53 workers to be sent home

While they escaped being charged in court, there was still enough evidence against a group of 53 foreign workers to repatriate them for their involvement in the Little India riot on Dec 8.

The 52 Indian nationals and a Bangladeshi were picked up by police in an islandwide operation on Dec 17.

At a press conference held at the police headquarters in Novena on Dec 17, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said: "They had knowingly joined or continued to participate in the riot after being ordered to disperse, impeding riot control and emergency rescue operations."

Mr Teo, who is also Minister for Home Affairs, added: "Basically, we have the laws in order for a person to be assessed as having posed a threat to our safety and security.

And these persons, by their actions... satisfied those conditions."

The men are being held in a prison in Admiralty West, and will be given time to secure their final salaries, close their bank accounts, and finish up any other administrative work.

The 53 were hired by 48 different companies, and had mostly worked here for less than five years. Half of them were from the building and construction sector, said Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee.

They will be prohibited from returning to Singapore.

Mr Jolovan Wham, a migrant-labour activist, said that there should be an avenue for them to appeal.

Another 200 foreign workers who were present, but remained passive during the riot in Race Course Road, were issued formal police advisories.

Some 400 South Asian nationals were involved in the riot, sparked by an accident in which an Indian national died.

Mr Ng said that extra care is being taken in the investigation into the accident, and that an independent expert will be engaged for an accident reconstruction.

The total number of those charged with rioting stood at 28 on Dec 17, after the Attorney- General's Chambers withdrew charges against seven men due to lack of evidence.

Of the seven, four were given stern police warnings. No action was taken against the other three.

Mr Ng added that the current ban on alcohol and private buses in the area is being reviewed.

Investigations, which involved more than 500 police officers, and required the work of Tamil and Bengali interpreters, are at their tail end, and few further arrests are expected to be made.

The 28 workers charged so far were "active participants" in the riot who committed violent acts, damaged property, defied police orders or incited others to do so, Mr Ng said.

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