Police interview 3,700 workers

Police interview 3,700 workers

SINGAPORE - A staggering 3,700 foreign workers have been interviewed by police in just two days after the historic Little India riot on Sunday

In a massive operation to find more of those involved in the riot, eight more Indian nationals were arrested yesterday.

The police have visited foreign-worker dormitories in areas like Rangoon, Yishun, Sembawang, Penjuru, and Jalan Papan.

The police added yesterday that 176 foreign workers, mostly Indian nationals, have been asked to give statements, including those who have been arrested.

The riot that involved about 400 foreign workers was sparked off by an accident that later resulted in the death of scaffolding-company worker Sakthivel Kumaravelu, 33.

Police investigations revealed that the deceased appeared fairly unsteady and was chasing after the bus. He then stumbled, tripped and fell onto the path of the rear tyre of the bus and was run over.

After turning their anger on the bus crew, the crowd attacked policemen and rescue officers.

Now that the mayhem has died out, police presence will be stepped up not only in Little India, but also in other areas where workers congregate, including Golden Mile in Bugis and Geylang, where Thai and Chinese nationals can commonly be seen.

Cameras will also be installed in Little India next week, although the police did not reveal exact numbers.

Of the 28 men who were initially arrested, four - two Bangladeshi nationals, an Indian national and a Singapore permanent resident - were found not to be involved in the riot, and were released yesterday morning.

The remaining 24 work-permit holders, from various companies and living in various dormitories, were charged in court with rioting yesterday afternoon.

They were accused of throwing "hardened cement" at police officers.

They appeared in the dock in red polo T-shirts, and one of them wore a bandage on his head.

Criminal lawyer Amarick Gill informed the court that the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, a pro bono services office, is "working on securing a number of lawyers to provide legal representation for all accused persons".

Later,  Vincent Wijeysingha asked Mr Gill if "activist lawyers" like Mr M. Ravi would be involved. This is a possibility as Mr Ravi has volunteered his services.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it is working with the Indian High Commissioner to facilitate consular access and support for their nationals, including legal representation.

Commenting on the riot to the media for the first time yesterday, Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said that there was no evidence to suggest that the foreign workers involved in the Little India riot were unhappy with their employers or the Government.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday assured the public that the authorities had taken steps so that "people can continue their lives as normally as possible" and everyone has a feeling of security.


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