Little India Riot Inquiry: 'Sense of injustice fuelled rioting'

Little India Riot Inquiry: 'Sense of injustice fuelled rioting'
Dr Majeed said certain actions by SCDF officers may have inadvertently incited rioters.

A CHAIN of misconstrued events - from officers protecting the driver and timekeeper of a bus which ran over a foreign worker to even covering the dead man's body with a blanket - led to a strong sense of injustice which fuelled the Little India riot.

The actions seemed to cement the rioters' view that Indian workers were treated less fairly than locals, said Dr Majeed Khader, the police force's chief psychologist, when he gave evidence to the Committee of Inquiry looking into the Dec 8 mayhem on Thursday.

The behavioural sciences expert made it clear that it was not just one incident behind the violence, which left 49 Home Team officers and five auxiliary police officers injured and 23 emergency response vehicles damaged, but a confluence of five factors.

These included alcohol, street justice, unfamiliarity with norms here, a sense of frustration rising from the chaos and overcrowding after the fatal accident at about 9.20pm that night.

Indian worker Sakthivel Kumaravelu had been told to get off the bus ferrying workers back to a dormitory before he fell under a wheel as he chased the vehicle.

Bus driver Lee Kim Huat and timekeeper Wong Geck Woon were soon surrounded by a growing crowd, who deemed them "perpetrators" of the accident.

When a good Samaritan ushered them onto the bus for protection, the crowd started to get violent.

This was compounded when one of the first Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers who arrived heard the timekeeper screaming, and responded to her ahead of the accident victim, whom he was not, at that point, aware of.

"That was misperceived as 'Why are you responding to the locals and not my dead countryman, who is actually below the bus?'" said Dr Majeed. "There was a sense of us versus them, locals versus foreigners."


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