Little India Riot Inquiry: Crowd believed police were taking sides

Little India Riot Inquiry: Crowd believed police were taking sides

The Little India riot investigation team appointed by the Committee of Inquiry (COI) has engaged a psychologist to analyse the behaviour of the crowd during the Dec 8 incident.

Dr Majeed Khader, 47, is a senior consultant psychologist with the Home Team Academy and has worked for 20 years as a forensic and criminal psychologist.

He said he spoke to police and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers, foreign workers and experts in the field, taking just under a month.

He and his team pieced together the final report of his findings, which was submitted on March 1. On Thursday, Dr Majeed appeared before the COI to present his findings.

DID THE POLICE EMBOLDEN THE RIOTERS BY HOLDING THE LINE? SHOULD OFFICERS HAVE MOVED IN AND TAKEN ACTION?

It is not what the police should have done, but the way they should have done it, Dr Majeed said.

While their lack of action could have emboldened the rioters, had officers moved in without proper training, equipment and numbers, the outcome may still be the same, he added.

Dr Majeed said that for police officers to be effective when moving in, they must be able to differentiate rioters from onlookers, have a proper tactical plan, communicate well and have the necessary resources.

WHY DID THE RIOTERS TARGET THE BUS DRIVER AND TIMEKEEPER INITIALLY, BUT TURN THEIR ATTENTION TO THE POLICE LATER?

When the accident first occurred, the crowd expressed their anger by targeting bus driver Lee Kim Huat and timekeeper Wong Geck Woon, said Dr Majeed.

These two were perceived to be responsible for the death of fellow Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu, he said.

But the crowd shifted their attention to the police and even the SCDF, whom they believed to be taking sides with Mr Lee and Madam Wong.

WHY DID THE CROWD ATTACK POLICE OFFICERS WHO WERE IN GROUPS BUT NOT INDIVIDUAL ONES?

Dr Majeed said behaviour evidence showed that rioters did let officers pass through without touching or hitting them.

But when the officers started to form up in groups, the rioters saw them as an "out-group" which was there to thwart their actions and prevent them from seeking justice for their dead countryman, he said.

"There was this sense of 'us' versus 'them' that was being formed in the minds of the rioters," Dr Majeed elaborated.

WHY DID THE RIOTERS ONLY ATTACK POLICE OFFICERS IN RIOT GEAR?

When officers appeared in riot gear, shields and batons, it may have appeared as if they were preparing to use violence against the rioters, he said.

 
 
 

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