Little India Riot COI: Don't segregate, relate to needs

Little India Riot COI: Don't segregate, relate to needs
AIRING HIS VIEWS: Civil society activist Vincent Wijeysingha.


Having foreign workers conduct their activities in dormitories and purpose-built recreational centres is akin to segregation, said civil society activist Vincent Wijeysingha.

Taking the stand on Thursday representing a group of civil society volunteers known as Workfair Singapore, he took issue with the solution of keeping these workers away from the community.

He repeatedly emphasised that what is happening among foreign workers should be dealt with as a population and labour-related issue, not as a reaction to the riot.

He said: "(The) last time we saw such segregation was in South Africa during the period of apartheid... and before that in the US. "We know the effect of segregating a community... will not work in the long term."

He added: "It's not just about policing behaviour, we should look at the way we manage our workers in the long run." As for alcohol, Dr Wijeysingha said it cannot be squarely blamed for the riot, adding that there has been an "eagerness" by the Government to pin the cause of the riot on alcohol.

He added that there has been no forensic evidence which suggested that the rioters were drunk.

Furthermore, the decision to deport some suspected rioters meant a wasted opportunity to explore the "alcohol thesis". Earlier, he listed four reasons that could have caused the riot.

They were: The authorities' handling of the fatal traffic accident, migrant workers' pay and their living conditions, the transient nature of their being in Singapore, as well as the amenities and facilities made available to them.

In a report he submitted to the Committee of Inquiry, Dr Wijeysingha said a number of workers had thought the accident victim was still alive and that first responders were focused on protecting the bus driver and timekeeper rather than saving him.

There were also some feelings of resentment towards the driver and timekeeper because workers said the duo had been rude to them in the past.

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