To protect one of the highest-profile diplomatic events so far this century, Singapore has enlisted the help of its fearsome Nepalese fighters whose large curved knives, according to custom, must “taste blood” whenever they’re drawn.
Wearing brown berets and equipped with body armour and assault rifles, the elite Gurkha police officers are a conspicuous part of the enveloping security force Singapore has deployed for tomorrow’s summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The meeting, which could prove to be a crucial moment in the global diplomatic push to resolve the nuclear stand-off with Pyongyang, has sent the highly manicured city-state into security overdrive.
Trump and Kim have brought their own personal security personnel and heavily armoured limousines; Kim’s bodyguards have been seen running in formation alongside his massive Mercedes.
Selected among young men from impoverished Nepal, Gurkhas have been part of Singapore’s police force since 1949. There are reportedly about 1,800 Gurkha officers in Singapore, and they are a regular presence at high-security events. Today, they were seen standing guard at the heavily fortified St Regis Singapore, where Kim arrived yesterday afternoon.
“This is a moment of pride to see the Gurkhas responsible for guarding such an important event,” said Krishna Kumar Ale, who served for 37 years in the British army before retiring back home in Nepal. “It shows that we Gurkhas have reached a point where we are trusted with the security of two of the most important people in the world.”
In 2015, during the Shangri-la Dialogue, a Singapore summit that includes defence ministers and top security officials from around the world, a Gurkha officer shot and killed a driver after his car breached a series of roadblocks outside the summit’s venue. The incident turned out to be drug-related, not an attack.
When asked about the scale of security operations for the summit, Singapore’s Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said yesterday that more than 5,000 police had been deployed. The Gurkha Contingent is a special police unit inside the force.
“I think the fact that it had to be put together in two weeks … added tremendously to the pressure and logistics, the demands. But I think the officers have worked around the clock, we are quietly confident that they have put in place the preparations,” he said.