Construction worker jailed nine months for role in riot

Construction worker jailed nine months for role in riot
Palanivel Dhasmohan (left) and Karuppaiah Chandrasekar, both Indian nationals, were charged with being part of an unlawful assembly of about 400 people, and of throwing pieces of hardened cement at police officers.

SINGAPORE - A construction worker who joined a rowdy crowd and threw an empty beer can during the Little India riot last December was sentenced to nine months in jail yesterday.

Karuppaiah Chandrasekar, 32, was the ninth man to be convicted for his role in the riot, after he pleaded guilty to being a member of an unlawful assembly.

Senior District Judge Ong Hian Sun said: "This court has to send a strong signal that we cannot tolerate such lawlessness in society."

Singapore's worst public order disturbance in more than 40 years saw 23 emergency vehicles damaged and 54 responding officers injured on Dec 8 last year.

It was sparked by a road traffic accident, when an Indian national was run over and crushed by a private bus.

According to the statement of facts, which Karuppaiah "unreservedly" admitted to, he was at a food court near Race Course Road at about 10pm on Dec 8 with his cousins and friends. They started walking towards the melee after seeing smoke and hearing sirens from emergency vehicles.

After learning of the accident, Karuppaiah joined the crowd, which was shouting at police and civil defence officers and throwing projectiles at the bus.

Karuppaiah shouted loudly and threw an empty beer can at the bus. He ran away when police officers ran towards the crowd and was arrested four days later.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ng Yiwen called for a stiff sentence of between nine and 12 months in jail for Karuppaiah. He noted that the worker had chosen to "immerse himself in the situation, joining the crowd to overawe the police and firefighters" despite being "acutely aware" of the situation.

Although the court usually metes out jail terms of between one and three months for first-time offenders who do not use violence while in an unlawful assembly, Mr Ng argued that the Indian national's "provocative" actions should not be "viewed in isolation". In mitigation, his lawyer Kannan S.G. said the act arose out of a "spur of the moment", and his client was remorseful.

Karuppaiah, an employee of Yun Onn Company for two years, had at first faced a rioting charge, which carries up to seven years in jail and caning.

This was amended to one of being a member of an unlawful assembly, under which he could have been jailed up to two years and fined.

Mr Kannan told reporters that his client, whose sentence was backdated to his arrest on Dec 12, could be released by mid-June on account of good behaviour, and will be repatriated. "He is relieved that he will soon finish paying his dues and he can go back to India. He is going to get married. The bride has been waiting for him for a while."

This article was first published on May 23, 2014.
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