Thursday, 13 March 2014

Little India Riot: Bravery or Cowardice?

Update 10 Aug 2014: Singapore Honours Defence Officials in Little India Riot

Singapore is honouring 10 Home Team frontline officers with commendation medals for their quick response and efforts to control the worst riots in Little India in 40 years involving South Asian workers in the city last year.

Sergeant Khyrul Noor Redhza of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), who was nearly crushed when he went under the bus to pull away the body of an Indian national, was among the recipients of National Day awards.

Assistant Superintendent of Police Jonathan Tang, who rallied his officers to provide security cover for the SCDF officers as they extricated the body of the victim, is also an awardee, The Straits Times said today.

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Little India COI: What defines bravery?
Associated Press/Joseph Nair - In this photo taken Feb. 9, 2014, police officers watch over migrant workers as they wait for shuttle buses to take them back their dormitories after spending their day off in Singapore's Little India District. Singapore needs foreign workers, but it doesn’t want them to overstay their welcomes, and firms get fined when they do. That has created a market for “repatriation companies,” which deny allegations from activists and the United States that they use illegal tactics to expel foreign workers. (AP Photo/Joseph Nair)

These past two weeks have been a revelation of sort. This COI is not boring at all. The line of questioning against the policemen on duty that day is aggressive. What is at the heart of the debate appears to be whether our police officers are cowards. Not pretty at all. The COI seems to have their mind set on a few things:
  1. Police should have “lathi” and “pepper spray” with them all the time.
  2. Police should have gone on an offensive with the rioters. It does not matter that they are outnumbered -- they don the uniform so they must die for the country to protect the integrity of the force and our nation.
  3. Police have guns. What is the use of gun if you don’t brandish them and shoot. Collateral damage is to be expected.
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COI praises officer who confronted rioters for bravery
Unlike the police officers who had taken the stand before him, Sergeant Fadli Shaifuddin, 27, testified during the Committee of Inquiry (COI) hearing yesterday that he confronted the rioters in Little India on Dec 8 — on three occasions, the Traffic Police officer charged at them while wielding his baton, forcing the rioters to back off. He only stopped charging at them under instructions by his team leader, who was concerned about his safety.

Sgt Fadli’s actions were praised by the COI, with former Police Commissioner Tee Tua Ba saying: “What you did was a very brave act. You wanted to assert control. We heard testimony from many police officers. They all hesitated to (take) action because if they went forward, they would be overwhelmed and (have) their gun taken away and their lives would be at stake.”

Before Sgt Fadli gave his testimony, 14 other police officers had taken the stand, including 10 who were at the scene of the riot.

Little India COI: We DO have a hero. Yay!

Finally, we have a police officer who threw caution to the wind and decided to “engage’’ the rioters. Sergeant Fadli, just 27, a traffic cop, charged the crowd three times until he was told by his supervisor to stop. Or he would have continued charging. He said he would actually have made the crowd move towards Buffalo Road instead of driving them into the Little India MRT station which his earlier efforts resulted in. So he was also thinking furiously at the time….

It looked like his training or his cop instincts kicked in. He doesn’t seem to have been trained in crowd control (not reported) nor was he holding on to a shield. Maybe he thought his motorcycle helmet was a good enough shield. I think we should never under-estimate our traffic cops again. Maybe his encounters with irate motorists have stiffened his spine so much that he knew and acted like “the law’’.

He was asked by ex-Commissioner Tee Tua Ba if things would have improved if more officers acted with him. His reply: “I don’t know Sir. You just need maybe one officer or 10 officers to disperse the crowd.’’



SCDF officer lauded for taking initiative during riot
SCDF Lieutenant (LTA) Tiffany Neo outside the COI hearing into the Little India riot on Feb 28, 2014: Photo: Don Wong

With projectiles being hurled at the paramedics and some rioters trying to see or grab the body of Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Lieutenant (LTA) Tiffany Neo broke protocol during the Little India riot by putting the body in an ambulance.

Her common sense earned praise from the Committee of Inquiry yesterday, as LTA Neo — a key figure in the thick of the action as the riot unfolded — recounted how SCDF officers improvised and took the initiative amid the chaos, despite some of them being overawed by the situation.

LTA Neo added that she was disheartened and could not understand why the rescuers, including herself, were pelted with projectiles.


Little India COI: A brave young man

For a guy who’s just 28, ASP Jonathan Tang seems a remarkably cool and level-headed young man in the face of a ever growing and boisterous crowd that night of the Little India riot. Okay. Some people would probably think he had been “prepped’’ – or would that be witness tampering I wonder?

Still, he had some great quotes/sound bites: “It was a not situation where just because we had firearms, we would have won the war.’’

He said this when asked why he didn’t fire a warning shot to disperse the crowd. He said he considered it but figured that it would enrage the crowd further. “It was a situation where revolvers were out of play,’’ he said. Plus there were too few cops on the scene, as far as he could see. He wouldn’t know because communication lines were jammed that night. He did consider spraying the crowd with water from the SCDF Red Rhino but “was told it had no water’’, according to a TODAY report.

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Little India COI: A real pro…

Lieutenant Tiffany Neo is one damn plucky woman. Petite with short cropped hair, she signed on with the SCDF last year and was the woman in charge of the SCDF crew of about eight men from Central Fire Station who first responded to a call for rescue at the site of a “traffic accident’’ along Race Course Road that night.

There she could be seen on the video togged up in fire-fighting gear….waving back the crowd to give “my guys’’ space. She crawled through the broken glass door to reach the bloodied female conductor. She hopped her way through the bus aisle stepping on seats looking for the driver. She had even stepped on him – he was hiding inside a dustbin – before he showed himself. And when it looked like the crowd had seen him standing up with her in the bus and had started pelting it, she instinctively ducked down to shield him.

Now, that looked like professionalism at its best. To think that this slight woman had to shout at the top of her voice so she could be heard by “my guys’’ above the din. That she was worried about a couple of her “guys’’ who had never seen a dead body. That she escorted the body to safety through a hostile crowd while being hit on the back and pelted. That she got a wounded colleague to a patrol car before returning to the accident scene.
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Little India Riot COI: 5 acts of bravery in just 45 minutes

Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officer Lieutenant Tiffany Neo

Rookie Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officer Lieutenant Tiffany Neo was the team leader of the first SCDF response team at the fatal accident that sparked the Little India riot.

Taking the stand on day eight of the Committee of Inquiry hearings on the riot, Lt Neo, who joined the SCDF in January last year, described what happened that fateful Dec 8 night - a night when she displayed great bravery.

By the time Lt Neo and her five-man team got to Race Course Road, another team with a Red Rhino vehicle had arrived and were getting ready the hydraulic spreader to lift the bus, so that accident victim Sakthivel Kumaravelu's body could be extricated.

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Cop angry when he saw burning police car

He was part of a group of 10 police officers manning a line near Hampshire Road when he saw some rioters flip a police car onto its side.

One of the men threw a piece of cloth into the car, along with something else. The car soon started burning.

"I saw (the burning car) and I got angry," Staff Sergeant Azmi Mohammed Hamzah told the Committee of Inquiry on day six of the Little India riot hearings.


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Little India COI: It’s an inquiry…right?
I’ve been wondering about the way the Committee of Inquiry was going about its business, especially after an online Tamil group came up as a witness yesterday. Now, the people representing the group before the COI had no real “evidence’’ as such. They were reporting what other people told them about the riot. They were not there. They also made several allegations about the police coming down hard on the foreign workers, citing people who did not want to be named. They maintained that the foreign workers hated the cops, who paid them little respect and were always summoning them – and that alcohol was not an issue or there would be riots every week.
What’s all this, I thought. The COI was listening to hearsay?
I think plenty of people applaud the tough questioning by the COI, including me. But some comments are also making the rounds that the COI was not conducting an inquiry – but an inquisition.

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Little India inquiry’s fearless duo

So far we have not heard anything much from NTUC’s John   De Payva or chairman of West Coast CCC’s Chua Thiam Chwee at the Committee of Inquiry hearing on the Little India riot.

But the Singapore Police Force and The Straits Times had quite a earful from the other two members- COI chairman former Supreme Court Judge G. Pannir Selvam and former police commissioner Tee Tua Ba.
A  couple of Home Team heroes did emerge from the hearing and their actions earned deserved praise from the committee.


COI to police: “A lot of things were wrong”
Committee of Inquiry (COI) chairman, former judge GP Selvam

“What has happened is not acceptable,” Committee of Inquiry (COI) chairman, former judge GP Selvam, told Deputy Police Commissioner, T Raja Kumar, last Friday.

Mr Selvam made those remarks during the COI hearing into the Little India riot at the Subordinate Court.

Mr Raja Kumar was the only witness for the day, which started at 10am and ended at almost 5pm. He is also the first police witness to take the stand since the 6-weeks COI hearings started on Thursday.


Little India Riot COI: Decision to evacuate ambulance not an act of cowardice
A man with an umbrella runs in front of a burning ambulance during a riot, involving almost 400 people, which broke out in Little India along Race Course Road, on Dec 8, 2013. The traffic police officer who led a group of seven others to evacuate an ambulance moments before it was torched during the Little India riot on Dec 8 last year, said that his actions was not an act of cowardice. -- ST FILE PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The traffic police officer who led a group of seven others to evacuate an ambulance moments before it was torched during the Little India riot on Dec 8 last year, said that his actions was not an act of cowardice.

Station Inspector (SI) Muhammad Adil Lawi, 42, on Thursday told the Committee of Inquiry (COI) convened to look into the riot: "When I saw fire through the cracked windscreen of the ambulance, I realised there was no more time to spare. The threat was very real."

This scene was captured in a much-discussed video online. If the group, which comprised two traffic policemen, two Certis Cisco auxiliary police officers (APO) and four paramedics, had stayed behind in the ambulance in which they had taken refuge from raining projectiles, SI Adil said that they "would have been burnt alive".


Define Run Away

When it comes to communication with Singaporeans, Singlish is often blamed for a lot of misunderstanding. It's not the same problem other countries face. For instance, George Bernard Shaw is attributed to have said, "England and America are two countries divided by a common language." Here, even Singaporeans sometimes fail to understand what other Singaporeans are saying.

When bus drivers stop work, it's an industrial action, not a strike. When roads are immersed under water, it's due to ponding, not a flood. When a track circuit failure occurred on the south bound line between Yew Tee and Kranji MRT stations on Monday, SMRT insisted the incident did not amount to a service disruption as the trains did not stop, "although trains ran at a slower speed." So when SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek says he will continue to make "improvements" to the system, you have to wonder whether he's referring to the language manipulation or efficient train operations.

Committee of Inquiry (COI) Chairman G Pannir Selvam must have wished he had a dictionary in hand when he had to ask pointedly whether the police at Little India "were cowardly or displayed signs of cowardice". Mr Selvam was referring to the impression conveyed by Youtube videos that the policemen were frightened and ran away from the scene - in full panic mode, abandoning expensive cars in the middle of the road. State Counsel Joshua Lim was more blunt with the choice of words for Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Edwin Yong: "Were you cowardly getting into the ambulance?"


POLICE OFFICERS AT LITTLE INDIA RIOT: WE WERE NOT COWARDS TO RUN AWAY

watch: youtube

As the Little India Riot COI continues, police officers were questioned on whether they had been cowardly to flee from the thickest part of the riot.

The questions came as video footage shows that some of the officers in the middle of the riot had retreated into an ambulance and fled the scene.

One of the officers testifying at the COI explained that this was a ‘tactical retreat’ so that the forces could re-group and plan the next course of action. However, another officer who also testified admitted to ‘running away’ from the scene.

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Committee asks cop who ran from ambulance in Little India riot: How can the law run away?

He was among a group of uniformed officers caught on video running out of an ambulance during the Little India riot.

In front of the ambulance was a burning vehicle and rioters were surrounding the vehicles, some seemingly cheering. When Station Inspector Muhammad Adil Lawi, of the Traffic Police, appeared before the Committee of Inquiry (COI) on Thursday, its members grilled him on his actions.

COI member John De Payva asked: "How can the law run away?”


You made the problem worse: COI to ground commander


It was undoubtedly the most adversarial session the Committee of Inquiry (COI) has had since it started its hearings last Wednesday into the Little India riot.

On the stand for four hours on Tuesday, 4 March, was Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) of Police, Lu Yeow Lim, the ground commander of police forces on 8 December 2013 as the riot in Race Course Road unfolded.

The 4-men COI, led by former judge GP Selvam, launched into an attack on the slate of decisions made by DAC Lu that night which, the COI said, “made the problem worse.”

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Little India Riot: Tanglin Police Commander - You Suck!

Former Commissioner Tee Tua Ba pulled no punches, saying to DAC Lu 'You made the problem, worse!

The Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the Little India Riot on Dec 8th last year grilled the 1 man most responsible for the police debacle on Tuesday - Tanglin Police Division Commander, Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Lu Yeow Lim. They did not hold back with a scathing criticism of his actions with Commission member, Tee Tua Ba, himself a former divisional commander and Commissioner of Police (CP) telling DAC Lu, 'You made the problem worse!' The New Paper (TNP)detailed much of the grilling with a 4 page  report in yesterday's edition:

http://www.tnp.sg/content/little-india-riot-inquiry-grills-ground-commander 

The 5 key points directed at DAC Lu and highlighted by TNP were:

1) He did not know what was happening

2) He didn't know how many men he had on the ground

3) He took no action

4) He held the ground at the wrong place

5) His explanation of being powerless to act wasn't acceptable.
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Little India riot inquiry grills ground commander


Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Lu Yeow Lim (above), the ground commander for the police during the Little India riot, came under intense scrutiny for his decision-making by the Committee of Inquiry on Tuesday.

The commander of Tanglin Police Division was the second incident manager and the highest-ranking officer at the scene.

DAC Lu's actions in the 30 minutes between his arrival and that of the Special Operations Command troops led a committee member, former police commissioner Tee Tua Ba, to say that he "made the problem worse".

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Riot inquiry: Senior police officer grilled on lack of situational awareness, arrests

A heated exchange dominated today’s (March 4) public hearing into the Little India riot, as Commander of the Tanglin Police Division Lu Yeow Lim’s actions that night came under scrutiny.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lu, who arrived at the riot around 10.11pm, was asked by the committee if his lack of knowledge of how many officers deployed on the ground that night was his failure or that of police operations.

When he arrived at the scene, DAC Lu said there were only eight officers, and they could not tell him how many officers have been deployed on the ground in total. The officers also could only inform him that three or four men were injured, the witness added.


Singapore riots: Police commander under fire for ‘doing nothing’

For roughly half an hour after arriving at the scene of the Little India riot, the police commander overseeing operations to quell the melee chose to keep a distance from the mob, calling for backup, while his men shielded him from projectiles hurled by rioters

Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Lu Yeow Lim’s decision not to move in on the crowd despite being attacked came under fire yesterday, with the Committee of Inquiry (COI) Chairman lambasting him for “(staying) put at a protected place and (doing) nothing”

The lengthy questioning DAC Lu was put through yesterday on how he conducted operations that night continued a scrutiny of police actions since the COI began. Other officers who had taken the stand earlier were grilled on whether rioters were emboldened by the sight of police officers running away from the epicentre of the fracas, among other things.



Little India riot COI: Ground commander questioned over decision to wait for backup

A heated exchange was heard on the ninth day of the hearing by the Little India riot Committee of Inquiry.

A police ground commander was grilled on his decision towait for backup from the Special Operations Command, before engaging the unruly crowd last December. The backup took about half an hour to arrive at the scene.

On December 8, the events unfolded while ground commander Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Lu Yeow Lim and his eight officers waited behind shields for backup to arrive.


DEPT ASST COMMISSIONER AT RIOT: COI HAS BENEFIT OF HINDSIGHT TO CRITICISE POLICE

As the COI into the Little India Riot Continues, Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Lu Yeow Lim was criticised for staying in a safe place and doing nothing for about half an hour while calling for backup.

The criticism comes especially as earlier evidence given by several officers on the ground indicated that the Riot could have prevented if police had taken control of the situation sooner.

However, Lu, who was at the scene from very early on, explained that the COI has the benefit of hindsight and more clear information of the situation on the night. This was no available to police on the ground and they had to act according to the situation.

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Singapore riots: Police commander DAC Lu Yeow Lim under fire for hiding behind 8 police officers and ‘doing nothing’
The Malay Mail Online, 5 Mar 2014
SINGAPORE, March 5 — For roughly half an hour after arriving at the scene of the Little India riot, the police commander overseeing operations to quell the melee chose to keep a distance from the mob, calling for backup, while his men shielded him from projectiles hurled by rioters.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Lu Yeow Lim’s decision not to move in on the crowd despite being attacked came under fire yesterday, with the Committee of Inquiry (COI) Chairman lambasting him for “(staying) put at a protected place and (doing) nothing”.


The lengthy questioning DAC Lu was put through yesterday on how he conducted operations that night continued a scrutiny of police actions since the COI began. Other officers who had taken the stand earlier were grilled on whether rioters were emboldened by the sight of police officers running away from the epicentre of the fracas, among other things. Full story

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Police officers quizzed: Why did you not confront rioters?
Members of the Committee of Inquiry (from left): Mr John De Payva, Chairman G Pannir Selvam and Mr Andrew Chua. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong

Danger was staring them in the face at the height of the Little India riot, with the mob hurling projectiles such as concrete slabs, while some even had a close brush with death — moments after dashing out of an ambulance in which they were taking shelter, it exploded into flames.

A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officer also narrowly escaped being crushed by a bus while he was trying to extricate the body of Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu from underneath it, after a crowd of about 100 to 150 rioters started shoving, causing a hydraulic jack lifting the bus to give way.

Despite such perilous conditions recounted by the police officers during the inquiry yesterday, they did not confront the perpetrators — a decision that drew intense questioning by the four-member committee. At one point, one of the committee members, former Police Commissioner Tee Tua Ba, remarked: “(The rioters) were in control because you allowed them.”


Top cop asked: Why were no warning shots fired?

Deputy Commissioner of Police T. Raja Kumar was grilled by committee members at yesterday's (Feb 21) inquiry into the Little India riot.

Some of the questions raised were: Why did the Special Operations Command (SOC) take almost an hour to arrive after the first call by the first police responders to the riot?

Why did the police officers on the ground take action to stop the rioters instead of waiting for the SOC to arrive? Why were guns not used and why were no warning shots fired to disperse the crowd?

Little India riot: Singapore Police avoided firing to prevent unrest

A top police official of Singapore, handling the country's worst riot in 40 years, has told the committee probing the incident in Little India that he decided not to shoot at the rioters to avoid "inflaming" them.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police Lu Yeow Lim said: "the sentiment would have been inflamed" if the police had fired, shot or killed any of the rioters.

The riot on the night of 8 December, 2013, was sparked by the killing of an Indian national in a bus accident at Singapore's Little India, a precinct of Indian-origin businesses, eateries and pubs where migrant workers from South Asia spend their day off.


Decision to retreat and regroup 'taken after officers assessed risks'

IN A much-discussed video online, six Home Team officers and two auxiliary policemen were seen running out of an ambulance, seemingly fleeing the epicentre of the riot in Little India.

Circumstances leading to this hasty retreat were raised on the third day of the Committee of Inquiry into the Dec 8 riot, with Deputy Commissioner of Police T. Raja Kumar presenting a timeline of the events that night.

He told the inquiry that the decision to retreat was a "considered one" taken by Station Inspector (SI) Muhammad Adil Lawi from the Traffic Police (TP).


Police commander comes under fire for ‘staying put and doing nothing’ during riot
Tanglin Police Division commander Lu Yeow Lim at the Subordinate Courts during the Little India Committee of Inquiry, 04 Mar 2014. Photo: Don Wong

For roughly half an hour after arriving at the scene of the Little India riot, the police commander overseeing operations to quell the melee chose to keep a distance from the mob, calling for backup, while his men shielded him from projectiles hurled by rioters.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Lu Yeow Lim’s decision not to move in on the crowd despite being attacked came under fire yesterday, with the Committee of Inquiry (COI) Chairman lambasting him for “(staying) put at a protected place and (doing) nothing”.

The lengthy questioning DAC Lu was put through yesterday on how he conducted operations that night continued a scrutiny of police actions since the COI began. Other officers who had taken the stand earlier were grilled on whether rioters were emboldened by the sight of police officers running away from the epicentre of the fracas, among other things.


Auxiliary police officers claim slow police response in Little India riot
Police officers who arrived early waited for back-up instead of making arrests, said one auxiliary police officer

Two auxiliary police officers on duty at Little India on Dec 8 claim the delayed response by police officers to control the crowd may have caused the riot to spiral out of control.

They also said many of the rioters were intoxicated.Mr Nathan Chandra Sekaran and Mr Raymond Murugiasu took the stand on the third day of a public hearing by the Committee of Inquiry convened to look into the riot.

The pair were assigned foreign worker management duties at Little India on Dec 8.


The hearings so far

The one-week hearings at the COI so far has not revealed any arrests of the actual rioters who set vehicles on fire, or who threw projectiles at the security personnel and vehicles. When several auxiliary and police officers were asked if they had arrested anyone during the riot, their answer was no, except for one auxiliary policeman who reported that he had arrested four of the rioters and had handed them over to the police. However, he is unsure if the police had taken the four men into custody then.

Most of the arrests so far seem to have been effected after the riot had died down, and most of these arrests – 27 that night – seemed to have been made by the SOC or plainclothes policemen. 25 were initially charged for rioting. 3 have so far pleaded guilty – after their charge of rioting was changed to “failure to disperse.”

No one has yet been found guilty of the charge of rioting thus far.

MORE COVERAGE ON THE LITTLE INDIA COI?

We have had several days of furious reporting on the proceedings and revelations of the Little India riot by the COI. The committee had a field day expressing great admirations to individual bravery and frowning at some acts of ‘cowardice’, not sure if this is an appropriate word to use. And there were suggestions of what would or could be done better.

It was all about how the rioting could not have happened if the accident was properly handled, nipped in the bud by properly trained personnel who somehow failed to do so. There were so many disappointments on how the men in blue handled the incidents. And one striking moot point was the choice of not firing a warning shot that could have made a great difference.

Then the reporting in the media stopped. No more coverage. No more revelations of bravery and shortcomings and misgivings. What happens? No more COI, or is there an adjournment and we would hear more of juicy details later on? I am really looking forward to the interesting revelations and commentaries from the eye witnesses and the experts. And I must say I am not disappointed.


Little India COI: The violence that night, according to the first responders

Certis Cisco officer Nathan, a Tamil-speaking Malaysian, has been patrolling the Little India area on weekends since he joined the security firm in 2010. On Little India patrols, he works between 2pm and 1am on “foreign worker management’’,  and is empowered to issue summons for littering and to disperse loiterers. He said it was a difficult duty to discharge not because the foreign workers would not listen or resisted. Rather, they listened and reverted to whatever they were doing earlier when security officers were out of sight. The huge numbers also meant that one group would be quickly replaced by another. He said he issued just one summons a month and no, he had no orders to go easy on the workers from his superiors.  He had seen just one fight during his patrols.
The action - Mr Nathan and two other “protection officers’’, also Certis Cisco men, were in Northumberland Road when another three-man Cisco squad patrolling Tekka area radioed for help. Why “protection officers’’? They were there to protect Mr Nathan, a Malaysian who is Tamil-speaking and who was armed with baton and a revolver and empowered to issue summons. How the duo are supposed to do this when they themselves were not armed was not raised.
When his team got to Race Course Road where the accident took place, a small crowd had gathered. With three or four foreign workers, the two squads formed a human shield round the bus which was being pelted. It seemed that the temperature climbed quickly, with more foreigners crowding around and some troublemakers at the back instigating the crowd in Tamil to “kill the timekeeper’’ that is, the female conductor. And to “burn the bus’’.

Special Ops commander: I have never witnessed anything on this scale

In his two decades as a police officer, Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) David Scott Arul thought he had seen it all. He had undergone many training sessions which simulated riots.

But the deputy commander of the Special Operations Command (SOC), which is equipped and trained to handle riot situations, said he was shocked when he arrived at the scene of the Little India riot on Dec 8 last year.

DAC Scott Arul, who was in charge of the SOC troops that night, said: “Visually, it was a familiar scene. What was not familiar was the scale of it all. I have never witnessed anything of this scale before.”

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Less than 90 cops left to face rioters, inquiry heard

Policemen from the Special Command Operation (SOC) patrol the streets in Little India

THERE were less than 90 police officers left to face some 150 to 200 active rioters at the height of the Little India riot on Dec 8 last year, the Committee of Inquiry (COI) heard.

State Counsel Sharmila Sripathy presented this evidence, detailing that these 90 officers included those who were previously injured as the violence unfolded.

When asked by the State Counsel if he was aware that there were 90 officers on the ground to deal with the violent mob, Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Jonathan Tang said: “It definitely didn’t feel like there were 90 officers.”

Resign, Please Resign Mr Police Commissioner
The 4 man Commission of Inquiry, includes Justice Selvam and former CP, Tee Tua Bah (the top 2)

In a stunning rebuke, Justice Selvam made DC Rajakumar read out like a student before a teacher, Section 18 of the Miscellaneous Act which deals with drunken behaviour resulting in incapacity - a seizable offence. Pity DC Rajakumar, it should have been CP Ng that needed this dose of public shaming. Justice Selvam chastised the police for turning a blind eye to this problem when numerous reports and complaints about it have been made over a number of years. In his words, 'the police have done nothing!' He suggested that offenders should be warned and repatriated if they continue to flout the law. (This is clearly a point the Govt must seriously consider, there should be zero tolerance for foreigners be they blue or white collar workers, or from whatever class of society or position, who flout and break laws, they should be repatriated and banned from working here for a number of years, if not permanently).

Justice Selvam slammed the police officers for not actively dealing with the initial rioting and instead taking cover and manning exit points. He rightly pointed out that at that juncture only 25 were 'active rioters' whereas there were nearly 100 officers already on the ground. The decision not to engage was made by Tanglin Commander Lu Yeow Lim, it was his judgment, said DC Rajakumar. ' It was poor judgment' remarked the Chairman. It gave the rioters the impression the police were not doing anything and believing they had the freedom to do as they pleased, which they did with an ever increasing number

It doesn't look like hundreds of rioters were attacking this patrol car (one of the first attacked), yet the officers at the scene made no attempt to stop them.
Watching the show of the year. Despite the injuries to police and SCDF officers, and the large destruction of property, these officers were happy to stay put and let the rioters have 'their fun'.

Although eventually found not at fault for the fatal accident, bus driver Lee Kim Huat  (top)and his coordinator, should have been arrested and removed from the scene by the initial officers. This would show the potential rioters that some form of justice was taking place.

POLICE WITNESS AT LITTLE INDIA RIOT: I WAS NOT TRAINED TO HANDLE RIOTS

In the Commission of Inquiry into the Little India Riot, Senior Staff Sergeant Mydeen Sahul Hameed, indicated that many of the rioters were emotional because they felt discriminated and felt that no one respected them.

Mydeen, has been working at the Kampong Java NPC for over 10 years and he was one of the first officers at the scene during the Little India Riot last December. He told the COI that he had tried to calm down the workers who had been gathered around the accident site but many were shouting that the driver had killed their friend and were calling for the police to bring the driver to justice.

He also gave evidence to say that most of the men gathered there had been intoxicated as they slurred their speech while exasperatedly trying to explain that they had been discriminated against in Singapore and that the driver should be arrested.


Policemen in Little India riot COI say "not trained for full-scale riot"

Three police officers who were among the first responders at the scene of the Little India riot told the Committee Of Inquiry (COI) on Wednesday that they were not trained for a full-scale riot.

The three officers -- Special Constable Sergeant Abdul Aziz, Assistant Superintendent of Police Edwin Yong and Special Constable Corporal Arshard Abdul Murad -- said they had only been prepared for "peace time" crowd control. The three police officers were testifying on day six of the COI hearing into the December 8 riot.

Special Constable Sergeant Abdul Aziz said that warning shots were not fired because doing so could have riled up the already aggressive crowd.

related:
Little India Riot COI: Poor communications impeded police from receiving instructions
Assistant Superintendent Jonathan Tang at the Subordinate Courts on Feb 25, 2014. There were less than 90 police officers left to face some 150 to 200 active rioters at the height of the Little India riot on Dec 8 last year, the Committee of Inquiry (COI) heard on Tuesday, Feb 25, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

There were less than 90 police officers left to face some 150 to 200 active rioters at the height of the Little India riot on Dec 8 last year, the Committee of Inquiry (COI) heard on Tuesday. State Counsel Sharmila Sripathy presented this evidence, detailing that these 90 officers included those who were previously injured as the violence unfolded.

When asked by the State Counsel if he was aware that there were 90 officers on the ground to deal with the violent mob, Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Jonathan Tang said: "It definitely didn't feel like there were 90 officers." ASP Tang, who was the first senior police officer at the scene, told the COI that both the Deputy Commander of Central Police Division and Commander of Tanglin Police Division were present at the scene.

However, his commander, Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Lu Yeow Lim from Tanglin Police Division, was in charge of handling the incident. Poor communications on the ground that night posed an issue because both the radio airwaves used by the police and the mobile phone network were jammed. That was why ASP Tang could not contact or receive any instructions from DAC Lu.

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LITTLE INDIA RIOT: LANGUAGE BARRIER BETWEEN OFFICERS AND RIOTER WAS A MAJOR PROBLEM

During the Little India Riot, there were many factors which prevented police from being able to contain the situation properly. While the influence of alcohol has been widely discussed, another major issue that has surfaced was the language barrier present on the night.

Police Officers on scene had ordered the crowd to disperse and go home in English, but many of the foreign workers did not seem to understand as they continued to loiter and walk around the area.

This was explained by Corporal Arshad Abdul Murad at the COI today and was also supported by Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Edwin Yong Wen Wei who said that the initial communication to the foreign workers, just after the fatal accident, could have been improved.

Little India COI: Our Protocol Police
So what light did yesterday’s COI shed on what happened that night? Well, it seems that drinking was only a contributory factor in the violence. Police inaction had to bear some/much of the blame too.

Looks like there is a difference in strategic thinking on what sort of action should or could be taken in such a scenario.

From the way DAC Lu responded (wished he was as feisty with the rioters as he was with the COI…), he seemed to think that COI was out to “get him’’ and had the unfair advantage of video footage and three months’ worth of investigation although he had abided by protocol (Is wearing civvies also protocol I wonder) Also, he seemed to think that everyone with a view should realise that they were NOT there, not in that responsible position of having to make judgment calls that might endanger lives.

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SCDF to improve on some processes after Little India riot

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said that following the Little India riot, it has identified lessons to be learnt from the incident and will put in place measures to improve some of its processes.

This was told to the Committee of Inquiry by two senior SCDF officers who took the stand on day eight of the hearing.

Video shown at the hearing was released to the media for the first time.


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