Saturday, 5 July 2014

COI: What caused the Little India riot?


A Committee of Inquiry (COI) identified three factors contributing to the Little India riot of Dec 8 last year: Misunderstandings about the accident and response; the culture and psychology of the crowd; and alcohol and intoxication.


In preparing its report, released on Monday (June 30), the committee conducted interviews with convicted rioters and foreign workers who had been repatriated following the riot; visited the scene of the riot as well as worker dormitories and congregation areas; solicited submissions of evidence from the public; and conducted a public hearing in open court in February and March this year.

The committee comprises former Supreme Court Judge G Pannier Selvam, ex-Commissioner of Police Tee Tua Ba, NTUC President Emeritus John De Payva and Mr Andrew Chua Thiam Chwee, the Chairman of the West Coast Citizens' Consultative Committee.

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Singapore Riot Exposed Police Weaknesses, Report Finds

A rare riot in Singapore last year exposed some shortcomings in the police's ability to tackle public-order incidents, a state-appointed panel said Monday, after a six-month inquiry into the city-state's worst outburst of public violence in more than 40 years.

The Dec. 8 riot—staged by hundreds of South Asian migrant workers angered by a fatal road accident—blotted Singapore's image as one of Asia's safest countries. The riot stoked public concern about the sustainability of the island state's heavy reliance on overseas labor. It also prompted officials to launch an inquiry into what caused the violence and how it was handled.

In a 75-page report, a committee of inquiry said it found that the Singapore Police Force had responded to the riot "relatively swiftly and efficiently," but also committed "several lapses" in how it dealt with the violence, which took place in the city-state's ethnic Indian district.


Alcohol, police lapses at fault in Singapore's Little India riot - inquiry

A fatal bus accident and alcohol, not foreign workers' living conditions, were to blame for Singapore's first major riot in 40 years, according to the report of an inquiry into the incident released on Monday.

Some 400 migrant workers went on the rampage in the Little India district one Sunday evening last December, setting fire to cars and clashing with police after a construction worker was knocked down and killed by a bus.

It was the worst social unrest in Singapore since the 1960s and shocked many in the Southeast Asian island nation, which has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and cracks down quickly on signs of public disorder.


Little India Riots Inquiry Revelations

The probe into last December's riots in Singapore, the worst in 40 years, today cited alcohol as the "major contributory factor" that triggered the unrest. The riot on the night of December 8 in Singapore's Little India precinct was sparked by the death of an Indian national in a bus accident and saw violent reaction from a crowd of some 400 migrant workers from South Asia. It left 54 police and defence officers injured and 23 emergency vehicles damaged.

Citing alcoholism as one of the causes of the riot, the Committee of Inquiry (COI) recommended strict enforcement of rules against public drunkenness and called for alcohol restrictions in hotspots where large crowds typically indulge in heavy drinking, and therefore which are more susceptible to trigger events that could spark a breakdown of public order according to the Press Trust of India. The report by the COI said, “Nearly every foreign worker who the COI spoke to testified emphatically that they were happy with their jobs and living quarters in Singapore and condemned the riot.”

The report also revealed lapses in the police reactions which mean that the authority needs to be transferred to on the sight officers and the police department needs delayering. “A well-trained and adequately resourced police force will help Singapore maintain the safety and stability which we all enjoy today,” it said. The government is expected to respond to the report’s recommendations in the Parliament next week.


‘Alcohol behind riots in Singapore’

The probe into last December's riots in Singapore, the worst in 40 years, today cited alcohol as the "major contributory factor" that triggered the unrest. The riot on the night of December 8 in Singapore's Little India precinct was sparked by the death of an Indian national in a bus accident and saw violent reaction from a crowd of some 400 migrant workers from South Asia.

It left 54 police and defence officers injured and 23 emergency vehicles damaged.

Citing alcoholism as one of the causes of the riot, the Committee of Inquiry (COI) recommended strict enforcement of rules against public drunkenness and called for alcohol restrictions in hotspots where large crowds typically indulge in heavy drinking, and therefore which are more susceptible to trigger events that could spark a breakdown of public order.


COI criticises police decision to not act against rioters

The decision by police officers to hold their position instead of acting against rioters pending the arrival of the Special Operations Command (SOC) during the Little India riot on Dec 8 was criticised by the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the incident.

In its report, it praised the initial response of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the police officers who first responded to the scene and extricated the body of the traffic accident victim and evacuated the timekeeper and bus driver. However, it found lapses in police action in what it called the second phase of the riot, when rioters began pelting SCDF and police vehicles with projectiles.

When the police decided to hold their position, this could “have been perceived by the rioters as inaction, which could have encouraged and emboldened them to carry out more egregious acts”. They also did not make arrests until after the SOC had arrived. “In the interim, however ... the rioters were likely to have been emboldened each time they caused damage to property and faced no immediate consequence,” the COI said.

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Main spark of Little India riot was accident: Inquiry panel
Riot in Little India on Dec 8, 2013. TODAY file photo

After a six-month inquest into the Little India riot, the Committee of Inquiry (COI) has determined that the incident was triggered by a fatal traffic accident and escalated into a full-blown riot by three factors: An alcohol-fuelled crowd, a misperception that the responders were trying to protect the bus driver and timekeeper instead of attending to the victim, and that the rioters desired “street justice” that is prevalent in their own cultures.

The 76-page report by the COI, which interviewed more than 300 witnesses and held a public inquiry, was submitted to Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean last Friday. It was released to the public yesterday.

Apart from determining what caused the riot, the four-member committee chaired by former Supreme Court Judge G Pannir Selvam also concluded what did not: “Based on the evidence gathered, the COI does not think that the riot was a result of dissatisfaction among foreign workers with their employment and living conditions in Singapore.”

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Better response protocol, communications needed: Little India COI

The Singapore Police Force should look into cutting red-tape for activation protocols, better training for frontline officers to deal with riots and improving their overall communication strategies, the Committee of Inquiry into the Little India riot of Dec 8, 2013, said on Monday (June 30).

Likewise, there is a need to make more services and amenities available to foreign workers beyond their main congregation areas, such as Little India, and preferably at their dorms.

There is a need to cut the layers of approval or time needed to activate emergency response teams, the committee said, as this was a factor that slowed down the arrival of the Special Operations Command (SOC) at the scene of the riot.


Working conditions not behind Little India riot

The Committee of Inquiry (COI) into last year's Little India riot believes there is "room for improvement" in the treatment of foreign workers here, even though it says that migrant workers' employment and living conditions were not the cause of Dec 8's unrest.

On the contrary, the COI report - released yesterday, six-and-a-half months after the committee was appointed - asserted that the triggering cause of the riot was the fatal accident which killed 33-year-old construction worker Sakthivel Kumaravelu.

It added that three other "contributory factors" fuelled the escalation of the riot: misperceptions about the accident and the intentions of the first officers who responded; some rioters' wish for "street-justice" and a desire to defy law enforcers; and alcohol intoxication. It found that the police response was effective on the whole, but suffered from several lapses

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Anti-drunkenness measures should target hotspots, Little India COI recommends

With alcohol deemed a "major contributory factor" to the Little India riot of Dec 8 last year, the Committee of Inquiry has supported stricter enforcement against public drunkenness, and the possibility of restricting consumption of alcohol at "hotspots" - defined as areas where large crowds typically indulge in heavy drinking.

"The COI does not think that the riot merits an island-wide ban on public consumption," the committee said in its report released on Monday (June 30).

The COI said more vigilant enforcement against public drunkenness in hotspots would help mitigate against the effects of excessive drinking, and in so doing reduce the possibility of a threat to public order. It would also deter individuals from becoming a public nuisance due to excessive drinking, such as by falling asleep in public areas or causing disturbances.

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COI findings on Little India riot resonate with Migrant Workers' Centre

Some parts of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) report on the Little India riot resonate with the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC).

A statement from the centre on Monday, (June 30) says this is particularly so for the findings on the well-being and congregation of migrant workers. The COI recommends that more services and amenities be made available for migrant workers beyond congregation areas such as Little India, and preferably at foreign worker dorms. The centre says it has long advocated for improved welfare and better protection of migrant workers.

It has been pushing for the introduction of among others things - electronic payment of salaries to act as clear proof of monthly payment, and standard employment contract terms to prevent the insertion of discriminatory clauses.


Tougher enforcement against public drunkenness needed: COI

Apart from restricting alcohol consumption in hot spots where large crowds indulge in heavy drinking, the authorities should enforce more strictly the rules against public drunkenness in these areas, the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Little India riot said in its report.

More vigilant enforcement in hot spots would help to mitigate the effects of excessive drinking and the threat to public order, and would also deter individuals from drinking excessively to the point of causing a nuisance for others, the committee said.

The COI said it understood the manpower difficulties that the police face in stepping up enforcement, and suggested using less-manpower-intensive methods. These include publicising the offence and its consequences more widely as a deterrent and using scientific criteria to define the threshold for excessive alcohol consumption.



A lookback at the Little India riot

Channel NewsAsia takes a lookback to the riot in Little India -- the first riot in Singapore in 40 years -- ahead of the report by the Committee of Inquiry on the riot.

The riot started at the junction of Hampshire and Race Course Road -- a fatal accident involving Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu led to the first riot in Singapore in 40 years.

It was on December 8, 2013, just after 9.20pm. Agitated by the turn of events, crowds started smashing the windscreen of the bus, torching and over-turning police vehicles, as well as an ambulance. They also threw bricks and projectiles at first responders.


Alcohol Behind Last December Riots

The riot on the night of December 8 in Singapore's Little India precinct was sparked by the death of an Indian national in a bus accident and saw violent reaction from a crowd of some 400 migrant workers from South Asia. It left 54 police and defence officers injured and 23 emergency vehicles damaged.

Citing alcoholism as one of the causes of the riot, the Committee of Inquiry (COI) recommended strict enforcement of rules against public drunkenness and called for alcohol restrictions in hotspots where large crowds typically indulge in heavy drinking, and therefore which are more susceptible to trigger events that could spark a breakdown of public order.

Dissatisfaction among foreign workers with their jobs and living conditions in Singapore was not a cause of the riot, said COI in its report released today.


Cut bureaucratic layers, increase police manpower: Little India COI recommends
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

Cut time needed to activate essential resources when responding to public order incidents and increase the Singapore Police Force’s manpower.

Those were among the eight recommendations made by the Committee of Inquiry in its report released on Monday on the Little India riot in December last year that was the worst incident of public unrest in Singapore in 40 years.

The committee also recommended stricter enforcement against public drunkenness and the placing of alcohol restrictions in hotspots.


Alcohol behind Singapore's Little India riots: Committee of Inquiry

Citing alcoholism as one of the causes of the riot, the Committee of Inquiry (COI) recommended strict enforcement of rules against public drunkenness and called for alcohol restrictions in hotspots where large crowds typically indulge in heavy drinking, and therefore which are more susceptible to trigger events that could spark a breakdown of public order.

Dissatisfaction among foreign workers with their jobs and living conditions in Singapore was not a cause of the riot, said COI in its report released today. But there were other causes for the riot, it said.

It was misunderstandings about the accident and response; the culture and psychology of the crowd in addition to alcohol and intoxication.


Inquiry reveals alcohol, police lapses at fault in Singapore’s Little India riot
A view from a high-rise flat showing two overturned police cars and several other damaged vehicles along Race Course Road following a riot near Singapore's Little India district on Dec 9, 2013. — Reuters pic

A fatal bus accident and alcohol, not foreign workers’ living conditions, were to blame for Singapore’s first major riot in 40 years, according to the report of an inquiry into the incident released today.

Some 400 migrant workers went on the rampage in the Little India district one Sunday evening last December, setting fire to cars and clashing with police after a construction worker was knocked down and killed by a bus.

It was the worst social unrest in Singapore since the 1960s and shocked many in the Southeast Asian island nation, which has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and cracks down quickly on signs of public disorder.


Singapore inquiry finds several police "lapses" in Litte India riot
THE Committee of Inquiry (COI) into last year's Little India Riot has found "several lapses" in police actions on the night of Dec 8, but stressed that overall, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) responded to the riot "relatively swiftly and efficiently". - SPH

THE Committee of Inquiry (COI) into last year's Little India Riot has found "several lapses" in police actions on the night of Dec 8, but stressed that overall, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) responded to the riot "relatively swiftly and efficiently".

The COI report, released on Monday, said that the primary cause of the riot was the fatal accident which killed 33-year-old construction worker Sakthivel Kumaravelu - which in turn triggered an emotional outburst.

But apart from the traffic accident, the COI said there were three other "contributory factors" which fuelled the escalation of the riot: misperceptions about the accident and officers' responses; some rioters' desire for "street-justice"; and alcohol intoxication.