Singapore’s inimitable rugby captain

Son of a watchman, ACP (Rtd) JARMAL SINGH had blazed the trail as a rugby player. Under his captaincy, Singapore experienced its best years in rugby history. He is the current (2014-2017) chairman of Sikh Advisory Board

| Singapore | 13 July 2016 | Asia Samachar |
Assistant Commissioner of Police (Retired) Jarmal Singh

“Anything and everything can be managed. If others can do it, so can you!”1 ‘Difficult’ is a word that is non-existent in the vocabulary of Assistant Commissioner of Police (Retired) Jarmal Singh. Whether it was defending against a stronger opponent on the rugby pitch, dealing with convicts, managing two jobs in a day or communicating the needs of the community to officialdom, Jarmal has not even once held the view that these were unachievable. This is the mantra adopted by Jarmal throughout his life.

Born in India in 1948, Jarmal landed in Singapore as an eight-year old in 1956. His early life was shrouded by challenges. Jarmal’s traits of working hard and never giving up were inherited from his father who played a major role in shaping his character. Growing in a zinc structure called home and situated just behind the warehouse his father guarded as a watchman, Jarmal witnessed his father holding two jobs to make ends meet. On his part, Jarmal tried his best to help. He paddled daily on a bicycle to school instead of taking the bus so as to save a few cents. While other watched movies in the cinema, he would stare intently at the entrance of the cinema with vague imaginations of the interiors of a cinema. He took up a part-time day job to earn a few dollars while studying the night away for crucial examinations. And he settled for handmade spiked running shoes instead of those that were commercially produced due to the latter’s hefty price of S$20. The many hardships that Jarmal witnessed his father and family having to deal with constantly reminded him to work hard.

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Jarmal’s perseverance and determination saw him surpassing all expectations and entering the University of Singapore. He graduated with a Bachelor in Science degree in 1971. He then applied for employment in the Singapore Police Force (SPF). Little did he know then that he would spend the next 40 years of his life with the police force! During his time with the SPF, with the police. He was an exemplary officer who rose through the senior police officer ranks through hard work, self-belief and commitment.

While at the Police Academy, Jarmal received the prestigious Public Service Commission scholarship to do his Master of Business Administration degree at the National University of Singapore. In spite of having to manage work and studies at the same time, Jarmal completed his degree and graduated in 1984.

When Jarmal was the Director of Special Projects (NPC Redesign), he was tasked with building the Neighbourhood Police Centres throughout Singapore so as to strengthen crime prevention efforts across the island. As the Commander of the Volunteer Special Constabulary, Jarmal spent his evenings administering and managing a team of volunteers from all walks of life who selflessly worked after office hours and weekends to assist the police officers in discharging their duties. During the day, Jarmal performed his duties as the Commander of the CISCO Auxiliary Police Force

Jarmal’s hard work, contributions and dedication did not go unnoticed. He received numerous awards during his career with the SPF. These included the Pingat Pentadbiran Awam (Public Administration Medal) (Bronze) (Bar),2 Pingat Bakti Setia (Long Service Award),3 Minister’s Award for Home Team Achievement and Singapore Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. Jarmal also received the Commissioner of Police’s commendation for his impressive investigation work on the Robinson’s Department Store fire that occurred in 1972.4

Assistant Commissioner of Police (Retired) Jarmal Singh

“Jarmal was elected by the players as national captain in 1978. His election was amazing as he was from a non-traditional rugby playing secondary school and he started to play rugby as a senior police ofcer and late into his adulthood. Under his captaincy, Singapore won the Malaysian Rugby Union Cup after 44 years and we were awarded three of the four top awards during the Singapore National Olympic Council annual ceremony in 1978. Jarmal was a highly respected utility player – small in size but strong in discipline, teamwork and role modeling. He was known as the ‘fying Sikh’ for his sprinting and tackling prowess. He was the only Singaporean to score a try against the mighty Western Samoa during the quarterfnals of the Main Cup at the Hong Kong Sevens in 1979. We are proud of Jarmal’s contributions to our national cause.”

Mr Natahar Bava Former National Coach Singapore Rugby Union

Jarmal’s contributions were not limited to Singapore. In 1993, he was handpicked to represent Singapore on a Commonwealth Observer Mission to South Africa during the tension-stricken period just prior to the end of apartheid. He was part of a team that he held numerous important positions. These included Director at the Police Academy, Officer-in-Charge at Jurong Police Division, Head of the Commercial Crime Division at the Criminal Investigation Department, Director at the Police Academy (for a second time) and concurrent Director of Training at Police Headquarters, Commander of the Airport Police Division, Deputy Director of Operations at the Police Headquarters, Director of Special Projects (NPC [Neighbourhood Police Centre] Redesign), Deputy Director of Operations and concurrent Commander of the Volunteer Special Constabulary (VSC), Commander of the CISCO Auxiliary Police Force and concurrent Commander of VSC, Director of the Police Custodial Department, and Director of Sustaining Cost Optimisation and Policing Efficiency, among others. Jarmal has had a distinguished career comprised representatives from Australia, Botswana, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Jarmal was awarded the Overseas Service Medal in recognition of his international service.


Jarmal’s national and international contributions extended beyond his employment with the SPF. He had a keen interest in sports and was actively involved in athletics, football and hockey since his school days. It is perhaps interesting to note Jarmal only picked up rugby in 1971, the year he graduated from the university and on joining the SPF. However, this sporting activity was to give him fame and glory far beyond his imagination.

Jarmal played rugby for the next 10 years. He was a fast learner and was able to muster the sport so well that, in 1973, he was selected for Singapore’s national rugby team where he played in various tournaments with Malaysian states. Jarmal’s impressive rugby skills were clearly evident and, soon after, he was elected the captain of the national team. Under his captaincy, Singapore experienced its best years in rugby history. In the Asian Rugby Championship, Singapore beat Thailand to emerge third in the intense tournament. One of the key contributors to the team’s success was Jarmal who received loud cheers from the crowd when he outran several Thai players for a try, bringing Singapore 7-3 up at halftime.5 Likewise, the strong fighting spirit in Jarmal and his fellow players led the Singapore rugby team clinching the silver medal at the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games in 1977.

However, the best was yet to come for Jarmal in the rugby arena. In the Malaysian Rugby Union Cup against Malaysia, Australian Air Force Royal and the New Zealand and Infantry Regiment in 1978, Singapore emerged champions, winning the title for the first time after 44 years of competition. As a result of the triumph, Jarmal’s rugby team bagged three out of four top trophies on hand at Singapore sports award ceremony that year – the Team of the Year, the Coach of the Year and the Player of the Year under the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) umbrella.7 Humbly, Jarmal attributed the victory of his team to the ability and competency of the players instead of his captaincy brilliance. In 2014, Jarmal added another accolade to his glittering sporting career when he was recognised by the government as a National Sports Pioneer.


Beyond his career and sporting passion, Jarmal has also contributed to the community and society. An example of this service is his 26-year commitment on the School Advisory Committee of Gan Eng Seng Secondary School. Jarmal has also been active in the Sikh community. About 20 years ago, he became part of the first resource panel to consider issues relating to the Sikh community. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Sikh Advisory Board, which acts as an intermediary between government bodies and the Sikh community.

Today, the retired Jarmal smiles to himself as he speaks fondly about his two grandchildren. He remains indebted to his wife for his success. She took good care of his three sons while he was away on his career pursuits and sporting tournaments as well as encouraged him to pursue his dreams. Despite retirement, Jarmal still has the passion to serve. Recently, he authored a paper titled Crime Prevention: The Singapore Approach8 to share his valuable insights and knowledge from his long years of experience in the police force. He also provides consultancy services with the Ministry of Home Affairs.

He lived through tough times but those challenges made him what he is today. Jarmal’s philosophy of humility, hard work, commitment, honesty and determination has stood him well over the last 40 years or so. These attributes have also enabled him to leave an indelible mark at the national and international levels through a glittering police and sporting career.



1  Interview with Mr Jarmal Singh, February 28, 2015.

2  The Pingat Pentadbiran Awam was instituted in 1963. There are three grades of the medal, namely, gold, silver and bronze. The medal may be awarded to any of the following persons for outstanding efficiency, competence and industry – any person who is or has been a public officer; any person who is or has been an officer employed by any statutory authority (other than a Town Council); any person who is or has been in the service of any organisation, association or body rendering services in the field of education; or any person who is or has been employed in any company which is wholly-owned by the government and which is carrying on business mainly as an agent or instrumentality of the government. See nationaldayawards.

3  The Pingat Bakti Setia was instituted in 1962. The medal may be awarded to any person who has completed 25 years continuous service in the service of the government, any statutory authority, any organisation, association or body rendering services in the field of education, or any company which is wholly owned by the government and which is carrying on business mainly as an agent or instrumentality of the government, and whi is of irreproachable character. Ibid.

4  Robinson’s Department Store fire at Raffles Place (n.d.). Singapore Infopedia. Retrieved from articles/SIP_797_2004-12-30.html.

5  They unwrap their guts to beat the Thais, The STAR, November 25, 1978.

6  Stars of the year, New Nation, December 25, 1977.

7  Atmosphere filled with nostalgia, The Straits Times, May 12, 1979.

8  Jarmal S, Crime Prevention: The Singapore Approach. National Criminal Justice Reference Service Abstracts Database, 2000. Retrieved from


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