Friday, 13 December 2013

Little India Riot: "Who Dares Win"

DPM Teo reveals first-hand accounts of SOC troopers who tackled riot

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean (2nd L) meets on December 10 with the Special Operations Command troopers who restored order after the Little India riot. (Photo: MHA)

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean has given details of the first-hand accounts that were related to him by the Special Operations Command (SOC) troopers deployed to tackle the riot at Little India on Sunday.

In a Facebook posting on Wednesday, Mr Teo said the troopers had told him that they knew they were going into a very “hot” situation and were mentally prepared.

When they arrived at the scene, they immediately linked up with the commander and officers of the police divisions already on the scene, made a quick assessment of the situation together and decided on the appropriate operational response. He said their objective was to disperse the crowd and control the situation.

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DPM Teo thanks Home Team officers

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli (2nd R) mingles with Home Team officers. (Photo: MHA)

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has expressed his appreciation to the Home Team officers who restored order after a riot broke out in Little India on Sunday night.

Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security and Home Affairs Minister, had lunch on Tuesday with the Special Operations Command (SOC) troopers who were involved in the operations.

He told the officers, who included full-time National Servicemen, that the incident reminds Singaporeans and Home Team officers to always be ready for contingencies even as they strive for peace and harmony in Singapore.

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Police explain why no shots fired in Little India riot

The Singapore Police Force posted an update on their Facebook wall clarifying rumours about the Little India riot

The posting said: "Police would like to clarify certain rumours that have been circulating online. Facts: Police officers displayed maximum restraint and did not fire any weapon throughout the incident.

This also prevented the incident from escalating further - Police resolved the situation and had it under control within an hour.

In total, nine SCDF vehicles were badly damaged. These include three ambulances, one Red Rhino, one fire engine, and four support vehicles. One of the ambulances was completely burnt at the incident site, while the remaining vehicles had varying degree of damages such as smashed windshields, and scratches and dents to the doors and frame. Altogether, six ambulances, one Red Rhino, one Fire Engine, and four support vehicles were deployed to the area.

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As the investigations into the riot at Little India on Sunday night continue, the police have said that they had consciously decided not to use deadly force to disperse the crowd.

This comes after public concerns that the police had not done enough to dissipate the crowd quickly. It was obvious that they had not been very forceful on the crowd as there were more casualties on the police side compared to the rioters. Of the total 39 reported casualties, 22 of them were police.

The police reiterated that their officers are not to draw their weapons unless they face an imminent threat of death or grievous hurt, which none of them did.

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What Happened

0.05: Mob overturned 1st Police car
0.20: White ambulance drove off
0.33: Mob overturned 2nd Police car
3.00: Red Vehicle (Fire Engine?) reversed, collided onto Police car and drove off
4.00: Mob attempted to overturn 3rd Police car

Police cars set on fire in Singapore riot

Rioters set fire to police cars in Singapore after a bus hits and kills a foreign worker.

Rioters have attacked and set police vehicles on fire in Singapore after a bus hit and killed a foreign worker.

Public unrest in the strictly governed city state is almost unheard of. Twenty-seven workers from South Asia have been arrested.

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Singapore Police, SCDF draw praise for handling of Little India riot

The Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Civil Defence Force won praise from the public for their handling of the Little India riot. (Reuters photo)
Yahoo Newsroom - The Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Civil Defence Force won praise from the public for their handling of the Little India riot. (Reuters photo)

Scenes of rioting in Singapore’s Little India district on Sunday evening may have raised fears about safety and social harmony in the city-state, but police and civil defence authorities have also won praise from the public for the handling of the rare incident

Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee said during a press conference in the wee hours of Monday morning that the riot broke out after police received a call about the accident at 9:23pm

Ng added that the 300 police officers deployed “displayed maximum restraint” and “did not fire any weapon, lethal or non-lethal, throughout the incident”. By 1am Monday, the police had issued a statement that the riot was under control

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Little India was "like a war zone": TNP photojournalist

Speaking to RazorTV, The New Paper journalist Zaihan Mohamed Yusof said, "On Sunday night, a call came in at about 10pm

"The guy on the other end said that he had a tip off to tell us, that there was a riot in Little India. It seemed like a hoax, because he seemed more interested in finding out if he could get a prize for telling us this.

"So I didn't take it seriously, but two minutes later he must have called again saying, 'Are you on the way here? There's one man dead.'

"When I heard that, I thought that this was serious stuff. I informed the News Editor and he said 'let's go'.

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Riot police didn’t fire a shot, but propaganda artillery in full barrage

Just like what happened in the days following the Chinese bus drivers’ strike November last year, the government is bringing out the artillery to pound Singaporeans’ minds with their preferred framing of the riot that occurred in Little India 8 December 2013: It’s wanton mayhem, monstrous criminality, pure and simple. The small riot (blown up big for its usefulness as bogeyman) is entirely a law and order issue. No sociological enquiry should be entertained, the message insistently says, especially any that asks questions whether the prior behaviour of the the ruling class (both government and business owners) contributed to the state of mind of the underclass.

It won’t be long before anyone who asks such questions will be accused of “excusing” and “condoning” rioting, and cast as a fifth-column threat to Singapore’s prosperity and stability. “Prosperity” and “stability” are the preferred terms for “money-mindedness” and “political control”.

Let me say this here: Of course people who can reliably (and I stress: reliably) be proven to have committed acts that endangered others’ (e.g. first responders’) lives and safety by throwing objects at them, or damaged property (e.g. the bus involved in the fatal accident), or arson (the torching of police cars and an ambulance), should face the judicial consequences of their acts.

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It’s a ‘who dares wins situation’: ex-Singapore riot police officer

Roy Danker in full uniform during his riot squad days between 1964 and 1971. In the picture on the left, he is standing in front of a command vehicle. (Photos courtesy of Roy Danker)
Asked for his views on Sunday's riot in Little India, where about 400 South Asian workers mobbed a bus that ran over and killed an Indian national, Danker said he was shocked that so many police and emergency vehicles were damaged and burnt

"I don't know what the procedure is now but our jobs were to protect lives and public property… we would have guarded the vehicles at all costs," he said. "Back then, we had lorry guards whose job it was to protect our command vehicles — when there was a threat (to the vehicles), they would sound a signal that would recall all of us to form up around the vehicles with our shields. We wouldn't have let that (the damage of police and emergency vehicles) happen."

That said, he hopes Singapore's current special operations command forces will learn from this and improve their approach should their services be required again in the future.

"It's a 'who dares wins' situation," he said. "If they ran forward with their shields and tear gas, they would have easily been able to throw them (the rioters) haywire, and prevent things from spiralling so far out of control."

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I Could Have Stopped The Riot


As many of you might know, I was an officer with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) for ten years and spent quite an amount of that time plying my trade in Little India. I left the force in 2005 for a several reasons, one of which was the way the SPF was turning out to be. With so much documentation and miscellaneous duties, policing became too much about following procedures rather than fighting crime - and worse, victims, perpetrators and every human being in the process became just another inanimate feature of each case.

When I first heard about rumours of a riot in Little India, I expected it to be an exaggeration of some accident scene because of the crowd that had gathered. But as the story unfolded, it quite sounded like mob mentality had resulted in wanton public violence.

However, as the details eventually become established, it looks more and more like a typical incident that spiralled out of control. In my time as a police officer attending cases in the vicinity of Little India, coming across accidents on a crowded Sunday evening is not something new - as is coming across disputes, thefts and even robberies. In this case, (possibly) careless driving led to a pedestrian (or disembarking passenger, as some eye witness testimonies suggest) being run over.

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Riot police's wife rebuts snide remarks online about Little India riot

Special Operations Command Troopers in the thick of the action

To the uninitiated, the Special Operations Command is the Police Tactical Unit (PTU), the main anti-rioting and disaster-management unit of the police force, these regular forces are called upon in any contingency and serious case of public disorder. It has its history as Singapore’s Reserve Unit, dating back to 1952, when an anti-riot squad of 60 police officers were formed in the wake of the Maria Hertogh riots, which broke out in 1952 and demonstrated the incapability of existing measures in containing serious cases of public disorder

The Police Task Force, predecessor of what is now the Police Tactical Unit was hence created. In response to the ever-increasingly complicated, and multi-faceted public safety and security requirements in Singapore, the Special Operations Command has grown in strength and operational capabilities. Today, it is a formidable and daunting force to be reckoned with. Last night, was clearly just a small sample of their many capabilities and specialist training.

I believe, these troopers don’t ask to be called heroes. They just want to appreciated for the work that they do. I know because I married a trooper

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Little India Riot: 'Root and Branch' Change is Needed in the Police

As Singapore and its Police Force (SPF) comes to grips with the aftermath of a riot that occurred on its streets (the 1st of its scale since 1969), we must not take our eye off a key issue - the manner in which the SPF is run today. There seems to be a clear remiss in management with regards to modern day policing. About 5 major incidents have come during the watch of Police Commissioner (CP) Ng Joo Hee's tenure - incidents that have not befallen his predecessors. That is the fact that CP Ng and all his supporters cannot hide from - yes, many of those who support the PAP and some of his officers have not been slow to trump up the restrained manner in which the police dealt with the riot, with repeated online posts especially on FB

As expected the state media prefers to play down the mistakes made and focus on the positives only

That said, I also think it's fair to praise the police and SCDF officers who bravely squared up to the incident and tried their best to perform their duties. The 10 policemen and 4 SCDF officers who were injured are heroes. Officers on the ground deserve praise for not resorting to lethal force that has been the norm in many similar incidents worldwide. Some have accused the policemen of cowardice for running away and not using their guns, water cannons or tear gas. I think this is not the time to accuse them of anything like that. It's far better to retreat and take stock, then contain and get reinforcements, as opposed to meeting the baying crowd head on in the initial stage and start using violence to quell violence

related: Little India Riot: Questions for the Police

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Little India Riots — 18 casualties
– Yawning Bread: Riot police didn’t fire a shot, but propaganda artillery in full barrage
– Beyond The Emotive: Has the Population White Paper Also Gone Up In Flames?
– Kizen: Sorry guys, there is no ’cause’ to the Little India Riot
– Buddha Mag: Little India Riot – Singaporeans, are we really listening?
– Unfortunately Singapore: The Serangoon Road conundrum
– Thatboyhuman: Riots in the “Safest Country in the World”, Singapore
– Yahoo! SG: It’s a ‘who dares wins situation’ ex-Singapore riot police officer
– New Mandala: The Little India riot – another view
– Dum Fata Sinunt, Vivite Laeti: Thinking out loud – Riot in Singapore?
– Singapore Man of Leisure: Gurkhas, Riots, and Emergency Funds
– Singapore Notes: Don’t Drink To That
– The Asian Parent: Little India Riot 2013 – What lessons for our children?
– Inspiration: Lessons From The Riot @ Race Course Road
– Singapore Life & Times: Reflective Glass
– Loh and Behold: Let’s Not Shoot from the Hip
– Ravi Philemon: If not for alternative media, would we still know Little India Riot?
– Singapore Armchair Critic: Whose History? Whose Truth?
– SM Ong: Nitpicking the language of race, nationality & geography
– SGbangla: To Prevent Future Riots
– New Nation: MDA to license Sun TV after they refuse to apologise for real news
– [FB] Matthew Zachary Liu: 8 thoughts from the 8th December Riot

– 5 Stars and a Moon: Don't believe foreign workers should be housed off-shore
– Political Writings: Cold Turkey