Little India riot: When they drink, there's trouble

Residents said foreign workers often sit around, talk, and drink alcohol on Sunday nights - leaving at about 12 midnight.

SINGAPORE- Some South Asian workers welcome alcohol ban. They say of fellow countrymen:

With an audible sigh, he lifted his beer can and took a quick swig.

Indian national Janardhan Rao, 45, then wiped away the beer foam from his upper lip and said: "It's terrible what happened on Sunday.

"It shouldn't have happened. Now, all of us will be affected."

When The New Paper asked him about the drinking ban at Little India this weekend, he nodded and said that it was a good idea.

"No more alcohol at Little India, no more trouble," he said with a sad smile.

"Many men from my country like to drink but when they drink, they will get into trouble. Maybe this ban can help."

The ban on the sale of alcohol at Little India and the surrounding area will be from 6am on Saturday to 5.59am on Monday, said the Liquor Licensing Board (LLB) yesterday.

Mr Rao was not the only foreign worker who welcomed the ban.

We spoke to about 20 other South Asian workers near their dormitories at Jalan Papan in Jurong, and they were all supportive of the ban, saying that it would help control the rowdy behaviour at Little India.

Seated cross-legged at the roadside near his dormitory on Tuesday night, Mr Rao said he goes to Little India to do his shopping every few months or so before returning to his bunk to rest.

"I was not there when the fighting happened. I don't go there often. I'm already old," said Mr Rao, who has been working at a shipyard here for 11 years, earning $1,400 a month.

He sends $700 home to his wife and two children, a 13-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy, in South India.

On Sunday, Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu, 33, was drunk when he stumbled, tripped and fell into the path of the rear tyre of a bus. He was then run over, police said.

His death sparked a riot in Little India involving about 400 people.

As a result of Sunday's riot, many of the workers living at the dormitories at Jalan Papan said they were delayed from reporting to work the next day when the police arrived to question them.

One of them was Bangladeshi national Zainal Abidin, 36, who said the police came to his dormitory at around 4.30am on Monday. He had just showered and was preparing to leave for work.

The construction worker said he usually leaves for work at about 5.20am but because of the checks, he reached his workplace only at noon.

Said Mr Zainal: "We had to show the police our passes and they asked everyone questions."

He said he was not scared because he "did not do anything wrong", but he was frustrated by the inconvenience caused by the riot.

Many others also told TNP of their unpleasant encounters with their drunk colleagues.

Mr Susham Sarkar, who is in his 30s and works at a shipyard, said: "On some nights, I come back and find vomit everywhere. Outside our dorm, sometimes inside, on their beds and in the toilets.

"They also leave their rubbish everywhere," he added, gesturing to two smashed beer bottles lying on the pavement.

HANGOVER

But perhaps the most serious incident he has witnessed was when a few of his colleagues reported to work hung-over.

"We normally get up and go to work at about 5.30am. But some of them come back at 7am and go straight to work," he said.

"They are then very sleepy the whole day. It's very dangerous because we work in a shipyard."

Indian national Mintukumar, who is in his 30s, said excessive drinking is a serious problem that must be controlled.

Another worker, Mr Mintukumar, who is from Jharkhand in North India, said he has not seen any of his fellow workers fight in his seven months here.

"Sunday's riot was probably caused by a few people who were drunk. I don't understand how something like that could have happened," he said.

"Not all of us workers are like that."

It was a sentiment echoed by Mr Rao, who said he feared the possible negative public perception towards foreign workers.

"Because of this riot, people will think all of us from India are bad," he said.

"But most of us are just here to make money to send home.

"What for go to Little India to drink? We can buy beer from the shops here and drink. Then we go to bed."


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