Govt looking at more measures to ensure order

The ban on alcohol sales and consumption in Little India this weekend is just the first step, as the Government seeks to ensure order and safety there following Sunday's riot.

Further measures include looking at how the transport flow can be made safer, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Thursday.

Moves to curb the drinking problem in the area - which were already being discussed before the riot - will also be sped up, he added.

These could include a prohibition on alcohol consumption in common areas such as void decks and pavements, as reported in The Straits Times on Monday.

"Serangoon Road is crowded every weekend and we want to make sure that everything is orderly and safe this weekend and thereafter," PM Lee told Singapore reporters in Seoul, where he was on an official visit.

"We've decided this weekend, no alcohol, and thereafter we'll work out some interim arrangements... until such time as we can come to firmer conclusions and make some more permanent arrangements."

Given how rare such events are in Singapore, Mr Lee also noted that there has been "a lot of" international interest in the riot, including from investors.

Korean business leaders he met during his trip to Seoul had expressed surprise at the riot and asked how the authorities planned to proceed.

The Government must hence respond properly, and Singaporeans also have to react in a measured and responsible manner, he said.

Though understandably shocked, Singaporeans have generally reacted calmly, he added, and those who witnessed the incident have also been forthcoming in providing evidence.

Mr Lee called for continued restraint.

"Whether online or anywhere else, we have to exercise some restraint," said the PM.

"The anxiety and the alarm is quite understandable, but if we express ourselves in unrestrained, unreserved terms and sometimes xenophobic terms... I don't think that is helpful."

Investigations into the riot - which was sparked by a traffic accident and culminated in a 400-strong mob throwing objects at public officers and attacking vehicles - are carrying on well, he added.

The Government hopes to announce "within a day or two" more details on the Committee of Inquiry set up to look into the incident, including its makeup and the terms of reference.

The authorities have to deal with the matter firmly and make clear that rioting is unacceptable, Mr Lee said.

But they must also be fair in their treatment of those who were and were not involved, and allow the law to follow its due process.

So far, 31 Indian nationals have been charged for their involvement in Sunday's melee.

Mr Lee pointed out that most of the over one million foreign workers in Singapore are law-abiding, and their crime rate is lower than that for Singaporeans on average.

Describing the incident as a "localised riot" with specific circumstances, he said those involved will be treated severely, but it would not be fair to tar the rest of the foreign worker population with the same brush.

"The other foreign workers... who are making a living here, who are making a contribution to our economy, who have nothing to do with this, I think it would be quite unfair for Singaporeans to look at them all and say they are a problem, we cannot accept them.

"We need the foreign workers... If we didn't have them, we would not be able to achieve our housing plans, or our public transport plans, and Singaporeans would be severely affected," he said.

"We have to see how we can manage (the foreign workers) better."

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