Saturday, 14 December 2013

Lessons From The Little India Riot

Learning the right lessons from the Little India riot

Flowers were laid on road curbs along Race Course Road, near where the riot happened on Sunday, a day later - ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Singapore, its government and its people, should not see this purely as a law and order problem. It should not be just a case of find the culprit, mete out the sentences and then the punished would not dare do it again. I am hoping, and it is more important, that we learn the right lessons from this episode.

If a majority of Singaporeans are reasonable fair-minded people, then I would urge every single one of us to rebuke, rebut or ignore the nasty xenophobes among us. This is the time to take a stand against ugly values that sow dissension.

Finally, I find the on-line xenophobic comments targeting foreign workers offensive. My TWC2 colleagues and I believe that generally foreign workers do not face xenophobia here. They very rarely complained about xenophobic treatment. On the contrary, they find Singaporeans generally treat them reasonably.

related: Little India riot: Responsibility is a two-way street

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Lessons From The Riot @ Race Course Road

We should continue to live our life normally. This incident should not be allowed to undermine our confidence in the authorities and society We should not allow negative incidents to affect us negatively.

This riot makes me more desirous of peace and being a peace-maker. Without such a commitment, there can be no peace in and around my life. Every one of us can do our part and do more to strengthen Singapore.

It is my hope that how we respond to this incident will be held up as a model to the world.

Singapore Little India Riot 2013 – What lessons for our children?

riots2 Singapore Little India Riot 2013   What lessons for our children?
Vehicles overturned and on fire during the Little India Riot. Photo source:

Is it about migrant workers? Perhaps. The way we treat the men and women who come from poorer nations to make ours even more prosperous is bordering on shameful. By and large, they are treated as second-class citizens and this is widely accepted as being the norm. A minister speaking to the press said it was not about us and them. But I’m afraid that might be exactly how many see it.

Is it about law and order? Most definitely. Saakthivel Kumaravelu was killed. Property was damaged. People were hurt. 27 have been arrested. 24 from India, 2 from Bangladesh and 1 Singapore PR. This illegal behaviour should be prosecuted, regardless of the reasons or the perpetrators.

Is it about the dangers of Little India? Perhaps we are developing ghettos in Singapore after all. Most Singaporeans don’t go to Little India on Sunday or late at night because they perceive it to be unsafe. Perhaps there are other little corners of Singapore that are developing a bit of a seedy reputation too?

Little India riot and the PAP Convention

The riot in Little India is a reminder that not all is well in the Republic of Singapore. The comments made at the PAP convention by Minister Chan Chun Sing about learning from the 1960s generation of PAP pioneers is not helpful and exposes a lack of vision, imagination and new ideas. I recall that in the 1980s the second generation PAP leaders tried to prove their mettle by deploying the Internal Security Act on a group of Church workers. The riot and the minister’s comments show that there is social tension on the one hand and an inflexible, unyielding government on the other. That is a real worry.

The biggest mistake the PAP has made and continues to make is its failure to respect Singaporeans as ethically-free agents.

But the PAP is sensitive to electoral losses. This is evident in their responses to losses in the percentage of popular votes since the eighties and in its consequent attempts to open up channels of communications. The Singapore Conversation, for instance is the most unprecedented degree of consultation in the process of policy-making.

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Singapore government cries foul over NYT editorial on 'Singapore's angry migrant foreign workers'
Yahoo! News Singapore, 14 Jan 2014
Singapore has released a strongly worded statement to the New York Times over an editorial it published last month entitled "Singapore's angry migrant foreign workers".

The statement, which was undersigned by Singapore ambassador to the United States, Ashok Mirpuri, took issue with the editorial which claimed December's Little India riot was caused by the frustration of migrant workers in Singapore over wages and living conditions.Full story

Related: Singapore’s Angry Migrant Workers - The New York Times

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Working Towards Peace And Unity After Yesterday’s Riots

It is unfortunate that the riot – the first in 44 years – occurred in Singapore yesterday. For many Singaporeans, the riot took some by surprise, used to the restrained and subdued environment. Indeed, the riot is not a small matter – a foreign worker of South Asian descent was fatally knocked down by a bus, which triggered an outrage to the sense of grievance of those who had witnessed it

This is a challenging episode, not only for Singaporeans, but for our foreign friends as well. The actions of some cannot be seen as representative for the actions of all, as Singaporeans and foreigners alike have expressed concern for the fervour of the actions

For the people who live in the area and were at the venue where the incident took place, their safety is of utmost importance and it is a relief that the incident did not take a more malevolent turn.

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Little India Riot – Singaporeans, are we really listening?

We Singaporeans need to stop seeing ourselves as the more ‘civilised’ cousins of the rest of South Asia. Just because our country boasts of a world-leading education system doesn’t mean we’re more educated in the basic lessons of “How not to be an asshole and be a good human being.”

Today, as we grief for Mr Kumaravelu, let us also grief for the great human values of equality, respect and love that we’ve forgotten.

Since we’ve always talked about Singapore standing together as one, let us truly walk the talk, and stand as one strong race – the human race.

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First a labor strike, now a full blown riot

Incidents like this are rare in Singapore, which has tough laws on rioting that carry a sentence of up to seven years in prison and possible caning.

"This is a serious incident which has resulted in injuries and damage to public property," said Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs. "Police will spare no efforts to apprehend the subjects involved in the riot."

The breakout is likely to fuel concerns about discontent among low-paid foreign workers. Last year Singapore saw its biggest outbreak of labour unrest in years when around 170 bus drivers from mainland China went on strike illegally.

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The Little India riot – another view 

Very clearly, after the Chinese bus drivers’ illegal strike last year, a first after many decades, Singapore has been saddled with another first, this time instigated by Indian foreign workers. Clearly, this was not an economic or communal issue but where anger and rage from the friends of the accident victim broke out into a major law and order problem. Naturally, Singaporeans are unhappy with the behaviour of the Indian rioters as it challenged the mores and norms Singaporeans have lived for so long especially in terms of not only respecting the Republic’s laws but also holding the police and other security agencies in high respect. These Singaporean beliefs and practices were violated and to some extent shattered by the ‘Little India’ riot.

Rioting behaviour is highly unacceptable and the perpetrators should be punished to deter future riots.

Still, the incident should be kept in perspective. With so many foreign workers in the Republic (almost a third of the labour force) and for so long, the riot was something new but still a minor blot, compared to the massive contributions foreign workers have brought to Singapore and Singaporeans. By and large, almost all foreign workers are law-abiding. Still, how a bus accident broke out into a riot is something that needs further investigation. Is there something Singaporeans and especially the security agencies can learn from the incident to better prepare themselves for similar challenges in future? While xenophobia is not the answer and the culprits should be punished, at the same time, learning the right lessons to be better prepared for similar challenges would probably be the main blessing of the 2013 ‘Little India’ riots

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Bus Strike to riot

“We shouldn’t assume that the kind of issues that the local population faces, like the cost of living, would not affect the foreign worker population,” said Leong Chan-Hoong, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies in Singapore. “Most of them will get a very decent wage but a very small minority may not and maybe this is the minority group that happened to be there at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

As part of its effort to reduce imported labor, the government said in February that companies must pay higher levies for lower-skilled foreign employees over the next two years and cut the proportion of overseas workers in some industries. In 2012, the National Wages Council recommended raising the pay of low-wage Singaporean workers as their income growth had lagged the rest of the workforce for the past decade.

In November last year, Singapore authorities charged four Chinese nationals over their involvement in an illegal strike that led to a disruption in some bus services, an unusual public display of labor discord. Singapore is currently hosting ministers from 12 nations such as the U.S. and Australia for the final round of talks this year on the Trans - Pacific Partnership trade accord.

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Call for calm and warned against stoking racial hatred

Sunday’s riot was the second incident involving a large group of foreign workers in the past year

In November 2012 171 Chinese bus drivers stopped work to demand better wages and living conditions ­— the first industrial strike in Singapore since 1986

Five of the drivers served jail terms after it was declared an illegal strike, while 29 others were deported without trial.

In wake of the riot, what now of the Population White Paper?

Singapore must now confront its foreign worker dilemma. (AFP News)
Singapore must now confront its foreign worker dilemma. (AFP News)

Any hope the Government still harboured 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.

Housing foreign workers offshore not the way to go
Thousands questioned in widening crackdown
Riot forces soul-searching in wealthy Singapore
24 charged for rioting
VIDEO: Foreign workers 'sad' over riot
VIDEO: Little India residents in shock

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The govt is asking: What is the cause of this riot?

My view is that anyone who has a little brain and asking this question does not deserve an answer. You don’t need a super talent to know the answer. You don’t need to start an inquiry to know the answer. When you do that, it is an indication that you do not want to know the truth, you do not want to know the answer.

We have something like half a million foreign workers here. And one can agree that many of them are decent workers out here to do a decent job, to earn a decent living to feed their family. But with half a million, you only need to have 1% that is unhappy for whatever reasons, you can stare into a horde of 5 thousand potential rioters. This is a big number game, big data.

Let’s not kid ourselves that you can’t find 1% that will be trouble makers for the right or wrong reasons. And given the conditions and terms of their employment, many of them, maybe 50% or more would have problems and grudges and difficulties earning a decent living because of exploitations. And who is the biggest beneficiary to this scam? No prizes for guessing. And when they gathered together in tens of thousands or a hundred thousand, you think every will be peaceful forever, no trouble will come from these nice people? Are you born yesterday?

After the riot, what’s next?
TRE scores on live reporting of the riot
Rioting in Little India

Little India riot: An “accident waiting to happen”?

I refer to the articles “Little India Riot: 27 nabbed; More expected to be arrested in ‘hours and days that follow’” and “27 suspects from South Asia arrested in connection with the Little India riot“ (Straits Times, Dec 9)

The latter article states that “no Singaporean was believed to have been involved in the riot, adding that destruction of property and fighting the police is not the Singapore way” and the former said “Whatever events may have sparked the rioting, there is no excuse for such violent, destructive, and criminal behaviour.

The incident came as a surprise to many, because not since the racial riots in Singapore in 1964, have the police been activated to respond to such unrest. Said 19-year-old polytechnic student Jovial Ng who lives on Buffalo Road: “We studied about the Maria Hertogh riots in social studies but we never expected to witness anything like this in real life.”

On a Little Street in Singapore
SPP’s statement on riot at Little India
The love-hate relationship
Riot in Little India over fatal accident of Indian national
SPF comments on riot at Little India

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Singapore’s 'Little India' riots: "Tensions had long been brewing"

“There have been tensions between migrant workers and bus drivers who ferry them to Little India every Sunday”

Several hundred foreign workers faced off with the police on Sunday in Little India, a largely South Asian neighbourhood, after a young Bangladeshi man was hit and killed by a bus. The country’s transport minister says alcohol may have been a factor in the riots, but our Observer, who studies Singapore’s South Indian community, believes the violence stems from underlying tensions between migrant workers and locals

Twenty-seven people, all of South Asian origin, were arrested during the riots. According to the authorities, 22 police officers were injured

Singapore, which is the third-richest country in the world according to Forbes, is home to 1.3 million migrant workers. The country’s population is 5.3 million.

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Why Little India riot won’t be the last one

In my research and development of a project under the theme of Tolerance and Conflict Resolution, I had been tracking the trend of major incidences that had shaken Singapore’s fragile social structure from the years Singapore was known as a state till today and my observations showed that there was a lot to be worried about. In other words, it was just a matter of time before something as huge a scale as the riot or bigger, would happen.

In fact, I don’t think the Little India riot is the last that we will see in the coming years to come.

If structured programmes focused on encouraging understanding between faiths and cultures and integration are not implemented and institutionalized, I’m afraid that Singapore will be heading for disaster, not only politically but also economically and socially. The problems in Singapore are deep rooted and have almost always been swept under the rug, the policies implemented do not reflect the social needs of society but only serve to improve economical needs of the country.

A Letter To Singapore Ministers in light of Little India riots
Little India and Alcohol Consumption

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Lee orders review of Singapore migrant areas

Singapore Little India riot

Singapore’s government is engaged in a delicate balancing act between remaining open to foreign labour to help maintain economic growth amid a falling birth rate, while remaining sensitive to Singaporeans’ worries over overcrowding and competition for housing.

The unrest came only hours after the ruling People’s Action party wrapped up a one-day annual political convention at which Mr Lee, PAP leader, urged the party to “always keep Singapore a home where all races can live in peace and harmony”.

The city-state has long prided itself in maintaining harmony between its majority Chinese and minority Malay, Indian and Tamil populations. Of Singapore’s 5.3m people, 1.3m are non-residents and just under half of those are migrant workers from India, Bangladesh and mainland China.


In an effort to stem online speculations Shanmugam has come out to say that there is “no evidence” to suggest that the rioter were unhappy with their employers or the government.

He was addressing some comments and the popular speculation that the workers involved in the riot had acted as a way of venting their frustrations at their exploitation.

Despite his denial that this is the case, Shanmugam has at least acknowledged that most Sinagporeans want the migrant workers to be treated in a humane way.

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Singapore riots put spotlight on tensions with migrant workers

Singapore riots: Conditions and pay are poor for booming Singapore's migrant workers, who make up about one-quarter of the overall workforce. The Singapore riots were sparked by the death of an Indian guest worker

Its modest size notwithstanding, the riot carried heavy implications for Singapore’s social cohesion, throwing in sharp relief the simmering tensions between ethnic Singaporeans and many thousands of migrant workers who form the backbone of the economy. Singapore’s economic boom over the past two decades swelled the ranks of low-paid, transient wage earners, whose numbers soared from 10 percent of the total workforce in 1990 to about 25 percent today, The Associated Press reports.

For some of Singapore’s long-time residents, the violence carried distant echoes of a racially charged riot that shook Singapore for seven days almost 45 years ago, in 1969, when clashes between the ethnic Chinese majority and Malay minority left at least four people dead and 80 injured.

The current riot was “a new thing, that’s definitely a watershed of a kind,” Bilveer Singh, an associate professor at National University of Singapore’s department of political science, told Bloomberg. “At a broad, strategic level, it is something new after a long time.”

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Riot Exposes Dark Side of Singapore's Boom

From all appearances, Singapore seems to have dealt with the nation’s first riot since 1969 with its usual efficiency. The streets of Little India -- where an Indian migrant worker was killed by a bus on Sunday night, sparking two hours of mayhem -- have been cleared of debris. The government has called for a commission to investigate the incident, and has charged 24 Indian nationals with rioting. Officials have banned the sale of alcohol in the area this weekend. Citizens have been instructed to remain calm.

Up to this point, official have resisted linking the outbreak of violence to the alienation and poor working conditions of the migrant workers who gather in Little India on Sundays — their one day off, if they're lucky. There’s nothing wrong with this logic: the several dozen rioters who attacked police and first responders on Sunday night work for different employers, all of whom may be perfectly upstanding businessmen. The rush to find deeper sociological explanations for acts of disorder -- think of the London riots in 2011 -- is often misguided.

All this is true -- yet so is the fact that the hundreds of thousands of low-wage migrant workers who have laid the foundations for Singapore’s spectacular growth suffer all the same problems in the proudly efficient city-state as do their compatriots in much poorer, more chaotic nations. Middlemen charge huge fees to procure jobs and work permits. Bosses often delay or even withhold pay, knowing they can always get workers deported. Laborers are often housed in grim conditions, with dozens of men crammed into tiny, lightless rooms and sharing a single bathroom.

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Singapore Riot Signals Foreign-Labor Strains

A rare riot here, staged by hundreds of workers from South Asia, is reviving public concern about the socioeconomic impact and sustainability of Singapore's heavy reliance on overseas labor

Sunday's incident in Singapore's Little India district—a popular weekend hangout for South Asian expatriates and migrant workers—ended a riot-free period extending more than four decades and has blotted the city-state's image as one of Asia's safest countries. Analysts and labor activists say the unrest points to a growing challenge for policy makers trying to maintain social cohesion and curb antiforeigner sentiment amid festering tensions among its large migrant workforce

Police and eyewitnesses say the riot started at about 9:30 p.m. after a bus hit and killed a 33-year-old Indian man. South Asian workers at the scene reacted by attacking the bus with sticks, stones and garbage bins, and later assaulted arriving police officers and paramedics, TV footage showed

The violence was quelled by 11 p.m. by about 300 police officers—but not before injuries were inflicted on at least 39 law-enforcement and emergency-services personnel, as well as the driver and conductor aboard the bus in the accident. Dozens of police, emergency-services and privately owned vehicles were damaged, including five vehicles that were burnt.

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Disgruntled Singaporeans vent anger online

Firemen douse a burnt vehicle after the riot. — AFP pic
The riot in Little India on Sunday night has sparked anger and frustration among netizens in Singapore

Many have taken to social networking sites and news portals to vent their feelings towards the situation, pointing the finger at the rising foreign workforce.

They called for the government to review its foreign talent policy, saying Singaporean citizens would become the minority if the government continued to import cheap labour from abroad.

User Mohd Razi wrote on Facebook: “Singaporeans must stand united as this is our homeland and we must strive to protect it at any cost.”

Rioters in Singapore attacked crash rescuers
Rare riot shocks Singapore
Accident triggers foreign worker riot in Singapore
Angry mob riots at Little India in Singapore

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A Look At Demographic Change in Singapore

A rare riot on Sunday night in the central part of Singapore known as Little India is stoking public debate about migration and demographics at a time when many native-born Singaporeans are concerned about an increasing number of immigrants.

Triggered by the death of a 33-year-old Indian man hit by a bus in Little India, hundreds of foreign workers went on a rampage, damaging several vehicles and shop property before police moved in and quelled the violence. On Tuesday police charged 24 Indian nationals for their alleged involvement in the riot and remanded them into one week’s police custody during further investigation.

At the heart of the integration debate now being raised is the city state’s increasing reliance on workers from overseas.

Riot May Take Toll on Job Opportunities

Riots which broke out following the fatal accident of an Indian citizen employed in Singapore may take a toll on the job opportunities of the people of other ethnic groups especially Tamils who have dreams of going there as unskilled labourers.

Kumaravelu, hailing from Pudukottai, slipped to death from a private bus around 9.30 pm local time on Dec 8 at Race Course Road and Hampshire Road in Little India in Singapore. The incident sparked violence, according to official sources.

As many as 39 police and civil defence personnel were injured, and 25 vehicles including 16 police cars were damaged when a 400-member mob went on a rampage beginning from the private bus which caused the accident. Subsequently, 27 persons including two Bangladeshi nationals, a Singapore Permanent Resident and 25 Indian nationals mostly from the State were arrested.  Of the 27, an Indian and two others were released after preliminary investigations revealed that they were not part of the riots.

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Singapore riot ignites burning class issues

Every Sunday as evening falls, tens of thousands of foreign-born transient workers from southern India and Bangladesh gather on the sidewalks and open fields of this city’s ethnic Indian neighborhood. For most, it is their one day off from the construction site or other job location, their one night out to eat, drink, and socialise with friends.

Low-paid migrant workers toil amid the seemingly incompatible demands of class-conscious Singaporeans, who don’t want to perform the dirty and sometimes dangerous manual labor involved in building the physical infrastructure underlying the island-nation’s economic miracle, but who simultaneously worry about the presence of too many guest workers living in their midst and clogging up sidewalks, trains and buses.

On Sunday night, after a 33-year-old Indian national in Little India was struck by a private-hire bus and killed, emotions and resentments exploded into what would become the first major riot in Singapore for more than 40 years. Some 400 people joined the spontaneous revolt, and when it was over, the angry mob had overturned police cars and other vehicles that burst into flames, smashed the windshield of the bus involved in the accident, and violently charged police and rescuers.

Police cars set on fire in Singapore riot
Singapore PM sounds warning after riot

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Rare Singapore riot forces soul searching over foreign workers

Singapore's first major riot in four decades is forcing the wealthy island to confront a stubborn but vexing question: how to treat low-paid foreign workers whose muscle underpins much of the economy but whose presence increasingly riles its citizens.

Images of rioters overturning police cars, throwing garbage bins and burning an ambulance in Singapore's Little India on Sunday night shocked the orderly Southeast Asian nation and stirred debate over whether foreign workers should be better integrated or see their numbers reduced

"This is just a tip of the iceberg," said Gayathiri, 30, an engineer who lives near the scene of the riots and goes by one name. "I hope the government will take it as a wake-up call. We need foreigners to boost our economy, but not at the expense of our security," she added, echoing a widely held sentiment.

Singapore riot: 24 arrested Indians brought to court
In wake of Spore riot, alcohol sale, consumption banned as 24 Indians face court

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Little India riot a matter of serious consequences

Riot policemen watch burning vehicles during a riot in Singapore's Little India district, late December 8, 2013. A crowd set fire to vehicles and clashed with police in the Indian district of Singapore late on Sunday, in a rare outbreak of rioting in the city state. Television footage showed a crowd of people smashing the windscreen of a bus, and at least three police cars being flipped over. The Singapore Police Force said the riot started after a fatal traffic accident in the Little India area. REUTERS/Dennis Thong/Lianhe Zaobao (SINGAPORE - Tags: CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. SINGAPORE OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SINGAPORE

The “riot” in Little India on Sunday night has far-reaching consequences for Singapore. It goes to the very heart of how we build, literally, this home of ours and its economic progress

Our dependence on foreigners has become legendary, with some 40 per cent – 2 million - of our population being non-local. The rapid increase in this number had led to extreme strain not only on physical infrastructure but also on public services. But more importantly, the more serious consequence has always been the social tension between Singaporeans and foreigners.

With the influx, the discomfort between the two groups have heightened in recent times, even as the government sought to alleviate this with various measures, including “sharpening” the distinction in state welfare, and in integration efforts.

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Singapore's Little India Riot A Shock, But Not A Total Surprise

For the first time in decades, a riot broke out in central Singapore on Sunday night, bringing to light simmering discontent among the island nation’s migrant community.

An angry crowd of South Asians turned violent after a bus ran over and killed an Indian worker as he was crossing the road in Singapore’s Little India — a vibrant cultural district of shops and restaurants that serves as a hub for the hundreds of thousands of Indians working in Singapore - at about 9:30 in the evening.

Video from the incident shows men yelling in Tamil as they set upon the bus, even as the body remained pinned under the vehicle. One man smashed the front windscreen with a pole while another repeatedly struck it with a garbage can.

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Rethinking the Little India riot


To be honest, I was less horrified watching videos of the Little India riot than I was reading the online reactions of some Singaporeans. Singaporeans blamed the government for not keeping country safe and for their lax immigration laws, they accused the response teams of cowardice and some even dared to attribute the violence to the nationality of the foreign workers. Government officials promised justice and to provide specific areas for drinking within Little India

How did we become a society whose first unthinking reaction is to point fingers? The lack of compassion displayed online makes me despair for the future of our country and people.

The government does its part to keep Singapore safe. In fact, Singapore has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Doing any more than this would require copious amounts of surveillance and would most likely violate human rights. Blaming the government for the riot is akin to blaming a parent for their 30-year-old son/daughter committing murder, assuming, of course, that at age 30, he/she has a fully functioning mind.

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One Little Riot Opens Pandora’s Box to Many Big Issues

So much has been said about the Little India riot with blame implied by our Govt and unsubtly pinned on the supposed drunken fury of the workers. At this stage, the causes of the riot have not been officially defined nor has it been proven that the rioting was due to drunken states. Yes, the workers were wrong to have rioted but has our Govt ever considered that they are ultimately responsible in a way for failing to consider the infrastructural and sociology-psychological impact and consequences of shipping in 300,000 foreign construction workers onto a tiny island (just 710 sq m in size) to work in hard laborious jobs?

When you have such a large number of lowly paid and over worked transient workers here, you must plan for them as human beings and not as mere digits to fulfill an economical need. Did the government work to ensure that their well-being and welfare is taken care of? Are these poor and powerless workers housed in decent lodgings, fed decent food, and given enough time to rest?

Did our government plan for sufficient recreational outlets and facilities to cater to the workers’ interests and different needs? (sitting around and walking around Little India every single weekend as the main form of recreation can get frustrating even for a local so let’s get real here and view all the workers of different nationalities as people with genuine needs and feelings).

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Racial riot? Really?

London’s Financial Times headlined its online story “Riot tarnishes Singapore’s image as place of ethnic harmony”. A Forbes Asia blog claimed that the incident “highlights ongoing tensions between the ethnic groups that call Singapore home”. Al Jazeera did not go that far, but hinted at it by presenting data on Singapore’s ethnic mix. And a reporter with a leading global news broadcaster prefaced her request for an interview with me by referring to “racial riots”.

The instinct of some foreign media to frame the Little India Riot as race-related may reveal more about their own prejudices than about the reality of what happened on Sunday evening. It is of course true that ethnic minorities here occasionally face subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination, but it would be a stretch to assume that the riot had much to do with that. The existence of racism doesn’t mean that the racial lens is always the right one through which to view events.

If the riot reveals any deeper divisions and most reasonable Singaporeans know that it does – those divisions are probably ones of nationality and class, not race. Not that this would be a less serious social ill; but it is important to get the diagnosis right if we are to treat it effectively.

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What really caused the Little India riot?

While it is clear that this fatal accident was what sparked the protest, we can also reflect to see why such an incident could cause such a huge reaction

If everyone was happy with their lives and there was not much stress, an accident such as this would usually result in a few police and an ambulance being called, followed by friends and family of the victim going to the hospital or otherwise mourning and helping authorities take down statements.

Why was there such a violent outburst.

Some witness reports indicate that the police had perhaps not handled the situation well.

We still don’t know what really happened on Sunday night

What triggered the Little India riot has still not been fully explained. (Photo: Malay Mail online)
What triggered the Little India riot has still not been fully explained. (Photo: Malay Mail online)

In the next few days, there will be a hunger for facts from the riot in Little India. Many questions will need to be answered, and much that investigators will have to clear up as the Committee of Inquiry proceeds.

But one fact that has been revealed – that the deceased Sakthivel Kumaravelu was drunk and rowdy – does not the whole truth make.

According to STOMP, the police revealed that Mr Kumaravelu was drunk when he tried to board the already-full bus before his death. This was picked up by local press publications such as My Paper. “He even dropped his trousers,” the STOMP article adds helpfully.

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Reading The Riot Act

At what point in a suburb's development does the presence of a demographic group stop being cultural diversity and start being an enclave? In "Hard Truths", the question was asked: Singapore has allowed so many foreigners in, in a fairly short time, for economic and demographic reason. How do we balance that with the social costs that are becoming quite obvious? The callous answer provided:

"Well, there's a sense of discomfort. Suddenly you hear a different twang when they speak in Mandarin or you hear Indians speaking not Tamil but Hindi and they look somewhat different, and sometimes very different. It's unavoidable."

We can also surmise that the conflagration at Little India was unavoidable. All we need is a little spark for the melting pot to transform into a cauldron boiling over. Accidents are a common feature in our congested city, even little old ladies get run over by reversing public vehicles at bus interchanges. There's more to the eye in the Sunday night flare up.

Unrest in Little India


The many parties involved will seek to stake their narratives and counter-narratives. The dominant political force may see the online outrage – some decidedly racist and xenophobic – as potential evidence for a greater need to curtail internet freedoms.

Other parties may view this as the inevitable result of poor infrastructure planning, inapt immigration policies and suppression of low-wage workers in Singapore – issues that have been tinder waiting to catch fire.
In the coming days and weeks, the various perspectives need to be rationally examined, without resorting to name-calling, game-blaming and stereotyping. It is critical to discuss these issues; it is just as critical to discuss them in a sensible manner.

As the damage from this unrest is tallied and various parties seek to establish a dominant discourse, we should remain calm, think carefully and pause responsibly for a minute or two before sharing our comments online. It is how we react to this unexpected incident that will reveal the strength – or lack thereof – in our society.

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If not for alternative media, would we still know Little India Riot?

At almost 11 pm on Sunday, I received a private message from my Facebook friend. A few minutes later and before I could respond, this friend sent me another message with a video of the riot, lamenting that there was total blackout at that time in the mainstream media

Then, at a little past 11 pm, The Online Citizen put their boots on the ground to report the riot.

Soon after, the mainstream media started carrying news of this riot.

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To Prevent Future Riots

I’d like to begin by clarifying a few things from my earlier post Stop Humanizing the Banglas/ Indian FTs!. First of all, perhaps I was too harsh to use the term Humanizing. I was going more for ‘Singaporeanizing’. (Though I’m not sure how many readers would get what that meant). I do not expect readers to agree with everything I said, but my objective was to get readers to (at some level) separate Singaporeans from these foreign workers so that they will better accept the content of this article.- which will propose solutions which ‘treat them differently’ from Singaporeans.

Secondly, the previous article is targeted at liberals (which I am very mad at after the riot) not the group of Singaporeans who already hate FTs. To garner xenophobia from the ‘pure FT haters’, I wouldn’t have to ‘write so hard’. All I would need to do is to write ‘Banglas are smelly’ (Which is unsubstantiated and not something I believe) and I would probably get over a hundred likes.

You do realize that the liberals are to blame for the riots right? For years they have been fighting for more and more freedoms for these foreign workers. From weekly day offs to trying to get them to live in HDB flats. And now see what has happened?

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Singapore Daily

Little India Riots — 18 casualties
– Singapolitics: Little India riot: Responsibility is a two-way street
– Bertha Harian: The big Little Indian clean-up Part 2
– TOC: On a Little Street in Singapore
– Today: Sharing information without context can inflame a situation
– Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: S’poreans are over-reacting to the riot
– Air-conditioned Nation: Racial riot? Really?
– anyhowonly: The Special Operations Command
– Abdillah Zamzuri: Why Little India riot won’t be the last one
– Alisa Writes: Rethinking the Little India riot
– Thetwophilo: Riot In Little India is “isolated incident” So Said PM, Tin Pei Ling
– Kirsten Han: We still don’t know what really happened on Sunday night
– Popagandhi: The Real Singapore Conversations
– Signs of Struggle: Like the G? Log out and flip a police car
– Singapore Hall of Shame: Little India Riot: More questions to be answered
– SGbangla: Stop Humanizing the Banglas/ Indian FTs!
– A Singaporean In Australia: Anti-Riot Measures that Insults Intelligence
– Sgbitchfit: Off with his headline!
– Musings From the Lion City: Let’s Wait
– Jentrified Citizen: One Little Riot Opens Pandora’s Box to Many Big Issues
– My Singapore News: Stop the insanity
– SpotlightOnSingapore: Riot in Little India: Spotlight on SPF
– likedatosocanmeh: Thinking Spore must reject MSM ‘facts’ on Little India riot
– According2ed: Singapore Little India Riots – The ‘Drunk Indians’ card again?
– Tan Family Chronicle: A sanitised discussion about Little India riots with kids
– I on Singapore: Give our heroes each an award!
– My Thoughts…: I Could Have Stopped The Riot
– Singapolitics: Learning the right lessons from the Little India riot
– Yawning Bread: Riot in Little India: spark and fuel
– TWC2: Frequently Asked Questions: Our views on the riot in Little India
– Air-conditioned Nation: Little India Riot
– Flâneurose: What could happen next: Considerations and Consequences
– Today: Let’s not riot online about a riot
– Preet Kaur: Two Different Fires: Little India Riots 2013
– Andrew Loh: Comment: Little India riot a matter of serious consequences
– verkur | ache: Little India Riots
– Derick W J Tan: Little India Riot – My Experience With Foreign Workers
– Bertha Harian: The big Little India clean-up
– Signs of Struggle: Little India booze ban as mindless as the riots
– Inspiration: Riot @ Race Course Road
– I on Singapore: “Us” and “Them” Growing rift between Sporeans and foreigners?
– Just Speaking My Mind: Condolences to the Deceased Foreign Worker
– Countering The Crap About #LittleIndiaRiot
– Musings of a glutton: Little India Riot
– Food Fuels Me to Talk: That Little India hooh-ha
– Chemical Generation: The Little India Riot
– Love, Dream, Imagine: #littleindiariot #bringbacksanity
– The Heart Truths: Working Towards Peace And Unity After Yesterday’s Riots
– The Heart Of The Matter: Riots in the Serangoon Road area in Singapore
– Singapore Affairs: Little India Riot Aftermath
– Wedoryn: Riot Time: Flipping FRCs like Prata
– Anyhow Hantam: ‘Root and Branch’ Change is Needed in the Police
– Singapore Hall of Shame: Little India Riot: Like it never happened
– Me Llamo Yanshuang: No more riot free Singapore
– SpotlightOnSingapore: Riot in Little India: writing on the wall
– Thetwophilo: When we mass import foreign workers, we are also importing their
– Remember Singapore: A Forgotten Past – Two Decades of Chaos
– New Nation: Complete ban on alcohol in Race Course Road this weekend
– Life as we don’t know it: My thoughts on the riot last night
– A Gen Y’s Challenge to survive on a little red dot: Little India Riots, The Tinderbox
– Sane appeals for calm after riot brings out the worst in S’poreans
– five stars and a moon: Top 10 idiot comments following the riots
– The sky turned into skyscrapers.: In The Cold Light Of Day
– Riots in Little India
– A Winsome Life: Riot in Singapore @ Little India
– Wall Street Journal: Rare Riot Hits Singapore
– The Kent Ridge Common: Unrest in Little India
– New Nation: Democracy to blame for Little India riot
– Melissa Choi: Top 10 Responses to the Little India Riot, and MINE
– My Singapore News: Rioting in Little India
– Singapore Affairs: Little India Riot Aftermath
– mr brown: A few thoughts on the Little India Riot
– Home Team Restraint
– ThyDowager: Truth behind Little India Riot
– Zit Seng’s Superwall: Will Riot Destroy Our Belief Of A Safe Singapore?
– The Gingerbread Mum: Riot? In Singapore?
– Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: Riot proves point about community relations?
– TOC: Riot in Little India over fatal accident of Indian national
– Looking beyond the riot at Little India
– Abdillah Zamzuri: A Letter To Singapore Ministers in light of Little India riots
– Just Speaking: Riot after More than 30 Years of Peace in Singapore
– Alex Lew Yan Liang 刘彦良: Watch video of police car over turned
– likedatosocanmeh: 20131209 Little India riot, has government lost control?
– Anyhow Hantam: Little India Riot: Questions for the Police
– Riot tarnishes Singapore’s image as place of ethnic harmony
– A Singaporean in Australia: Night on Fire

– Breakfast Network: Who would have thought

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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