Little India riot: Crowding, alcohol are ongoing issues being tackled

SINGAPORE - Even before Sunday night's riot in Little India, overcrowding and alcohol consumption in the area by foreign workers were in the authorities' sights, two ministers have said.

Measures have been taken over the years to manage crowds of foreign workers, Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran told reporters on Monday evening.

These include patrols by auxiliary police officers, police deployment, and engagement both at the community level and with operators of worker dormitories.

Transportation arrangements were also made so foreign workers "can come in and leave without creating much disruption", added Mr Iswaran.

"So a series of measures have been taken on a whole-of-government basis."

The authorities will have to assess what more can be done. In this, he said, they will be informed by findings of the Committee of Inquiry into the incident.

He was speaking to the media after visiting shop owners along Race Course Road, Chander Road and Kerbau Road, together with Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew.

These included the bosses of several shops selling hard liquor - an issue Mr Lui has long hoped to tackle.

"I have always expressed, on behalf of the residents, that we think there is proliferation of alcohol licences," he said.

He has been pushing for tighter alcohol rules there along with fellow Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP Denise Phua. He noted that a Ministry of Home Affairs consultation on this issue had begun before Sunday.

"We have given our views. We look forward to fewer licences, we look forward to stricter guidelines on where alcohol can be consumed and the hours that people can consume alcohol," he said.

In the meantime, the upcoming ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol there this weekend is a "very, very good" idea, he said.

"I know my residents will fully support this immediate measure."

Calling the riot "a catalyst to achieve what the MPs have been advocating", Ms Phua said it underscored the need to expedite measures.

Could stricter rules on alcohol have averted the riot?

To that, Mr Iswaran said thorough investigation was still needed before coming to a conclusion.

"However, it is plausible that alcohol consumption was a contributory factor," he said. "And that is why we have taken this step, in the first instance, in order to stabilise the situation."

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