Big crowds of foreign workers turn off Singaporeans, say business owners

SINGAPORE - Restaurants and shop owners along the Race Course Road which was the scene of the worst riot in the republic in decades are worried their businesses may suffer.

Sundry shop owner, K. Vellu, 51, said not a single customer visited his shop yesterday.

"I just don't know how I am going to survive if this carries on," he said.

"People are too afraid to come to this area and I do not blame them because there is no guarantee that such a riot will not happen again."

Vellu added that his lorry and car were also slightly damaged by rioters who were seen throwing stones, bottles and sticks at policemen.

"I was afraid that they would enter my shop so I quickly pulled down the shutters but we could still hear the explosions outside," he said, adding that he hoped the Singapore government would take stern action to keep the area safe.

Hostel and restaurant owner S.R. Mahesh, 28, recounted how mobs of people were seen igniting beer bottles and throwing them at the police patrol cars in the area.

"It was a horrifying experience. Some of my customers were forced to put up the night in different hotels as they were not allowed to enter the area," he said.

Another Indian restaurant manager Rangeel Singh, 45, said many locals preferred to stay away from the street due to the large crowds of foreigners, especially Indian nationals, who usually gather there on Sundays.

"They sit and gather on the pavements, on the fields, drinking, talking and catching up, but their numbers scare away the locals," he said, adding that on a normal day his outlet would receive between 80 and 100 customers but on Sundays the visitors would drop to about 20.

R. Mahalingam, 42, who works at Anjappar Restraurant, said that the eatery was usually brimming with customers especially during lunch hour but there was only a handful of people yesterday.

"When the violence broke out, I was here as well but was too afraid to go out," he said.