Reform Party published a statement earlier in the week on the riot that took place in Little India. The party condemns the riot and places the root cause of the riot to be due to social and economic inequality.[spacer style=”1″ icon=”none”]
Reform Party condemns the unlawful activity that occurred on December 8 2013 in ‘Little India’ when a riot was sparked by the death of a pedestrian involved in a traffic accident. This kind of violence cannot be condoned under any circumstances.
We commend the police and auxiliary services for efficiently bringing the situation under control whilst avoiding any serious injuries or loss of life. Our thoughts are with the 18 members of our law enforcement and emergency services who were injured during the course of their duties. However, we view with concern the deployment of Gurkha troops, who are foreign mercenaries, to put down a domestic disturbance. The Reform Party demands the government’s assurance that it will not use foreigners against its own citizens.
Reform Party also extends its condolences to the family of Sakthivel Kumaravelu, the expatriate construction worker killed by the private coach hired to ferry him and his fellow workers back to their dormitory. We note from reports in the Indian Press that his family background was tragic and whilst this riot may be used as an excuse in some quarters to stir up divisions in our society, we are heartened by the many compassionate messages left by fellow Singaporeans on our new media pages.
Reform Party welcomes the Government’s decision of December 09th to set up a Committee of Inquiry to investigate the causes of the riot. We call on the government to make the COI hearings public and to invite public consultation. Even before the COI has been set up, PAP ministers are conveniently suggesting that alcohol consumption is to blame for the riot rather than looking to their own failed immigration and labour policies. Blaming alcohol is a simplistic approach which fails to explain why riots have not occurred in other areas where alcohol consumption is high such as Clark Quay and Boat Quay.
Statements such as these also carry the subliminal message that ‘Indians’ are somehow more likely to abuse alcohol and become violent than other groups. In Singapore violence against property, injury and even death has been caused by expatriate workers of many nationalities including Britons, Australians and New Zealanders, in brawls often fuelled by alcohol and in one case by a Romanian diplomat drunk driver. Profiling only serves to deflect attention away from searching for the real causes of the riot.
That subliminal message is reinforced by the government’s announcement of a complete ban on alcohol sales over the weekend restricted to one part of Little India. This is a knee jerk reaction by the Government with the potential to do more harm than good. 374 local businesses will now suffer economically and tourism will be badly affected. Applying the ban to only one area will no doubt simply move it to another neighborhood and prohibition of alcohol in other countries has been shown to push drinking underground and even increase unlawful behavior.
Reform Party believes this is a call to Singaporeans to wake up from their slumber and take note of the human cost of our economic growth. Human rights groups and NGOs have been calling for more humane living and working conditions for our guest workers for years. Indications are that construction workers take home about US $14 a day which is barely improvement on wages of 30 years ago and is a cut in real terms. In November 2012, Chinese bus drivers for SMRT went on strike in a doomed attempt to gain living conditions and wages in line with those enjoyed by their domestic colleagues. It was discovered that they did not even enjoy individual sleeping areas but were ‘hot bedding’. The expatriate bus drivers’ unlawful strike followed by the riot in little India shows that the PAP’s ability to rely on the exploitation of cheap and docile foreign labor to generate growth is highly questionable.
We believe the root cause of this social unrest is social and economic inequality. This has been created by the government’s obsolete economic model of boosting GDP growth through imported labor, no matter what the cost to our society and no matter how inequitable the treatment of that labor. Not only has this model reduced Singaporeans’ real incomes, pushed up property prices, led to overcrowding of public amenities and competition for employment and education but it has contributed to increasing xenophobia amongst Singaporeans.
The riot was indeed shocking to all Singaporeans but it should not have taken us by surprise.
The government’s most urgent task now is to seize this chance to conduct a full, impartial and public enquiry, rather than the usual whitewash applied behind closed doors.