Residents, shops welcome inquiry panel’s proposals

Residents, shops welcome inquiry panel’s proposals

MOST residents and shop owners in Little India have welcomed the Committee of Inquiry's recommendations, especially its suggestion for better basic and security infrastructure in the enclave.

The committee specifically wanted more lighting, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and facilities such as toilets, bins and sheltered walkways.

"The lights and cameras installed soon after the riot are much appreciated by the residents and if more are set up, these will further heighten their sense of security, especially on weekends," said Mr Martin Pereira, chairman of the Tekka Residents' Committee (RC).

"You can't prevent foreign workers from coming here on the weekends, but you need to police them more effectively," he added.

Residents said they felt vindicated by the committee's call for greater policing of public drunkenness and its finding that alcohol was a major contributory factor to the escalating violence on the night of the riot last December.

Jewellery maker Nikki Lee Ryan, 24, who has lived in Little India for eight years, said she hopes police will take a stronger stance against excessive drinking.

"Maybe officers can first warn them, but if it's the same person who got drunk the week before, they should be booked," she said.

Ms Denise Phua, Central Singapore District Mayor and an MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC whose ward covers part of Little India, strongly called for "varying degrees of restrictions on alcohol consumption at public places; with the strictest measures within residential zones".

Ms Phua, who often urged the Government to restrict alcohol consumption and sale in the area before the riot, added: "We must not return to the days when residents have to put up with public drunkenness and blatant sale of alcohol to congregations of visitors right where they live."

The two-hour mayhem on Dec 8, involving about 400 foreign workers, mainly from South Asia, stunned Singapore. A Committee of Inquiry held a five-week hearing to get to the bottom of it and on Monday, its report set out the key factors for the riot and made recommendations on ways to prevent such public disorder from erupting again. Its call for better facilities was endorsed by Ms Petrina Loh, 32, owner of Morsels restaurant in Mayo Street in Little India.

She hopes it will signal a general clean-up of the place."If it's brightly lit, clean and they have benches where they can sit, the workers won't have the urge to litter or sit on the ground," she said.

Some liquor sellers, however, are dismayed at the report's recommendation for an alcohol ban at hot spots where heavy drinking occurs, such as in Little India and Geylang.

"Their business is still down 70 to 80 per cent," noted Little India Shopkeepers And Heritage Association chairman Rajakumar Chandra, 56.

"They know the bitter pill is necessary to prevent the same thing happening again, but they are finding it hard to swallow." Restrictions on alcohol sale and consumption in Little India have been in place since Dec 14.

Mr Rajakumar hopes the authorities will give Little India shopkeepers a chance to operate at the existing and new worker dormitories to be built in other parts of Singapore.

"Little India merchants know what items suit the Bangladeshis and Indians, and can offer competitive prices because they import directly themselves," he said.

"They have this experience."

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