Parliament 2014: 'Wish list' for Little India

SINGAPORE - A "safe area" in the public where people can sit and drink alcohol. An extension of the operation hours of the Little India bus service. The ability to sell liquor to a later hour.

These were some of the requests raised by members of the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association (Lisha) in a dialogue with Law Minister K. Shanmugam (left) last evening.

He met about 45 Lisha members, who also asked to clarify matters about the rules that were put in place after last December's riot in Little India.

These included not being able to drink in public on weekends, liquor shops being allowed to trade only till 8pm, as well as a reduction of bus services ferrying foreign workers from their dormitories to Little India.

Business affected

Merchants in the area said their business had been adversely affected and asked that the Government make some concessions, such as allowing a special area where migrant workers could consume alcohol in the open.

"(The men) want somewhere to drink with their friends and relatives after six days of hard work," said Lisha chairman Rajakumar Chandra.

With fewer buses plying the Little India route and shorter operating hours, most cannot spend too much time in the area, he said.

"They can't do what they want to do, like buy things and have a few drinks. People are frustrated," said Mr Rajakumar.

Rental is another problem many shopkeepers are facing, he said. While business has gone down, rents have remained the same.

"Tenancy agreements (where shopkeepers agree to rent a place for a certain amount of time) is one of the reasons many can't just close down (their shops) and run away.

"Some were asking the Law Minister for legal advice," he said.

Mr Shanmugam, who is also Foreign Minister, said he would raise these to his colleagues at the Ministry of Home Affairs.

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