Little India Riot COI: Focus shifts to timekeeper's 'vulgarities'

On the stand: Madam Wong Geck Woon took the witness stand on the second day of the Little India riot Committee of Inquiry hearing.

SINGAPORE - Bus timekeeper Wong Geck Woon was thrown into the spotlight on the fourth day of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) hearing into the Little India riot, as two auxiliary police officers said that her behaviour could have riled the workers.

Speaking through Tamil interpreters, both said that the 38-year-old scolded the foreign workers frequently and used vulgarities, as well as terms such as "stupid" and "idiot", on them.

These were allegations that Madam Wong had denied when she testified before the COI on Thursday, though she admitted that she sometimes raised her voice to get the workers' attention.

But Certis Cisco constable Nathan Chandra Sekaran said: "I have (personally heard her use those words), and not only those words, but also many more."

He believed the workers were angry as "they are being scolded every weekend by her", though he had not previously seen anyone "reacting in anger".

Mr Nathan was one of the first officers at the scene, along with five others, on Dec 8, after an accident killed 33-year-old Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu and sparked the riot.

He noted that some of the foreign workers who gathered around the bus were shouting at Madam Wong, who was on board the bus with driver Lee Kim Huat, 55.

"I heard the foreign workers shouting words to the effect that the timekeeper had caused the death of the deceased because she had asked him to depart from the bus earlier. They wanted to kill her and they wanted to burn the bus," he said.

Another Certis Cisco officer, Mr Raymond Murugiasu, added: "I have seen her in action on Sundays...She would also push them from the road to the pavement and, at one time, I saw one Indian fall after she pushed him."

Both pointed out that another reason for the riot could be that police officers responded late in controlling the crowd, and many of the rioters were intoxicated.

Mr Nathan said that the police officers "did not engage the crowd" and were waiting for Special Operations Command troops to arrive.

He also recounted an incident during the fracas when a foreign worker hurled a stone at the back of his head, but he did not arrest the man, fearing that the crowd may snatch his revolver.

Another witness, 34-year-old Indian national Ganesan Thanaraj, had stood on the bus behind the deceased, before the latter was told to alight. He said he hadn't noticed the man pulling down his pants - something that Madam Wong claimed happened.

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