Monday, 23 December 2013

Reflections on the Little India Riot

Update 8 Jan 2014

PM Lee criticised for bringing wife to police meeting


PM Lee with wife Ho Ching meets first responders over breakfast at Rochor NPC. (Photo: AsiaOne)

PM Lee has been heavily criticised for bringing his wife Ho Ching to an important meeting with the police on Tuesday, 24 December 2013.

The meeting was held over breakfast at Rochor Neighbourhood Police Centre (Rochor NPC). The Prime Minister was there to hear from Home Team officers how they dealt with the Little India riot (8 Dec) and to thank them.

TRE reported on the meeting (‘PM Lee: Social policy rethink can come later‘) where PM Lee said the government-appointed Committee of Inquiry (COI) must first ascertain why the riot occurred, before broader issues of whether social and population policies need to be re-thought can be addressed.

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PM LEE BRINGS HIS WIFE TO IMPORTANT POLICE MEETING

Shortly after the Little India riot, PM Lee sat down for breakfast with a few of the police officers who were the first on scene.

He spoke with them about their experiences and commended them for their work. (Full story see: PM Lee: We don't have to think about any deeper causes of the riot yet)

However, one thing that raised eyebrows about the meeting was the fact that PM Lee brought along his wife to the meeting.

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Little India riot is a good reminder for Singaporeans: PM Lee


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong having breakfast with the first responders to the scene of the riot in Little India at Rochor Neighbourhood Police Centre. (Photo: Imelda Saad)

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that the riot in Little India is a good reminder to Singaporeans that even in a stable society, such an incident can happen.

What is important, he added, is to have a Home Team that can deal with the situation in a calibrated, thoughtful and decisive way.


Mr Lee was speaking to reporters after having breakfast at Rochor Neighbourhood Police Centre with about 40 officers, who were among the first responders at the scene of the riot and had a chance to tell him what they went through that night.


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Singapore PM: 1st priority find cause of Little India riot


Singapore PM: 1st priority find cause of Little India riot - Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday said the Committee of Inquiry’s first priority is to find the cause of the Little India riot, before the broader issues of whether social or population policies need to be re-thought can be addressed, according to reports

He also said one priority now is to make sure a similar incident does not occur again.

“I think we deal with… what led to the riot and then the broader issues we can argue and debate,” the prime minister told reporters, adding that the issues of Singapore’s social and population policies must be dealt with separately.

I do not accept that we must straight away ask whether fundamental approaches or the whole way our society is organised needs to be re-thought immediately,” he said.


SCDF OFFICER TIFFANY NEO SHARES HER ENCOUNTER DURING LITTLE INDIA RIOT


Lieutenant Tiffany Neo, 24,  led the team of nine officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) that extricated the body of Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu from underneath a bus and carried him to an ambulance.

As the mob grew more aggressive, they returned to the bus to rescue its driver and his assistant, aided by police officers with shields.

According to a report in The Straits Times, her story was one of the first-hand accounts Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong heard at a breakfast meeting that was attended by the Home Team first responders.

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STAFF SGT NOR AISYAH SHARES HER FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE DURING THE LITTLE INDIA RIOT


DPM Teo speaking to Paramedic SGT Nor Aisyah Bte Johari>

Staff Sgt Nor Aisyah Johar's account was one of several compiled into a special report and shared with the public by the SCDF on its Facebook page on Christmas Day.

Below is her full account of her encounters during the Little India Riot:
http://www.scdf.gov.sg/content/scdf_internet/en/general/publications/rescue-995/_jcr_content/par/download_file_from_d_7/file.res/Vol_6_no_4.pdf

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Taking The Easy Way Out



The first statement he issued on Dec 9 said it was an isolated incident arising from the unlawful actions of an unruly mob reacting to a fatal traffic accident. Only once in 44 years, no big deal. Nevertheless Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong  directed the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to convene a Committee of Inquiry (COI) to: (1) look into the factors that led to the incident, (2) check how the incident was handled on the ground, and (3) review the current measures to manage areas where foreign workers congregate. On Dec 14, he explained why he left out (4), one of the possible causes of the riot being the eruption of pent-up tensions among foreign workers in Singapore.

Then there's the part that makes you wonder if the neurons in his cerebral cortex are misfiring: “The people who were involved in the riot were not from one company, or one dorm; (they were from) several dorms, many different companies, and it is unlikely that all the companies will have the same problem.” You don't need a degree from Cambridge or Oxford to deduce that since there were representatives from several dormitories and different companies that the problem is not isolated, but has to be island wide. Lee also blamed alcohol, also available island wide, provided in abundance at Clarke Quay watering holes and similar. Just count the number of liquor licences issued at Ang Moh havens.

After telling the COI what to write in their report, on 25 Dec, he specifically spells out what to leave out: the broader issues of whether social or population policies need to be re-thought. The sacred cow of Population White Paper will not be slayed.

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SINGAPOREANS AND THE GOVT SHOULD LET THE COI DO ITS JOB RATHER THAN SPECULATING
I don't think the ministers and prime minister should be asserting so quickly that there is no evidence of unhappiness behind the riot. Have the authorities done enough investigation and have sufficient evidence to make conclusions? If so, what is the point of the committee of inquiry? Shouldn't we let the committee of inquiry do its job without prematurely framing its conclusions and possibly affecting the objectivity of its work? Would the Government come across as hasty and defensive, risking the erosion of public trust?

Conversely, others should not be jumping to the conclusion that grievances about employment and living conditions drove the rioting. This is a plausible and possible hypothesis to investigate. Let the committee do its job.

On the other hand, I am very happy that the PM said this, "We have to make sure they are well treated, they are paid properly on time, their safety is taken care of, their living conditions are up to standard, and they are given full protection of the law." Yes! And while we do this, I hope the committee finds out whether the lack of any of these were factors contributing to the riot and why the lack if so.


4 INDIVIDUALS APPOINTED TO THE COI TO PROBE LITTLE INDIA RIOT

The COI set up to probe Sunday's Little India Riot will comprise four individuals.

One of them is Tee Tua Ba whom the mainstream media has only identified as ex-police commissioner

Some may however also know that Tee is the chairman of Portcullis Trust (Singapore) Pte Ltd which is part of Portcullis Trustnet group that was the subject of an exposé by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) early this year on offshore money trail of the ultra-rich who engage companies like Trustnet to create complex structures purportedly for tax planning purposes
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Questions COI should ask

It doesn’t take much to turn a disorderly group into a raging mob. Ask any driver who’s had to go down Race Course Road on a Sunday evening and you’ll hear that it is as packed as Chinatown’s sidestreets before every Chinese New Year. Except that most of Chinatown’s sidestreets are closed to traffic and filled with stalls. On a Sunday evening, you can only inch along Race Course Road and its sidestreets if you are driving. It’s only a two-lane road, after all.

So all it took was the sight (and sound) of a fellow Indian national being run over by a presumably slow-moving 40-seater bus to anger the drunk and disorderly who witnessed the accident. It would have been a fracas if the angry group had merely thrown bottles at the bus lady and bus driver who got off the bus to see what the vehicle had hit. The spark was lit and the explosion — that’s been waiting to happen every Sunday evening — followed.

Now that a Commissioned of Inquiry (COI) is to be convened, here are some basic questions it should ask: 1) Of the 400 people said to have taken part in the riot: Who are they? How long have they worked in Singapore? Who do they work for? How many are unemployed? Where do they live?

What are the facts of the rioting at Little India on 8 Dec?


37 Police Officers, 5 Auxilliary Police Officers and 12 SCDF Officers sustained injuries and lacerations during the riot. The driver of the private bus, a 55- year-old Singaporean, and his 38-year-old timekeeper were also injured.

Contrary to some online reports, Mr Sakthivel was not decapitated. He was pronounced dead at the scene as a result of the traffic accident.

16 Police cars and 9 SCDF vehicles were also damaged during the riot.

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Singapore deports expat workers involved in riot

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An Immigration and Customs Authority (ICA) van transporting arrested foreign workers as it leaves the Admiralty West Prison in Singapore on Thursday. (AFP)

Singapore on Friday said it had deported 53 South Asian workers allegedly involved in the city-state’s first riot in four decades, while four others awaited repatriation later in the day.

Officials on Tuesday had said they were deporting the 53 men — 52 Indians and one Bangladeshi — and pursuing criminal charges against 28 others for their role in the Dec. 8 rampage.

The rare riot left 39 persons, including police officers, injured and 25 vehicles damaged or burned.

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200 foreign workers warned in Singapore

Around 200 foreign workers, who were present at the scene of a riot here that broke out after an Indian worker was run over by a bus, were Sunday formally warned by police.

The workers were issued formal police advisories as their involvement in the riot was passive and incidental, the Channel News Asia reported.

The workers were accompanied by representatives of the companies they work for.

related:
52 Indian workers repatriated from Singapore
Singapore man jailed for three years for cyber-stalking
Repatriation of Indian workers from Singapore begins
Indian man arrested in Singapore over woman's death
Three more Indians in Singapore remanded until next week


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Little India riots: Learning from the experience?

Singapore’s Little India Riot: Was Alcohol to Blame?
I refer to the article “Little India Riot: Repatriation of 53 workers under way” (Straits Times, Dec 20)

It states that “The actions of the 53 workers during the riot ranged from obstructing the police to failing to obey police orders to disperse, police investigations showed.

They were deemed to have posed a threat to the safety and security of Singapore – conditions that allow the authorities to deport and ban them from entering the country again under laws such as the Immigration Act.

On Wednesday, civil society group Workfair Singapore said it had appealed to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants over what it called the “arbitrary deportation” of the 53 workers.

related:
Costs over due process?
Amnesty International - Fair hearing to migrants facing deportation over riot
On a Little Street in Singapore
Fair trial for the 53 workers repatriated?
Whose history? Whose truth?
Little India riot: An “accident waiting to happen”?
Riot in Little India over fatal accident of Indian national
I Could Have Stopped The Riot
The love-hate relationship

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Singapore deports South Asian workers involved in riot

Singapore on Friday said it had deported 53 South Asian workers allegedly involved in the city-state’s first riot in four decades, while four others awaited repatriation later in the day.

Officials on Tuesday had said they were deporting the 53 men — 52 Indians  and one Bangladeshi — and pursuing criminal charges against 28 others for  their role in the December 8 rampage.

The rare riot left 39 persons, including police officers, injured and 25  vehicles damaged or burnt.

read more

Singapore deports rioters

Singapore will deport 53 South Asian workers and pursue criminal charges against 28 others for their involvement in the city-state's first riot in more than four decades.

The decision was taken "to send a strong signal that we will not tolerate actions ... which threaten law and order," home affairs minister Teo Chee Hean said.

The riot on December 8 by hundreds of South Asians has forced Singapore to examine how it deals with the presence of nearly a million low-paid foreign workers, who drive its economic growth. The rampage, which erupted after an Indian man was killed by a bus in the Little India area, left 39 people injured, including police officers, and 25 vehicles destroyed.

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Human rights activists accuse Singapore of failing to recognise the rights of rioters

Singapore Little India riots
Activists are criticising Singapore for planning to deport dozens of South Asian labourers involved in a rare riot without giving them their day in court
Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said the deportation of the 52 Indians and one Bangladeshi, as well as criminal charges filed against 28 other Indians, would "send a strong signal" that Singapore would not "tolerate actions by anyone which threaten law and order."
The riot on December 8, Singapore's worst outbreak of violence in four decades, saw hundreds of South Asian workers go on a rampage that left 39 people, including police officers, injured and 25 vehicles damaged or burnt.
It was triggered after an Indian construction worker was hit by a bus and killed at a district known as Little India, where tens of thousands of South Asian labourers converge on weekends. Activists say the swift punishments being handed out contravene basic human rights.
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SHANMUGAM: DEPORTING THE 53 RIOTERS IS QUICKER AND CHEAPER THAN GOING THROUGH COURT



Explaining the reason why the government decided to deport 53 workers who were caught rioting rather than charging them in court, Foreign Affairs minister K Shanmugam indicated that it is easier and more effective to deal with the case administratively.

He explained that foreign workers can be asked to leave Singapore if they are deemed to have acted in a way that is against Singapore's interest or in a way that puts Singapore's safety or security at risk.

This is a power that the government has under the Immigration Act and Shanmugam explained that dealing with the cases in this way is faster than relying on the courts to make decisions on the fate of the workers.

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Families of Tamils held in Singapore petition CM
The families of three of the 28 men arrested for rioting and violence in Singapore have petitioned chief minister J Jayalalithaa to take steps to get them back to India.
The families of Velmurugan, 25, Saravanan, 31, and Govindarajan, 30, hailing from Alangudi village, Pudukottai district, arrived in Chennai on Wednesday to meet Singapore consulate officials. They sent a letter to Pudukottai collector C Manoharan on Monday, requesting him to intervene with the state government and urge it to get the men released.
Gloom has descended on many hamlets in Pudukottai district ever since news of the December 8 violence broke out after the death of 33-year-old S Kumaravelu in Singapore. Kumaravelu was from Pudukkottai, from where many found their way to Singapore in search of a fortune. Singapore authorities picked up more than 200 Tamils after the riot. Of the 28 Tamils arrested and charged with rioting and violence, the families of three men have knocked on the doors of the state government, seeking their release and deportation.
Statement to Media on Little India Riot

The Spore government has implemented several measures to avoid a repeat of the violence of last Sunday’s riot

Alcohol sale was banned this weekend and private buses from dormitories to Little India have been temporarily suspended. Little India has been declared a “proclaimed area” under the Public Order (Preservation) Act, which will allow police officers to take action against anyone consuming alcohol in a public place within the vicinity, including seizing their bottles of liquor.

The Singapore Contractors Association of Singapore has urged its members to discourage their workers from going to Little India until the situation is ‘more stable’. Some firms such as Keppel Offshore & Marine have enforced curfews, stipulating that workers are to be back in their dormitories by 10pm. Marine firm Kiat Seng Shipbuilding and Engineering director James Lee has set a daily curfew of around 9pm for his 100 foreign workers. Latecomers will be reported to his management.

While we understand the need to implement measures to stabilise the situation, we urge the authorities and employers to exercise restraint so that the migrant worker community is not unjustly targeted. Advising workers to stay away from Little India and imposing curfews on those who do not return to their dormitories penalises the majority for the actions of a minority. We urge employers and the authorities to review this policy. It is our view that blaming the riot on alcohol consumption may be premature since investigations have not established it as a cause. It also reinforces the stereotype of ethnic Indian drunkards who create trouble and get into fights.

related: Access to Justice Concerns for Little India Riot Accused

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Singapore riot: activists call for probe into assault of detained Indians

Singapore riot: activists call for probe into assault of detained Indians
Civil society volunteers today expressed dismay over the arbitrary decision to deport 52 Indians from Singapore without trial for their alleged role in the December 18 riots and demanded justice for them

It also questioned the without trial deportation of 52 Indian nationals and one Bangladesh national related to the riots at Little India, an area of Indian-origin businesses, eateries, pubs and money remittance facilities.

'Workfair Singapore', a group of volunteers, also called for a full-fledged probe into allegations of police assault against protesters detained following riots.

It said the allegations were extremely grave and deserve the full investigative weight of the authorities.

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A deportation report

IT’S getting too predictable. Whenever there are arrests, there are allegations of police abuse. Then human rights groups will come out to protest and call for investigations, which the police will do. So it is with the case with those involved in the Little India riots. The police must be getting tired of having to investigate themselves.

But there is something new here and it has to do with the deportation of 53 people who will not be charged in court because their involvement in the riot was “less egregious” — failing to disperse despite police orders to do so, for instance.

Human rights groups have come out to decry what they call “arbitrary deportations’’. The foreigners’ work passes have been revoked and they, therefore, cannot stay on, unless they are called upon to assist in the Committee of  Inquiry into the riots.

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FAIR TRIAL FOR THE 53 WORKERS REPATRIATED?

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In its media release, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs revealed that 53 migrant workers will be repatriated after being given a “stern warning”. These workers are those who have been identified as participants in the riot that took place in Little India and have failed to disperse despite the police’s orders to do so. They were said to be rounded up in the morning of 17 December. These individuals will also be prohibited from returning to Singapore. This is while 28 out of those arrested are still in the process of being tried in Court and the Commission of Inquiry into the riot is still taking place.

As I understand it, the Controller of Work Passes and Controller of Immigration hold authority over the revocation of work passes. However as rioting is considered a crime against public order in Singapore under sections 147 and 148 of the Penal Code, these 53 individuals should have been given the opportunity to stand trial, with concrete evidences being produced before they are being found guilty of undesirable actions and before any appropriate actions can be taken against them.

While some might view this as the Ministry’s effort to send a message to the migrant community that harsh consequences will befall them should they disrupt public order, I don’t think this is how “justice” should be served. On the contrary, I personally find it disturbing that they can be simply be rounded up and repatriated in such a non-transparent manner.

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Singapore "substantially completes" investigations over Little India riot: police

Singapore Police Force said on Tuesday that they have "substantially completed" their investigations into the riot in Little India that happened on Dec. 8, leaving 28 charged over rioting, 53 to be repatriated, and 200 to be issued police advisory and allowed to remain and work in Singapore.

No more arrests or repatriations are expected, said Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean at the press conference.

The police said the riot "disrupted Singaporeans' security" and "posed a threat to public order". During the over week-long investigation of the riot, the city-state's police had interviewed almost 4,000 persons, out of which a total of 420 persons were called up for investigations.

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Singapore riots: A typical India-like situation

Singapore riots: A typical 'Indian case'

The place in Singapore where the recent riots occurred is the epicentre for all construction workers from South Asia to assemble for weekend fun. They buy drinks from shops around this locality and sit in open fields (cheaper and nobody asks you to leave) talking over the phone to their respective families and friends till midnight. Some construction companies even provide shuttle buses from workers' dormitories from across the island to this place.

Now, it's a typical India-like situation. A jay walker gets hit by a bus and was run over. Drunk persons started throwing stuff they could find around to protest it. The driver was admitted to the hospital and later arrested. One story suggests that the person who was hit by the bus was an agent who supplied manpower (hence more emotion). The mob doubled within minutes and then they reportedly toppled a police car with personnel inside and then try to set it ablaze.

These protesters are in Singapore trying to make a living for their families back home, some to pay off their loans while some paying for their land. They work hard for their living but with their drunken rants, they faced fines and imprisonment.

related: 2 more Indians booked for rioting

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A Sunday Problem

We have a problem. We have hundreds of thousands of foreign workers – and we don’t know what to do with them on Sundays. And they probably don’t know what to do with themselves on Sundays either

The foreign maid can stay “home” and be paid for not taking the day off. And even if they are out, they’re not likely to get into a drunken stupor and throw pieces of concrete around. They’ll just crowd somewhere until someone shoos them somewhere else

The foreign worker can stay in his dorm – except that he won’t get paid because he is not working. In the better dorms, he can play basketball and watch cable TV. In the lousier dorms, well, he will have to find his own entertainment. Maybe, he could sneak in a beer can or two…



Expressing solidarity with the workers who rioted in Singapore's "Little India"

From http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrGIBRFNsLA: Singapore Little India Riot Angle 1 Full video. Credits to Mr Chew, a resident of a nearby flat, for angle 1.

Most of the workers who go to these places are terribly exploited people who wish to go abroad to escape the grinding poverty of South Asia. They are the normal family types who would like to stay home and manage their households if only they could move a little above the bare survival limits. When they go abroad to places like Dubai or Singapore to find work their bosses keep reminding them that they are there because their life back home is just one living hell on earth. It just means that they have to submit to the wage-slavery without asking too many questions as far as their rights are concerned.

Two things I don't understand: one is that you are taking the other person's labor with impunity while paying them peanuts for the work that the local population will not do and the second is, you want the other person to actually be thankful that you are abusing his or her human rights because you pay them a little more than what is being done in their home countries. You don't want him or her to have the same rights as workers do in your country merely to preserve some sense of order and make sure the workers never unite across borders.

More importantly, there is a conscious blindness to the larger background of western imperialism which ensures that the majority of the third world persists in a state of dependence. The argument that immigrants from poorer nations experience is more or less the same everywhere: they are supposed to feel grateful for offering themselves voluntarily as cheap labor at the altar of corporate dominance. They are also expected to constantly be in a state of guilt or self-blame for not being good enough as "citizens" to fit into mainstream society.

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Lessons in Little India

Mr Karthick Muthuraman, a site supervisor from a sleepy village in Tamil Nadu, replies instantaneously when we ask him about why some workers acted the way they did in the Little India riot.

“There are good men and bad men everywhere,” the 29-year-old said with conviction as we stood together chatting along narrow Kerbau Street.

“My parents teach me to do good, the same way your parents teach you. What they did doesn’t mean that all of us are like that.”

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My thoughts on that little India riot

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I would drive my weekend bone shaker along Serangoon Road whenever I send my mother to Bugis Street and Waterloo Street. I also used to patronize the row of shophouses along Race Course Road on Sunday for their delicious curry fish head. The crowd there is really fantastic. Tons of foreign workers congregate there and it’s so difficult to move around without really squeezing your way through. My mother told me to avoid visiting there on Sunday. Whenever I drove along the stretch of Serangoon Road, I had to be extra careful. I had to drive at snail pace cuz those foreign workers simply walk across the road without any due care or regard to passing vehicles. Motorists had to give way to them.

Didn’t an MP, once upon a time mention in parliament about a “sea of darkness” in little India and he got into trouble. He had to apologize publicly for his remark. It shows how sensitive it is. Many of us simply can’t handle the truth. Since that remark was uttered, the “sea of darkness” has grown even larger and more complex.

Let me elaborate more hard truths about the presence of nearly 2 million foreign workers in our midst. Our present population of about 5.3 million including the nearly 2 million foreigners occupying this tiny piece of 710 sq km rock, bound to have many problems. It is a double-edged sword. There are many economic benefits from a huge foreign population but also they brought with them unavoidable related social problems. That is a fact.

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Intoxication, Inhibitions and Little India


Like many people in Singapore, I felt that this ban was a superficial one. It doesn’t really cure the root of the problem. If they drink every single weekend and only riot on one, alcohol is definitely only one of the small factors that resulted in this riot. Furthermore, in places like Clarke Quay and Boat Quay, there is no alcohol bans

Additionally, businesses in Little India have been affected by this with some having to close shop on Sunday and having much less customers than before. While I do not support the banning, there were two positive effects. The impact of it is intended to be more ‘emotional’ and not 'functional'.

It can serve as a “punishment/warning” to the foreign workers to not do such a thing again. Like perhaps the government mindset is "letting them take responsibility for their choices". However, then again,they will probably riot in the future if the main cause isn't solved.
Additionally, businesses in Little India have been affected by this with some having to close shop on Sunday and having much less customers than before.


While I do not support the banning, there were two positive effects. The impact of it is intended to be more ‘emotional’ and not 'functional'.

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Riot – what’s done, then undone; not said but telling

So much about the riot have been aired, with ministers rehashing their ”once in 40 years’ occurence, nothing to do with policy mistakes or complacency” theme and netizens saying mostly otherwise. To me, it is yet another ‘black swan’ event, part of some that have come to pass but not yet the BIG ONE that will not get away. I’ll leave that for another day to write about.

For now, there are 2 observations that have not been brought up by netizens but are, in my view, worth our thinking about.


SUN TV, India vs STRAITS TIMES, Singapore - Yes, I’m comparing a TV vs a broadsheet. Nonetheless, both are MSM. With SUN, there is no doubt that they went to town with their inaccurate and, potentially, inflammatory report with their own made-up facts of the riot. It was wrong and deplorable. But, credit must be given where due, SUN went back to town with a correction and an apology just as soon as they were told of their mistakes. SUN TV did only this one report on SIngapore that took liberty with the truth.


The Full Story Behind The Riot In Singapore's Little India



52 Indians And One Bangladeshi Will Be Deported For Their Involvement In #LittleIndiaRiot


No Alcohol Is Allowed In Little India This Weekend

India's Sun TV Incorrectly Reported That Indians Were Attacked By Singaporeans And Chinese In The Riot

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After Bedlam

For the first time in 50 years, Singapore saw a large-scale riot take place on December 8, 2013. This is a real-time social media feed documenting the aftermath of the Little India Riot

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Continuous problems in Singapore are symptomatic of Leadership failure



The image of police cars in flames and riot police in full gear is a tragic scene that is now embossed into the horrified minds of Singaporeans. Never in 40 years has there been a riot in the secure and safe Singapore that Singaporeans are proud of. Of course, it is being argued now that the riots were caused by a minority of foreign workers and that most here are law-abiding and some were even heroes trying to stop the rioters from hurting people. The authorities have taken swift action, arrested and charged 27 men who were directly involved. A Committee of Inquiry (COI) has been set up to investigate the reason behind the riot.

There are a lot of questions being asked on the riot, why did the rioters only attacked uniformed cars and personnel? Rioters in other countries typically take the opportunity to loot shops and steal stuff ? Considering that the Police Force is the authority giving out liquor licenses, why did they give out 374 licenses in the area, and now alcohol is the culprit?

But looking at the bigger picture, the key question that begs to be answered is whether this riot has been preordained with the continuous problems in Singapore?

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The dirt on clean Singapore

Singapore's police force describes what happened next. "A riot broke out involving a crowd of about 400 subjects where the subjects damaged several vehicles including 16 police vehicles. About 300 Police Officers...responded to the scene. The accident victim, a 33-year-old Indian national, succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at scene.... 22 Police Officers and 5 Auxilliary [sic] Police Officers... sustained injuries and lacerations. The driver of the private bus, a 55-year-old Singaporean, was conveyed conscious to the hospital. 27 subjects, aged 23 to 45, have been arrested in connection with the rioting incident...24 are Indian nationals, two are Bangladeshi nationals and one is a Singaporean Permanent Resident."

On December 8, Singapore's long-ruling People's Action Party (PAP) passed an eightpoint mission statement. One of its points: the PAP would foster a Singaporean identity that allows different races, religions and backgrounds to "live harmoniously together... and work together for a better Singapore".

It was published on a Sunday, the one day that the million-odd low-wage foreign workers in Singapore — people such as 33-yea-rold Indian labourer Sakthivel Kumaravelu, who make up about 20% of the island nation's population — have as time off. A few hours after, Little India's Racecourse Road was aflame; Kumaravelu had been killed while enjoying his holiday with friends, struck by a bus driven by a Singaporean.

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"Riots in Singapore were spontaneous"




Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that last Sunday's riot in the city state was spontaneous and there is no reason to believe that it was due to unhappiness among foreign workers.

"The migrant workers involved were employed by a variety of companies and lived in different places," Lee said in Tokyo

Lee added, "We have not seen any evidence of that. There is no tension, there is no sense of grievances or hardship or injustice."

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Singapore riots:PM Lee vows to ensure safety of foreign workers

Singapore riots:PM Lee vows to ensure safety of foreign workers


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has vowed to ensure the safety of nearly a million low-paid foreign workers in Singapore, saying they should be treated fairly and paid properly on time, days after outbreak of worst riots in over 40 years for which 33 Indians have been charged.

"We believe that foreign workers in Singapore ought to be treated fairly and properly. We do not stand for ill treatment or unfair treatment of foreign workers," Lee said.

"We have to make sure they (foreign workers) are well treated, they are paid properly on time, their safety is taken care of, their living conditions are up to standard, and they are given full protection of the law," he said in Tokyo, where he is on a visit.

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Singapore PM says riots were ‘spontaneous’


Lee Hsien Loong


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that last Sunday's riot in the city state was spontaneous and there is no reason to believe that it was due to unhappiness among foreign workers.

The incident was "spontaneous", and the migrant workers involved were employed by a variety of companies and lived in different places, Lee said in Tokyo.

Asked whether one of the possible causes of the riot was the eruption of pent-up tensions among foreign workers in Singapore, Lee said, "We have not seen any evidence of that. There is no tension, there is no sense of grievances or hardship or injustice."


PM Lee Hsien Loong vows to ensure safety of foreign workers in Singapore

"We believe that foreign workers in Singapore ought to be treated fairly and properly. We do not stand for ill treatment or unfair treatment of foreign workers,"

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has vowed to ensure the safety of nearly a million low-paid foreign workers in Singapore, saying they should be treated fairly and paid properly on time, days after outbreak of worst riots in over 40 years for which 33 Indians have been charged. 

"We believe that foreign workers in Singapore ought to be treated fairly and properly. We do not stand for ill treatment or unfair treatment of foreign workers," Lee said. 

"We have to make sure they (foreign workers) are well treated, they are paid properly on time, their safety is taken care of, their living conditions are up to standard, and they are given full protection of the law," he said in Tokyo, where he is on a visit.

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Singapore will stick to foreign labor policy after riot



Singapore will continue to tighten the influx of overseas laborers after a riot involving about 400 foreign workers, said Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.

While foreign labor has contributed to the growth of the economy, there has been a cost, including a strain on infrastructure, Tan, 44, said in an interview on Dec. 13.Police have charged 33 people in relation to the riot, the first in Singapore in more than four decades

“We are continuing to tighten our manpower policies because we do want to move to a leaner approach,” Tan said. Asked whether poor living conditions led to the riot and if the government would step up measures to ensure foreign workers’ well-being and safety after the incident, he said “it’s premature to conclude that actually it’s because of all these other deep-seated reasons and therefore the riot happened.”

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The Govt and the Police (SPF) have come out with a slew of measures since the shocking riot at Race Course Road on December 8th. Some can be said to be knee-jerk like the blanket ban on alcohol sales and consumption, others more timely like stepped up patrols and installation of cameras. Moreover a Commission of Inquiry (COI) has been set up headed by retired Justice G P Selvam and comprising retired CP, Tee Tua Ba, ex NTUC Chairman John de Payva and West Coast CCC member Andrew Chua. Of course there will be sceptics about the composition, but I think having a Judge is correct and also a policeman (retired) has to be included to shed light into the police action. I also believe Mr de Payva's inclusion is to consider the worker's aspect in this case.

In furtherance to my previous 2 articles, I have some suggestions which I hope both the COI and Police will look into. I was at Race Course Road on Saturday night, and I came away with the feeling that it was the 'safest street in Singapore. Special Operations Command (SOC) riot busses, patrol cars with flashing lights were patrolling the streets, accompanied by uniformed and plainclothes policemen on foot patrol. It does also shore up the general feeling that the SPF is more a reactionary force than a preventive one. That said it's better than doing nothing. 

However before I list my suggestions, there's 2 aspects that I've found troubling in the aftermath of the riot. The first is the quick rush of support by a large number of pro-PAP supporters for the SPF and to a lesser extent - the SCDF. There was a call to change their Facebook avatars to the logo of the Home Team and even this page:

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So the character in white font says, "The first day of banning alcohol in Little India."

The ones in black fonts that fall on yellow background says, "Clean environment and no longer rowdy". When I see this next to the images of 2 police officers, I interpret that as, "show of force in presence."

The characters in the middle with larger fonts say, "Resident supports to carry on banning alcohol." I interpret as, "carry on the propaganda and official classification of mankind by nationality's preference of location/activity."

The white fonts on the red banner at the bottom says, "Business owners whines because businesses dipped steeply." I read as, "Well, still have to offer some sort of 2-sides-of-a-story right?"

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Resisting our Impulses

In the aftermath of the Little India riot, I have been asked by several people about my views on it. I have resisted writing about the riot as I didn’t think I could add much more to what’s already been said by various more informed commentators. I’m also not particularly familiar with issues related to the welfare of our migrant workers.

But an interview request by Channel News Asia combined with how the riot is being characterized and rationalized by the authorities have forced me to think more deeply about the riot – its causes as well as how I think government and society more generally should respond to it. So here are my preliminary thoughts on the matter.

One of the things that behavioral economists and cognitive psychologists emphasize is the very human, deeply psychological tendency to respond to complex and unexpected events instinctively – what Daniel Kahneman calls “fast thinking” or what Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein (of “Nudge”) call the Automatic System. With respect to the Little India riot, we can quite clearly observe two impulses in the immediate aftermath of the crisis. And both impulses, while quite understandable and even natural, should be resisted.



The riot in Little India happened whilst I was away in Warsaw, Poland - that is why I have not blogged about it till now. I did however, keep in touch with the commentary pieces written on the incident by the usual bloggers and am fully updated as to what happened. There is just one issue that I want to discuss today: what should we do next to try to resolve the situation? What can one do to ensure that such a situation does not happen again?

Now let me begin with the suggestion that upset me the most - there were several residents who suggested some kind of barriers (like a fence) to keep the Indian migrant workers away from the local HDB flats so that there would be a physical barrier segregating Singaporeans and foreigners

I was appalled by such a suggestion - I have just been in Warsaw where one of the most painful reminders of WW2 were the many monuments to commemorate the thousands who were incarcerated in the Jewish Ghetto before being sent to extermination camps like Auschwitz. I have also visited Berlin, another city scarred by the reminder of a wall which kept the city divided from 1961 to 1989. In both cities, there is a clear consensus that there should never be such a wall or barrier ever again in both cities because of the pain, suffering and anguish it brought to so many then.

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The little India riot are just the tip of the iceberg

Little India Riot 3

It was the topic of everyone’s Monday water cooler conversations. There was speculation, there was xenophobia and there was enough gossip to make Perez Hilton look like a giggling teenage girl. Government agencies, budding Internet philosophers and keyboard warriors issued strongly-worded statements and passive-aggressive Facebook statuses. It was a stark reminder that when shit hits the fan, Singaporeans love to play the blame game, although in all fairness, there were a few voices calling for calm amidst the online chaos.
Now that the flames on the roads and in our hearts have dissipated, perhaps it’s a good time to take stock and analyse what the Little India riots mean in the grand scheme of things.

On the surface, it looks clear-cut. A bus knocks down a foreign worker and his peers, fuelled with the liquid courage of beer, start getting aggressive after supposedly mistaking the first responders’ non-action as nonchalance. Objects are thrown, tempers are flared and soon enough, the mob mentality takes over. Or so the story goes

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The "Kow Peh Kow Bu" saga

I seriously think that our DEAR Prime Minister will need to try harder to get close to the people. In his greatest effort to sound "like the ground" and seen to be "grounded" person, he has made hilarious and sometimes, embarrassing remarks in his important speeches.... It just shows how disconnect he is from the ground people... first it was "Mee Siam Mai Hum" and it makes us wonder whether he eats from our local hawker centres at all... or just that he didn't have the chance to eat Mee Siam... or just that he actually got his personal chef to put "Hum" in his daily Mee Siam!

Mee Siam Mai Hum is just a hilarious joke for the street people... and that is perfectly ok, you know. Just learn to laugh at ourselves sometimes for our little mistakes we make.

However, my jaw dropped dramatically when I heard he said "Kow Peh Kow BU" (kpkb) in his keynote speech to his party comrades..... Excuse me! That is really "vulgar" words in Hokkien... literally means that "don't make noise like you are crying for your parents' funeral"! It can basically be interpreted into cursing the death of the parents of those who are making noise! A Prime Minister cursing the death of those who disagree with him and his party, and making "noise" in the internet? Oh My Buddha!

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THE REFORM PARTY: THE ROOT CAUSES OF THE RIOTS IN LITTLE INDIA

Reform Party condemns the unlawful activity that occurred on December 8 2013 in ‘Little India’ when a riot was sparked by the death of a pedestrian involved in a traffic accident. This kind of violence cannot be condoned under any circumstances.

We commend the police and auxiliary services for efficiently bringing the situation under control whilst avoiding any serious injuries or loss of life. Our thoughts are with the 18 members of our law enforcement and emergency services who were injured during the course of their duties. However, we view with concern the deployment of Gurkha troops, who are foreign mercenaries, to put down a domestic disturbance. The Reform Party demands the government’s assurance that it will not use foreigners against its own citizens

Reform Party also extends its condolences to the family of Sakthivel Kumaravelu, the expatriate construction worker killed by the private coach hired to ferry him and his fellow workers back to their dormitory. We note from reports in the Indian Press that his family background was tragic and whilst this riot may be used as an excuse in some quarters to stir up divisions in our society, we are heartened by the many compassionate messages left by fellow Singaporeans on our new media pages

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Litte India Riots: Has the Population White Paper Also Gone Up In Flames?

Any hope the Government still harbored of the electorate accepting the “6.9 million” Population White Paper may have just gone up in flames

One must not underestimate the shock to the Singaporean psyche in seeing images of burning police vehicles, crowds attacking ambulances and rioting masses; for Singaporeans born post-independence, these things just do not happen in Singapore. They see them on the TV, or the internet, or the papers -- but not in their own backyard.

When news of a riotous crowd attacking police vehicles started filtering out, the reaction from Singaporeans, online and on the streets, was one of utter disbelief.

People do not attack police vehicles in Singapore, much less set them on fire. The most difficult situation ambulance drivers have to normally handle is unruly patients; never in their wildest dreams have they imagined themselves running for their lives from an angry mob.

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Riot forces Singapore to take fresh look at foreign workers


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A riot by South Asian laborers has forced Singapore to take a fresh look at how it deals with the presence of nearly a million low-paid foreign workers in the city-state

An estimated 400 workers went on the rampage on December 8 in a district known as Little India, injuring 39 people, including police officers, and destroying 25 vehicles.

The riot — the first in more than 40 years in the country — erupted after an Indian man was killed by a bus in an area where tens of thousands of workers converge at weekends.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has ordered an investigation into the cause of the violence as well as a review of measures to manage areas where foreign workers congregate.

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Singapore to deport South Asian workers involved in riot


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Singapore said Tuesday it will deport 53 South Asian workers and pursue criminal charges against 28 others for their involvement in the city-state’s first riot in more than four decades

“We have taken strong and decisive action to charge, and to repatriate those who took part in the riot to send a strong signal that we will not tolerate actions by anyone which threaten law and order in Singapore,” Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean told a news conference.

The riot on December 8 by hundreds of South Asian workers has forced the tightly controlled city-state to examine how it deals with the presence of nearly a million low-paid foreign workers, who drive its economic growth.

The rampage, which erupted after an Indian man was killed by a bus in a district known as Little India, saw 39 people injured, including police officers, and 25 vehicles destroyed.

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Singapore to deport 52 Indians after rare riot in 'Little India'

The burnt shells of vehicles are pictured along Race Course Road following a riot near Singapore's Little India district December 9, 2013.REUTERS/Stringer


Singapore plans to deport 53 people and issue warnings to about 200 more for their involvement in the city-state's worst riot in more than 40 years this month, which shocked a nation that prides itself on its safety and orderliness.

The riots sparked intense discussion over Singapore's policy on foreign labour, which now makes up a fifth of a population of nearly 5.4 million. Many citizens are increasingly irked by the growing numbers of foreign workers.

The 53 people, all Indian but for one Bangladeshi, are in prison and will be barred from returning to Singapore after being sent home soon, the police said in statements on Tuesday.

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PAP's policy of influx of foreigners; China bus driver strike, Little India riot









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Lack of social balance provides spark for unrest

Lack of social balance provides spark for unrest
Flowers sit at the base of a tree underneath a tribute board for the foreign worker who was killed in an accident which triggered a riot in Singapore on Dec. 8

If Canada needs a reminder of how delicate the temporary foreign worker issue can be - and how damaging it can be if a delicate balance is lost, even if temporarily - it needs only to look across the Pacific Ocean last week.

There, you will find an advanced island nation - one of the richest, most highly developed countries in the world - with an almost bulletproof reputation of lawfulness, high quality of life, modern market economy, ethnic diversity and harmony (a reputation very similar, in many ways, to Canada's own image on the global stage).

And yet all of its virtues could not prevent it from descending last week into its first large-scale riot in more than four decades - an event that shook the psyche of residents who long believed the country's harmonious and prosperous identity. We're talking, of course, about Singapore.

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Scene of Singapore Riot Quiet After Alcohol Ban




The site of a riot by foreign workers that rocked Singapore last weekwas relatively quiet on Sunday after the government implemented strict security measures and temporarily banned the sale and consumption of alcohol there in an attempt to restore order.

Over the past week authorities have erected dozens of additional street lights and 26 additional security cameras in Little India, where the riot started after a construction worker from India was hit and killed by a chartered bus on Dec. 8. On Sunday a heavy police presence kept watch on the streets.

The Little India area typically teems on the weekend with migrant workers from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka who converge along Race Course and Serangoon roads to shop and catch up with friends, often over beers. This Sunday, however, the number of people was down significantly.

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More dormitories for foreign workers to be built over next 2 to 3 years: PM Lee
More dormitories for foreign workers to be built over next 2 to 3 years: PM Lee
In the midst of a temporary alcohol ban in Little India, the Government is also taking steps to improve the welfare of foreign workers

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo at the end of the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit today, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said a substantial number of dormitories will be built over the next two to three years to better house foreign workers.

Even as authorities tighten the inflow of foreign workers over the years, Mr Lee said their population needs to be managed, and there is an on-going inter-ministerial committee that looks into their welfare.

“One of the focuses was to try our best to see how we could speed up the construction of more dorms, so that the workers who are now housed in HDB estate or private properties, which have been rented out, they can be put in proper dorms,” said Mr Lee. “Then I think they can be better taken care of and there can be less impact on the community.”

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Little India riot: A case of self denial


Little India riot: A case of self denial


News of the riot in Little India on Dec 8 first reached me when someone flashed me what looked like headlines, with pictures and a video. That was how quick the social media picked up the action. The event did not “break” on mainstream media, as far as I know. Once again, the power of alternative media was on awesome display, just as it was in the 2011 and 2012 elections   -  General Elections, Presidential Elections and Punggol East by-election.

Far from causing confusion and panic, the relaying of on the ground information to the general population who could be reached was helpful.

People did not have to rely on rumours and controlled news.  They were sophisticated enough to see through distortions and concoctions. More remarkably, the major portion of the social media acted with restraint.

Appeal for witnesses to seek truth in Little India’s riot

There are lots of unanswered questions in the riot of Little India and for the sake of the deceased, those arrested and injured, witnesses must bravely come forward to speak the truth.

தேக்காவில் முண்ட திடீர் கலவரத்திற்கு காரணம் என்ன?

8ஆம் தேதி டிசம்பர் மாதம் தேக்காவில் நடந்த திடீர் கலவரம் குறித்த செய்தி பலரும் அறிந்ததே. ஆயினும் இந்தக் கலவரத்த்திற்கு என்ன காரணம் என்று இன்னும் திட்டவட்டமாக தெரியவில்லை.

அப்பகுதியில் கூடியிருந்தவர்கள் அப்படி ஆவேசம்படும்படி விபத்தில் மாண்ட சக்திவேல் குமாரவேலுக்கு என்ன நடந்தது?

சக்திவேல் மதுபோதையில் இருந்ததால் அவர் பஸ்ஸில் தகராறு செய்ததாகவும், அதனால் பஸ் ஓட்டுனர் அவரை பஸ்ஸிலிருந்து கீழே இரக்கும்படி பஸ் உதவியாளரிடம் கூறியதாகவும், சக்திவேல் பஸ்ஸிலிருந்து கீழே இறங்கும்முன்பு தன் காற்சட்டையை கழுற்றியதாகவும் ஒருசெய்தித்தகவல் கூறுகிறது. அதே தகவல் சக்திவேல் பஸ்ஸிலிருந்து இறங்கியபின், பஸ் புறப்பட்டபோது, அதே பஸ்ஸில் அடிபட்டு பஸ்ஸின் இடது பின் டயருக்கு அடியில் கிடந்தார் என்றும் கூறுகிறது.
Time for Chinese-led Singapore to review how it treats foreign workers? - Siva Sankar


DNAIndia.com, 14 Dec 2013

While it is no one’s case to condone Sunday’s violence, Singapore would do well not to treat the incident as an aberration, and not be dismissive about the larger sociological implications. It would be wrong to ignore the underlying simmering resentment and frustrations of Singapore’s imported labourers.

It is Singapore’s worst-kept secret that most of the lowly jobs (housemaids, construction workers, garbage removal and sewer maintenance personnel, so on) are performed by non-Chinese immigrants from South/Southeast Asia.

Stories of worker abuse, intimidation and exploitation are aplenty: employers lodge thousands of imported workers in poorly provided cubbyholes, subject them to long work hours and confiscate their passports during the contract tenures. It is a plight that global media can relate to — Singapore’s heavy-handed approach in dealing with media outlets that publish content critical of the local regime is well-documented.

Perhaps, Black Sunday is a wake-up call. Singapore’s sovereign funds like the GIC and Temasek Holdings rake in billions through largely undisclosed corporate and financial market investments globally, including in India. Full story'

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'Premature' to pin Little India riot on labour tensions, Singapore minister says


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Singapore, unsettled by its first riot in more than four decades that involved 400 foreign workers, will continue to tighten the influx of overseas labourers, said Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin

While foreign labour has contributed to the growth of the economy, there has been a cost, including a strain on infrastructure, Tan, 44, said in an interview last week. The government is also keen to boost the productivity of local companies, he said.

“We are continuing to tighten our manpower policies because we do want to move to a leaner approach,” Tan said.

Asked whether poor living conditions contributed to the riot and if the government would step up measures to ensure foreign workers’ well-being and safety after the incident, he said “it’s premature to conclude that actually it’s because of all these other deep-seated reasons and therefore the riot happened”.

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Little India Riot: PM just rejected the least worst reason


COIs are too slow. We live in real time and want answers immediately. For leaders to tell us to stop speculating is just plain oxymoron. Even they can't help themselves with their speculation but couched in skeptical language and qualifications.

Did our leaders not realize the the least worst hypothesis for the riots are unhappy foreign workers? If that is the reason, it is the easiest problem to solve. Yes, even the easiest is very hard here but some are near impossible. No leader is honest and courageous enough to admit they made a mistake allowing too many of them to come here. Only the old man had the guts to publicly state his reservations long ago.

Oh, they riot because they had one bottle too many and because they are not trained as Singaporeans from young. They riot like any people would the rest of the world. I learned that Indian society is stricter with public boozing. We failed to notice and impose the same here. So we were careless as we were many times in recent years beginning with the escape of Mas Selamat....


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related:
Lessons From The Little India Riot
Little India Riot: "Who Dares Win"
Aftermath of Little India Riots
Riot Erupts in Singapore's Little India
Singapore to become hub for Indian diaspora
Singapore, India And CECA