PETALING JAYA: The riot in Singapore's Little India has triggered alarm bells over the possibility of a similar incident happening in Malaysia because of the high number of foreign workers here.
There are concerns that foreign worker enclaves in our cities and major towns could be places of such an outbreak of violence.
It is not unusual for foreign workers to bring their rivalries and enmities to the countries where they are employed in.
In late May, several Myanmars were killed in a fight between two groups of workers from the country.
The outbreak of violence was linked to the civil unrest in their home country.
Three Myanmars were killed and several others injured in outbreaks of violence involving them in various parts of Kuala Lumpur between May 30 and June 4.
Malaysian authorities arrested more than 1,000 Myanmars during raids in Kuala Lumpur and parts of Selangor to put an end to the fighting.
Responding to concerns raised in the wake of the Singapore riot, Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the police and the Immigration Department have been put on alert at foreign worker enclaves throughout the country.
He said officers had also been instructed to monitor areas where foreign workers congregate, especially places that have been identified as potential hot spots for trouble.
"We are always observing the activities of foreign workers and are ready to overcome any potential threat," he said.
Among the places under watch include those in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, such as the KLCC and Sogo shopping malls.
"We are also looking at workers' quarters nationwide, so the public need not worry," Dr Ahmad Zahid added.
The minister also revealed that foreign workers with valid working permits would be issued I-Cards with biometric and bar code identification soon to help the authorities keep tabs on them and trace those who commit crimes.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told the Dewan Rakyat on Oct 23 that the number of foreign workers in Malaysia with valid work permits as of June 30 this year totalled 2,116,998.
In addition, there were an estimated 1.3 million illegal immigrants in Malaysia as of August 2012.