By Terry Xu
This weekend, there will be an alcohol ban in Little India this weekend and suspension of 25 private bus services which ferry workers back and forth from their dormitories and Little India.
Within the area shown in the map below, the Public Order (Preservation) Act will allow police officers to take action against anyone consuming alcohol in a public place within the vicinity, including seizing their bottles of liquor.
This might just be the very first time the Act is being used since independence to provide for the possibility of curfews and other measures deemed necessary to preserve public order in emergency situations. The police announced through the press that anyone who is drunk and behaving in a disorderly manner may also be arrested under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.
Shops that sell alcohol during this suspension period could be fined up to S$5,000 upon conviction and risk having their licence revoked.
The ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol in the area will be in effect from 6am on Saturday to 6am on Monday for 48 hours.
Deputy Commissioner of Police T Raja Kumar at a joint press conference yesterday commented on the temporary ban of alcohol, “This is just an interim position we are taking to allow the situation to stabilise, calm down, get the anxiety eased,”. When asked if things will go back to normal after the weekend ban, he said “Even after we have lifted the alcohol ban, there will in most likelihood continue to be certain restrictions on the sale of alcohol, and certain areas where alcohol consumption will not be allowed.”
Speaking to the press, the Deputy Commissioner explained that the area where shops are banned from selling alcohol is planned based on the outlets which sell alcohol in the vicinity of the area. Responding to queries on how some businesses felt that indoor establishments or restaurants catering to expatriates and locals should be exempted from the ban, the Deputy Commissioner pointed out that the blanket ban was a prudent measure for the weekend.
The news also reported that the Dormitory Association of Singapore yesterday called on members of the association to advise workers against going to Little India over the next two weekends. TOC understands from some workers that they have been advised by their employers to avoid Little India during the weekend and some have put off their plans to travel there as the shuttle service is suspended.
Public transportation fees are about the same with the $2 charge that the workers pay to be ferried for each trip to or back from Little India. However travelling time with the private bus service takes less than half an hour while if one choose to take the public transport, it will take up to an hour or even more if the worker is staying in dormitory with no direct bus service to Little India.
The two measures are implemented in view of the riot as cooling measures however some have expressed been skepticism over the measures implemented. It might be even said as penalizing the community at large over the rioting. In face, it has not been proven that alcohol was the cause of the riot but all comments by the interviewed members of parliament, interviews and commentaries in the local press all seems to imply that alcohol is the root cause of the riot.
Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said details of the Commission of Inquiry ordered by Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong into the unrest would be ready by this weekend.