Little India riot: Learning the right lessons from this episode

Little India riot: Learning the right lessons from this episode

SINGAPORE - On Sunday night, in Little India, a bus involved in an accident was smashed by a crowd of angry men; 16 police cars were damaged; one ambulance was completely burnt and two ambulances and other support vehicles were badly damaged.

It was as shocking as it was unacceptable. Whoever was responsible for the damage must be apprehended and punished according to the law.

That much was clear but many questions are also crying to be answered.

Chief among them was what led to this outbreak of violence.

At the time of writing, the authorities have not provided a definitive answer and investigations are ongoing. But the media and online chatter have thrown up a host of speculation and charges that I would like to offer some observations to as a response.

One common refrain I hear is how such behaviour is un-Singaporean and these foreign workers have wilfully violated our norms. Others point to the possibility of underlying issues afflicting foreign workers.

For a start, I would urge that everyone be careful not to read too much into this incident until we get a fuller picture of what happened.

From the experience of TWC2 (migrant workers' group Transient Workers Count Too), we do not find foreign workers any more prone to violent, criminal or anti-social behaviour than Singaporeans.

Singapore crime statistics also bear this out. In fact I sometimes marvel at how stoic the foreign workers are in the face of a bullying employer or a rogue agent or an unresponsive bureaucrat.

A Singaporean in that situation might have become far more confrontational. So I would appeal to Singaporeans not to jump to conclusions that foreign workers are an unruly lot.



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