Thaipusam arrests: Police will take action against those who incite enmity, says MHA

Thaipusam arrests: Police will take action against those who incite enmity, says MHA

SINGAPORE - The police are investigating allegations made online regarding the arrests at this year's Thaipusam procession, where three men were arrested last week for disorderly behaviour and for assaulting a police officer.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday, various individuals, including one of the three men charged had made allegations online regarding what had happened.

An allegation by a woman of being pushed by police officers is also being investigated by Police's Internal Affairs Office, said MHA.

It added that "there have also been misrepresentations and rumours online and offline regarding the Thaipusam procession.

"If such activities are deemed to incite enmity between different communities and races, the police will investigate and take firm action against anyone responsible for such offences."

In its lengthy statement, MHA also explained why musical instruments are allowed at certain events, but not at religious foot processions. 

Said MHA: "This restriction was introduced in 1973 because of a history of rivalry and fights between competing groups that disrupted the procession. The playing of musical instruments also slows down the pace of the procession, sometimes causing friction between participants, which in turn could lead to public order issues and disruption to other members of public."

Here is MHA's full statement on the Thaipusam procession:

MHA's general approach to events is to strike a balance between facilitating the activity while ensuring public safety and law and order. Religious foot processions pose a higher risk to public order. Unlike assemblies in a fixed location, they involve large crowds moving along an extended stretch of public roads, in close contact with other members of public, often impeding and crossing traffic flows. Emotions can be easily aroused when religious sensitivities are offended, which can trigger disorder and even violence. A general ban on religious foot processions was imposed following the racial riots in 1964, which had started as a peaceful procession but ended with the loss of lives. Police's assessment remains that we must continue to manage religious foot processions sensitively and carefully, because of the potential impact on law and order. The reactions to the incident in this year's Thaipusam show that race and religion continue to be sensitive issues.

The Government recognises the religious significance and the sanctity of Thaipusam for the Hindu community. An exception has therefore been made to allow foot processions for Thaipusam, as well as two other Hindu religious events, Panguni Uthiram and Thimithi (the fire-walking festival). Applications for other religious foot processions have generally not been allowed, with seven such applications from various religious groups rejected in the past five years.

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