Rioters had free rein in critical phase

Rioters had free rein in critical phase

SINGAPORE - As A riot erupted in Little India last December, a quiet confusion also spread among police officers on the ground.

They were trying to get approvals for reinforcements, even as the riot was spreading.

They were unable to communicate with each other through their jammed radio sets.

The leadership on the ground changed hands. Troops on their way to the riot scene were told to take a detour that cost them 15 precious minutes.

There were sufficient officers on the ground but they were scattered and did not take on the rioters.

The Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the riots, whose report was released yesterday, acknowledged that the police force did well in the first part of the riot. This stretched from the death of a worker, Mr Sakthivel Kumaravelu, in an accident about 9.20pm on Dec 8, to rescuing the bus crew who were being attacked by other workers around 10.15pm.

But things did not go according to plan between 10.15pm and 10.45pm.

"The second phase was critical," said the COI. "The SPF officers decided to hold their positions. This allowed the rioters to pelt them with projectiles, and overturn and set fire to emergency vehicles. The COI believes that the number of active rioters in the second phase was not large, but they had free rein to do whatever they wanted."

It was then that rioters overturned vehicles and set them on fire.

Officers waited for the Special Operations Command (SOC) to arrive, while not arresting anyone.

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