Little India rioter gets 33 months' jail, caning

Construction worker Arumugam Karthik was yesterday sentenced to 33 months in jail and three strokes of the cane for rioting and setting a police car on fire in Little India last December.

The 25-year-old Indian national is the second of 25 men charged over their roles in the riot to plead guilty to these two charges. The first, Indian worker Ramalingam Sakthivel, 33, was given 30 months' jail and three strokes last week.

Six others have been sentenced to 15 and 18 weeks' jail each for amended charges of failing to disperse that night.

Karthik's is the harshest sentence dealt so far in relation to the Dec 8 fracas. In arguing for a stiff sentence in the upper range of 30-36 months in prison and three to six strokes of the cane, Deputy Public Prosecutor Ng Yiwen said the accused's culpability was "markedly higher" than Sakthivel's.

The latter had flipped only one police vehicle and failed in attempts to blow up a bus by throwing burning objects into the fuel gas inlet, while Karthik admitted to flipping three police cars and successfully setting one of them on fire.

He also used concrete objects to smash a police vehicle's windscreens and hurled projectiles at a fire engine despite knowing Home Team first responders were inside.

A third charge taken into consideration during sentencing stated that Karthik had participated in pelting and smashing the private bus involved in the fatal accident that had sparked the riot.

Pleading for leniency, his lawyer V. Ramesh told the court that Karthik had had a clean record since starting work in Singapore in 2009, and supported his family in India, where his father is receiving medical treatment.

The accused had been upset by news of the fatal bus accident, and "allowed the mob mentality to override his rational thinking process".

Addressing the court directly, Karthik added that he "deeply regretted" his behaviour and wanted to "apologise to the Singapore Police Force".

Watching from the court gallery was his brother, Mr Arumugam Muruganandam, 28, also a construction worker here.

"This is not the nature of my brother, it was the alcohol," he told The Straits Times later. Court documents showed his brother consumed a 500ml bottle of whisky with a friend before the chaos unfolded.

He said the family accepts the sentence and the two brothers "just want to go home". Cases against the remaining 17 charged are pending in court.

This article was published on May 16 in The Straits Times.

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