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COI into Little India riot wraps up after five weeks of public hearing

After five weeks of inquiry and testimony from 93 witnesses, the public hearing of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Little India riot has brought to light a wide range of evidence.

SINGAPORE: After five weeks of inquiry and testimony from 93 witnesses, the public hearing of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Little India riot has brought to light a wide range of evidence.

The riot which took place last December was the first seen in Singapore in over four decades.

It was sparked off by a fatal accident involving an Indian national, Sakthivel Kumaravelu.

Channel NewsAsia wraps up the key issues highlighted at the COI hearing.

The hearing started with dramatic CCTV footage of Kumaravelu's last moments.

The video showed Kumaravelu clearly intoxicated as he attempted to board a bus. He was later told to get off the bus by the timekeeper when he allegedly dropped his bermudas. After getting down, he stumbled after the bus and was run over by it as it was making a turn.

A forensic pathologist said it was likely that Kumaravelu would have died "instantaneously" from his severe head injuries.

The accident sparked off a riot - which saw damage to 25 emergency vehicles and injuries to 39 Home Team officers.

A key focus during the hearing was how police officers handled the situation that night.

Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee admitted it had taken too long to make the decision to send in Special Operations Command troops to control the riot.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lu Yeow Lim was also grilled over his decision to hold his ground instead of trying to disperse the rioters.

Former police commissioner Tee Tua Ba, who was a member of the COI, said this could have emboldened rioters.

Mr Tee also suggested that first responders receive relevant training and be well equipped to deal with such situations.

The issue of alcohol was also widely discussed throughout the hearing.

Many of the officers on the scene who testified said they could smell alcohol on many of the rioters that night.

A toxicology report showed that the deceased blood alcohol level at the time of his death was nearly three times the legal limit for driving.

But experts said that alcohol was not the only factor that led to the riot.

Other factors included a sense of perceived injustice among the foreign workers - especially in the way that help was rendered to the deceased.

Overcrowding and congestion, as well as unfamiliarity with the Singaporean way of life, were also raised as possible factors.

To address this problem, a designated part of Little India was proclaimed as an area in a state of danger to public order under the Public Order (Preservation) Act.

The sale and consumption of alcohol were restricted on weekends, as well as on the eves of, and during public holidays, and when large-scale events are planned.

And a new bill was tabled and passed in Parliament giving police fine-tuned powers in Little India. It will last for a year until longer-term measures can be enacted.

COI chairman Pannir Selvam said there's still much work to be done before his committee submits a report of its proceedings, findings and recommendations to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean by June.

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