Little India riot: Second man sentenced also gets 15 weeks' jail

THE second man sentenced over December's Little India riot has received an identical 15-week jail term for failing to disperse when ordered to do so by police.

Construction worker Singaravelu Vignesh got the same penalty as his friend and fellow worker, Chinnappa Vijayaragunatha Poopathi. They were together on the night of the riot.

Last week, Chinnappa, 32, was the first to be sentenced among the 25 Indian nationals charged in relation to the riot, also over failing to disperse.

Singaravelu, 23, an Indian national, was originally accused of rioting, but pleaded guilty on Monday to an amended charge of "continuing in an assembly after it had been ordered to disperse" under Section 151 of the Penal Code.

After less than an hour of deliberation, deputy chief district judge S. Jennifer Marie sentenced Singaravelu to 15 weeks in prison with effect from his arrest date on Dec 8. That means he has served about 10 weeks of his sentence.

Singaravelu, who came to Singapore in June 2012 to provide for his ill mother and younger sister as the sole breadwinner, could have faced up to two years in jail and/or a fine for the lesser offence, as opposed to seven years and caning for rioting.

These two cases are believed to be the first time Section 151 has been invoked in Singapore. Chinnappa's sentence was also backdated to his Dec 8 arrest date.

Court documents show the pair ignored calls by the authorities for people to disperse as they entered the area of the riot at about 11pm on Dec 8.

Singaravelu and Chinnappa continued to walk to the Kodai Canteen eatery near the junction of Kerbau Road and Chander Road, where rioters had earlier hurled projectiles at Home Team personnel. They were said to have joined a group of about 10 others.

Despite repeated commands to disperse, both then "shouted at the canteen employees, demanding they reopen the shops and sell alcohol to them", according to court documents. They refused to leave until more police arrived, and were arrested later that night.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sellakumaran Sellamuthoo urged the court to imprison Singaravelu for four to six months, arguing that the sentence had to serve as a deterrent.

In deciding on an identical 15-week sentence for Singaravelu, Judge Marie said both accused had "admitted to similar facts presented by the prosecution", and in "considering the principle of parity in sentencing... there was neither a relevant difference in their responsibility for the offence nor in their personal circumstances".

Singaravelu's lawyer, Mr M. Lukshumayeh, said his client "accepts the sentence imposed on him and wishes to move on with his life especially for his mother and sister".

He expects an early release within the week on the grounds of good behaviour, as his client has been in remand since his arrest.

The Dec 8 riot is the worst case of violence Singapore has seen in more than four decades. It left 49 Home Team officers injured and 23 emergency vehicles damaged.

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