After the flames in Little India: Should we have seen it coming?

After the flames in Little India: Should we have seen it coming?

Little India was a cauldron of problems waiting to boil over.

With ingredients such as large crowds of up to 100,000 and widespread drinking every weekend, large-scale violence was "waiting to happen", said committee chairman G. Pannir Selvam.

During the inquiry, some residents, shopkeepers and transport operators also spoke of the troubles that were already brewing in Little India.

KEY PEOPLE

Tekka Residents' Committee (RC)chairman Martin Pereira, Little India Shopkeepers And Heritage Association vice-chairman S. Rajagopal

KEY POINT: TOO SOFT?

Mr Pereira said there were "uncomfortable activities" involving foreign workers such as prostitution, littering, indecent behaviour and illicit moneylending.

Shopkeepers also said the police had been too soft on foreign workers who congregate in the area.

A shopkeeper who declined to be named said:"Right now, there is no one who is scared there in Little India...

"The laws in Singapore are very strict, but... the police should also become more strict and firm in dealing with such situations."

While the police said the crime rate in Little India has fallen over the years, the committee said the figures do not fully reflect the reality of overcrowding and the other problems.

Committee member Tee Tua Ba said the exceptional numbers made it a "volatile situation".

KEY POINT: TOO HARD?

There was also frustration against the auxiliary police officers, who patrol Little India on foot, said shopkeepers.

Mr Rajagopal said he has heard Cisco officers using a degrading Tamil term to address the foreign workers, despite its deputy operations manager, Mr Lin Shunzhong, disputing that he has not witnessed any physical or verbal abuse.

Two auxiliary police officers said timekeeper Wong Geck Woon, who was attacked during the riot, was seen hurling vulgarities at foreign workers while on the job.

FLASHPOINT

"The riot was waiting to happen ... it was a bomb waiting to explode," said Mr Rajagopal on the lack of police presence in Little India.


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