Shanmugam rejects foreign media allegations

Shanmugam rejects foreign media allegations

Law Minister K. Shanmugam Thursday fended off allegations in foreign media reports that claimed Sunday's riot in Little India happened because foreign workers here were not satisfied with their work conditions.

"I'm not saying you can't say it, but I think I'd like to see some evidence to back up a fairly substantive statement," he said.

"It's a classic case of first deciding on what a sexy outline is and then writing a story without regard to the facts."

Mr Shanmugam, who is also Foreign Minister, was speaking to reporters before a dialogue with a group of foreign workers at Simpang Lodge 1 dormitory in Yishun. Joining him in the visit were Nominated MP R. Dhinakaran, and unionists M. Ramasamy and G. Muthukumar.

Turning to the Government's decision to ban the consumption and sale of alcohol in Little India this weekend, he said: "We want to go the extra mile to make sure that everything is completely locked down and safe. Primarily, because... of the possibility of copycat acts.

"So you take no chances. So you do much more than is necessary and if you're a resident in the area, you'll welcome it, and if you're outside, you'll understand why, because this is really to protect the area, to protect the residents, so people will understand, I think."

Separately, Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah continued to urge the Ministry of Home Affairs to implement no-alcohol zones in public spaces such as bridges and walkways at nightspots - in the light of this weekend's ban in Little India. When asked if the temporary alcohol ban this weekend at Little India should be extended to other areas such as Robertson Quay, she said: "It's tempting I think for people to draw parallels but they're not quite exact."

The Tanjong Pagar GRC MP has been pushing for no-alcohol zones in her constituency, which includes Robertson Quay, since 2011. She added that alcohol activity there leads to primarily "social disamenities" like "peeing in the river, barfing on the sidewalk, having a lot of noise... and littering, which clogs up the walkways and makes it difficult for residents and hotel guests to walk".

What happened in Little India is "slightly different", she said, as it is a "law and order issue".

This weekend's temporary ban there is to stabilise the situation, and give the police some time to work out a longer-term view of what to do there, she added.

But she noted that preliminary indications showed that alcohol contributed to the violence. "Wherever you have alcohol, there is potential for emotions and reactions to be inflamed."


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