By Terry Xu
The first riot in Singapore in more than 40 years happened in Little India last night, Sunday.
All accounts on the ground say what sparked off the riot was the fatal traffic accident where an Indian national was knocked down by a bus that ferries workers back and forth from Little India to their dormitories. (The driver is reported to be a Singaporean.)
According to eye witness accounts, a huge crowd had gathered around the scene of the accident. When the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) arrived and the Indian national was pronounced dead on the scene by the paramedics , the crowd started to smash the windows of the bus. The violence rapidly escalated from there.
Most of the action was caught on video by someone living in the area with the account name “chewkkf” on youtube. (link)
A few police cars were overturned and five vehicles – three police vehicles, an SCDF ambulance and a motorbike – were burnt. Apart from the burnt vehicles, road fixtures were also hurled at the security forces, dustbins were overturned, spilling their contents on the floor and pavement slabs smashed on the ground.
By 11pm when TOC reached the site, the police had already cordoned off most of the area. All shops are closed earlier than they would in normal days.
A shop owner told TOC that his things were thrown around by the rioters and had to seek refuge inside his shop. He claims that he called the police 10 times to have the riot trucks to be deployed and that when the trucks finally arrived, most of the rioters had already run away.
A foreign worker who was in the area shared with us that he heard that the person involved in the accident had his head stuck in the front wheel. He saw a person getting injured when someone threw a beer bottle at the police.
A Singaporean who was in the area said that his friend was stuck in the restaurant when the riot happened. Shops had to close their shutters to keep rioters out.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted the following on his Facebook page last night:
“The Little India riot last night was a very grave incident. Several police officers were injured, and vehicles damaged or destroyed. The situation is now under control, and investigations are underway. Whatever events may have sparked the rioting, there is no excuse for such violent, destructive, and criminal behaviour. We will spare no effort to identify the culprits and deal with them with the full force of the law.”
In a press conference held after 2am at New Phoenix Park, SPF Headquarters, DPM Teo Chee Hean says the government will not tolerate lawless behaviour and has asked the police to deal with all aspects of the Little India riot, including the traffic accident, what happened immediately after the traffic accident, and all ensuing incidents.
DPM Teo Chee Hean said, “I will ask the police to investigate the matter throughly and deal with all aspect of this incident and all person invovled strictly firmly and fairly according to our law.”
The police said that this riot involved a crowd of about 400 people which broke out at around 9.30pm. Some 27 people have been arrested so far.
Several security personnel were also injured in the incident.
The case has been classified as rioting with dangerous weapons. Anyone who is found to be armed in a riot or using objects as weapons that can cause death can be jailed up to 10 years with the possibility of caning, a punishment reserved for serious crimes.