convinced that he could make a difference to people’s life and Singapore. He joined the uniform group during his school days and fell in love with the notion of serving the nation. The rest is history; Mr Rajagopal went on to serve in the police force for 36 years and retired as the Superintendent of Police. He got a front row seat to the good as well as the undesirable, ugly side of Singapore. Upon his retirement he put his experience into good use and continued to help maintain order in Singapore by setting up a security firm. His love for police work is still very much alive in him.

“If you become a policeman, nobody will give you their daughter to get married.”

Upon his retirement, he put his knowledge and experience of police life into his voluntary service. He became the secretary of the then Serangoon Merchants Association (SMA). The government then wanted to organise the various places as cultural centres - such as China Town, Little India and Geylang. In line with this objective SMA was dissolved and Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association (LISHA) was born. Mr Rajagopal was one of the founding members of LISHA. He has been serving in LISHA as the Vice Chairman for 26 years and still continues to do so till today. His main role is to be a bridge between LISHA and the authorities. In addition, Mr Rajagopal is very familiar with various Indian organisations and the merchants in Little India and this helped him with his role in LISHA.

In the recent Little India Riots, Mr Rajagopal who had witnessed it first hand, made representations to the Committee of Inquiry (COI), under the auspices of LISHA. He felt strongly that given his experience in the police force, especially in the Internal Security Department where he used to manage community events involving as many as 4000 people, he could have talked the rioters out of their behavior if only he had a loud hailer. He put forth the fact that a trained policeman speaking in Tamil (the language understood by the rioters) using a loud hailer could have quelled the situation. He also expressed the view that a more coordinated approach among the police, community and grassroots leaders would be employed when dealing with such issues in the future.

“I am very happy that the ladies instead of sitting at home are coming out into the forefront now.”

While actively contributing to business activities in Little India, Mr Rajagopal was also invited to join the Tamil Language and Cultural society. He immediately got into the swing of things and together with the committee members set out to promote Tamil language through various activities.

Having had a first hand look at Indian organisations both from the outside as a police officer and on the inside as a committee member of some of them, Mr Rajagopal felt one aspect lacking. He strongly feels that, there is a need for a place specifically for our Indian community to hold weddings and functions at a low cost, which is not available now. He also hopes that temples will open their premises during the day to allow the community to hold counseling sessions, yoga classes and enrichment classes.

As a retired police officer, Mr Rajagopal was also active in the Police Retirees club until recently. As there were many Indian retirees in the association, they gathered regularly and lent their expertise in maintaining order during occasions like Thaipusam and fire walking.

“I mix with the crooks. I meet such crooks and bad guys all my life! How can I be a good man?”

As we celebrate SG50, Mr Rajagopal’s advice to the community especially to Indian parents is to put their children’s education as top priority and where possible to provide them with appropriate experiences to prepare them for the global workforce. He also encourages families especially the younger ones to understand their religion better and build on this foundation for their kids to stay away from vices.

50Faces is amazed at the energy expounded by 75-year-old Mr Rajagopal and looks forward to his further contributions to the community.

A dedication to the pioneers in the Indian community.

50Faces brings your stories of ordinary Singaporeans who have contributed to our community and nation building.