Little India Riot inquiry: Carry a 'lathi' instead of T-baton, says COI chief

Rapid Action Force personnel in India ready with their "lathis" - long, heavy wooden sticks - at a protest site in New Delhi last month. Committee of Inquiry chairman G. Pannir Selvam said the lathi might be more useful in a riot situation than a T-baton, which is a defensive weapon.

INSTEAD of being armed with a T-baton, policemen here in a riot situation should carry a lathi, suggested the chairman of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Dec 8 riot on Tuesday.

"The T-baton is not good enough for use (in a riot situation); it is a defensive weapon," said Mr G. Pannir Selvam. "When you go to a riot, you should not just have a defensive weapon."

Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Jonathan Tang brought the police T-baton to court on Tuesday at the behest of the committee and demonstrated how it was an effective defensive weapon, such as against knife attacks at close range.

When asked by Mr Selvam if the T-baton could be used offensively, he said it was designed to be a defensive tool, at which point the retired judge asked if he knew what a "lathi" was.

A lathi is a long, heavy wooden stick used by riot police in South Asian countries such as India and Bangladesh. To show the policeman what he meant, Mr Selvam handed to ASP Tang a copy of an Indian newspaper showing pictures of the lathi being used by Indian riot police to successfully put down a recent protest march outside the Indian Parliament.

"Although you have a gun, you don't normally use it (and) this might be more useful," said Mr Selvam.

ASP Tang said he was aware that Special Operations Command troops already use long sticks.

The use of the lathi to quell riot crowds has been brought up by the COI chairman on at least three occasions since the public hearings began last Wednesday.

On Friday, Mr Selvam recommended to Deputy Commissioner of Police T. Raja Kumar that the Singapore police force should procure the instruments.


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