- POSTED: 13 Dec 2013 17:49
- UPDATED: 19 Feb 2014 18:35
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The four-member Committee of Inquiry (COI) tasked to investigate the reasons behind the Little India riot will start its proceedings as soon as possible. It will submit its report to the Home Affairs Ministry within six months, even if criminal investigations into the riot have not been completed.
SINGAPORE: The four-member Committee of Inquiry (COI) tasked to investigate the reasons behind the riot that broke out at Little India on Sunday evening will start its proceedings as soon as possible.
It will submit its report to the Home Affairs Ministry within six months, even if criminal investigations into the riot have not been completed.
The COI will be headed by former Supreme Court Judge G Pannir Selvam.
Other members of the COI are former police commissioner Tee Tua Ba, former president of the National Trades Union Congress John De Payva and chairman of West Coast Citizens' Consultative Committee Andrew Chua Thiam Chwee.
Measures also have been implemented this weekend to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol in and around Little India.
Speaking to the media on Friday evening, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said that further measures will be implemented if necessary, even before the COI completes its report.
He said that Singapore had been conducting consultations on the possible implementation of no-alcohol zones and restricting the sales of alcohol in the country even before the recent riot at Little India, and the consultations will continue.
Mr Teo said: “As an example, there has been since October, an ongoing consultation on no-alcohol zones and restricted hours for sales of alcohol.
“This has been ongoing since October, so (it has been) two months already, and this is something which is ongoing. And if we have good findings from this, which are implementable, we will do so, we won't have to wait for the COI.
“And similarly, if there are other issues we need to address, we will do so without waiting for the COI.”
When asked whether the COI will look into the general grievances of foreign workers, Mr Teo said the committee is empowered to look into the factors which had led to the riot.
As for larger issues, he said the government already has an inter-ministerial committee which looks at foreign worker welfare issues.
Responding to media queries, the COI’s chairman G Pannir Selvam said in a statement that he shares the concerns of many who want to know what caused the riot and whether such incidents can be prevented.
He said a comprehensive approach will be taken to consider whether current measures to manage such an incident are adequate.
Mr G Pannir Selvam said: "The Little India riot on December 8 was a grave incident. Frontline officers were injured and public property was damaged.
“More importantly, it impacted the lives of residents in the Little India area and affected the deep sense of safety and security that Singaporeans have always had.
“I share the concerns of many who want to know what caused the riot and whether we can prevent such incidents from happening. We will take a comprehensive approach to establish the factors that led to the riot, and consider whether current measures to manage such incidents are adequate."
On Friday, Mr Teo also weighed in on why Little India was declared a proclaimed area under the Public Order (Preservation) Act this weekend.
He said: "We don't currently have laws that restrict consumption of alcohol and that's one of the reasons why we put in place legal and procedure requirements in order for us to be able to do so in Little India."
The police will be stepping up its presence and deploying more officers at Little India and other areas where foreign workers usually congregate -- such as at the Golden Mile Complex and Geylang -- this weekend.
The officers will include those from the Special Operations Command, and they will be conducting more vehicular and foot patrols in the Little India vicinity to prevent and deter public order incidents from occurring.
Officers will conduct checks on persons seen to be consuming alcohol in public places in Little India, as well as checks on outlets within the affected areas for breaches of the suspension on the sale and consumption of alcohol.
Mr Teo said that police will be reviewing the restrictions in the coming week, which could be eased.
But he added that the priority is on maintaining security while allowing life to proceed as normally as possible.
Mr Teo also said that he has appointed committee members who are experienced with the law, understand security requirements, and are familiar with workers' issues and with managing relations between the community and workers.
He said this is to allow the committee to study the issue thoroughly, come to a fair and objective assessment, and make its recommendations.
The COI is to establish the factors and circumstances that led to the riot on December 8, how the riot unfolded, and how the response forces managed the incident.
It will also consider whether current measures to manage such incidents in areas where foreign workers congregate, such as Little India, are adequate, and recommend any further measures to improve their management and reduce the risk of such incidents.
The committee is to conduct itself in accordance with the provisions of the Inquiries Act.
Chairman of the Law and Home Affairs Government Parliamentary Committee Hri Kumar Nair hopes that the facts will shed some light on what happened on the night of December 8.
Mr Nair said: "I think, first and foremost, we need to know what happened. There are a lot of versions and speculations are not helpful.
“So we need to know how the poor gentleman was killed and get to the bottom of that.
Then also find out who was responsible for the actual damage and the actual rioting.
“The pictures show many people milling around the area but not everyone was engaged in criminal behavior, and in fact there were some foreign workers, as we have seen, who persuaded their friends to try not to do anything.
"So obviously there are some who engaged in criminal behaviour and some who were behaving heroically.
“So let's get the facts. Let's see what really happened, who was behaving criminally, who was not, who was behaving heroically because they should be applauded, then take a step back to see how we could have done things differently and how we can do things better going forward."