I could've talked to rioters in Tamil

I could've talked to rioters in Tamil

If only he had been given a loudhailer. That's all he would have needed to control the Little India riot.

After all, he is a trained negotiator. He is formerly of the Internal Security Department and has managed community events involving as many as 4,000 people.

That was what Mr S. Rajagopal, 74, who is also the CEO of his security firm in Kerbau Road, told the Committee of Inquiry on Friday.

On Dec 8 last year, he said he had asked a police officer for a loudhailer in an attempt to reach out to the crowd, only to be told that the police did not have one.

Being able to speak Tamil, he said he would have been able to communicate with the rioters, who were mostly Indian nationals.

Mr Rajagopal, who is also the vice-chairman of the Little India Shopkeepers And Heritage Association (Lisha), said he knows most of the shopkeepers in the area and has interacted with many foreign workers.

"A large crowd would recognise what Lisha has done for them. So I could subdue them by language, you know, negotiating in the same language, talking to them to win over them," he said.

Committee member Tee Tua Ba said Mr Rajagopal was the "first one to mention the use of a loudhailer" in handling the situation that night.

Degrading term

Mr Rajagopal also said he has heard that most of the Cisco officers have been using a degrading Tamil term while addressing the foreign workers.

Also taking the stand yesterday was Mr Wong Ann Lin, chairman of the Singapore School Transport Association, which manages bus services ferrying foreign workers in and out of Little India.

He said members of the association are suffering a loss of income because of the reduction of the number of bus services that can ply the route.

Dealing with the foreign workers is also no easy task, said Mr Tan Jwee Tuan, the supervisor of timekeeper Wong Geck Woon, who was attacked and had to hide in the bus on the night of the riot.

At any one point while waiting for buses, the area could be packed with up to 800 foreign workers, he said.

They would also rush to board the bus by running on the roads - a "very dangerous" move, he said.

Even after the earlier cut-off time at 9pm, there would still be between 500 and 800 workers waiting for the buses.

"After 9pm, we are even more anxious. I feel that our lives are in danger if we don't ferry them back," he said.

"I feel that it is a mistake to restrict the number of buses taking the passengers back."

Four others who work at various shops and restaurants in Little India also took the stand Friday.

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