Tamil group on Little India riot: Onlookers not allowed to help

Mr M Govindaraju, representative of online group Singapore Tamil Community, said foreign workers have a "hatred for the men in blue".

Two emotive words were heard on Day 13 of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) on Monday: hatred and help.

First, the Little India riot happened because Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and police first responders did not allow onlookers to help, claimed two representatives from the Singapore Tamil Community (STC).

Also, foreign workers have a "hatred for the men in blue", they said, referring to the police and auxiliary police officers who patrol Little India.

Mr M Govindaraju, 63, and Mr P. Raveentheran, 59, presented these findings on behalf of STC, an unregistered group with around 3,900 members on Facebook and 2,000 members on Yahoo Groups.

But the COI noted that their evidence did not come from consulting the views of foreign workers.

Instead, the STC reports were assembled from discussions with friends and members from their community, and from conversations with Little India shopkeepers who did not want to be named.

Mr Govindaraju explained through a court interpreter that the crowd had "wanted to move the bus forward to retrieve the man from underneath" and that "help came very late".

But when the SCDF and police arrived, they were chased away by the police officers, whom Mr Govindaraju said "behaved in an aggressive manner that led to the riot".

"If they had asked the onlookers for help, they would have helped willingly," he said.

He claimed that police officers would often treat foreign workers with disrespect and issue "incessant fines" for littering. There were also language and cultural differences between foreign workers and uniformed personnel. Such factors added to the general dislike for the "men in blue" by foreign workers.

"Spitting, urinating and littering (on) the roads are not offences to them, from where they came from," said Mr Govindaraju. Mr Raveentheran, who spoke after Mr Govindaraju, agreed on the same points during his testimony.

Little India Riot COI: Police commander "made the problem worse"

EVIDENCE

Said committee member Tee Tua Ba: "You must compare evidence (from) witnesses who were at the scene (and) the scientific evidence. We must weigh it against your evidence, which was not direct evidence but hearsay evidence from others."

COI chairman G. Pannir Selvam said the committee would take his evidence into consideration.

Three foreign workers from India, who were onlookers during the riot, also testified.

They said they are happy to work in Singapore and ranked the country's treatment of foreign workers to be one of the best. They regret that the incident happened as people might blame foreign workers for causing trouble.

Said Mr Alagarsamy Rajasekar, 24: "In Singapore, the Indian (foreign workers) are well respected. Because of that incident, we are now hesitant to go to Little India.

"If this had not happened, everything would have been good."

ngjunsen@sph.com.sg

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