Construction worker Prabakaran Chinnappa was heading to a bus stop on a Sunday night to return to his dormitory, after drinks with friends, when he spotted the Little India riot unfolding.
So the 24-year-old joined in.
He helped to damage and overturn a police car, and instigated others to burn an ambulance.
The Indian national is the 18th, out of 25 charged, to be dealt with over the Dec 8 riot, in which a mob ran amok, incensed by an accident that night where a foreign worker had been killed.
Yesterday, he was sentenced to 31 months in jail and three strokes of the cane, after pleading guilty to rioting and abetting others to set the ambulance ablaze.
The court heard that Prabakaran had hit the empty police car several times with a stick. He helped flip the vehicle onto its side, throwing burning paper into the car after it had been set alight. He later threw a glass bottle at police officers.
He also hit the ambulance several times with another stick, shouting to others to "hit, hit, burn, burn", and telling other rioters to pour petrol on the vehicle.
Calling for a jail term in the upper range of 30 to 36 months and three to six strokes of the cane for Prabakaran, Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lai said the man had been an "active member" of the riot and had helped cause severe damage to both police and public vehicles.
Prabakaran's lawyer, Mr Amerjeet Singh, said his client came from a poor family and had stayed out of trouble in the five years he had been in Singapore.
Asking the court to impose 30 months' jail without caning, he said Prabakaran was remorseful.
A total of 23 emergency vehicles were damaged during the riot. Five were incinerated. More than 50 officers were hurt.
The maximum penalty for rioting is a jail term of seven years and caning. Those who commit mischief by fire face the same maximum prison term and a fine.
Prabakaran's punishment is just two months shy of the stiffest meted out so far: Indian worker Arumugam Karthik, 25, was sentenced on May 15 to 33 months in jail and three strokes of the cane for rioting and setting a police car on fire.
The lightest punishment of 15 weeks each went to two men who failed to disperse when ordered to do so by police.
This article was first published on Sep 24, 2014.
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