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In Parliament: Ministerial statements on Little India riot COI report

DPM and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean and Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin are speaking in Parliament on Monday, July 7, in response to the Committee of Inquiry's report on the Dec 8, 2013 riot.

SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean as well as Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin are speaking in Parliament on Monday, July 7, in response to the Committee of Inquiry's report on the Dec 8, 2013 riot.

The report was released on June 30, and identified three factors contributing to the Little India riot of Dec 8 last year: Misunderstandings about the accident and response; the culture and psychology of the crowd; and alcohol and intoxication. It also made recommendations on emergency response procedures, foreign worker congregations and restrictions on alcohol.

READ: What caused the Little India riot?

DPM TEO CHEE HEAN: GOVT ACCEPTS COI'S RECOMMENDATIONS

3.05pm: The COI found that the riot was triggered by a fatal road traffic accident, and that the victim’s own actions were primarily responsible for the accident.The victim was intoxicated, had lost his balance, and had fallen under the bus while running in the bus driver’s blind spot.

3.06pm: Based on the evidence gathered, the COI concluded that the riot was not a result of dissatisfaction among foreign workers with their employment and living conditions in Singapore. Nor was the riot premeditated or planned. It was also not related to ethnic or any endemic form of discrimination.

3.09pm: On the night of the riot, as commanders and officers arrived at the scene as quickly as they could, they faced a highly-charged and rapidly evolving situation. They made their decisions in the heat of the action, and under time pressure based on the information they had available. The commanders and officers that night did not have the benefit of hindsight. Their decisions and actions have thus to be evaluated in that context. The commanders and officers that night did the best they could in the circumstances they faced, with the information they had on hand.

3.12pm: A riot on the streets of Singapore is unacceptable. We have to take preventive action to minimise the likelihood of such a riot occurring, and improve our capability to deal effectively with a riot if one does occur.

3.15pm: The COI made eight recommendations under two main categories – Strengthening the Home Team and Measures to Manage Congregation Areas. The Government accepts all of the COI’s recommendations. We have also not waited for the COI’s report to act, but have implemented various improvements since the riot on 8 December, some in the days immediately following the incident.

DPM TEO: IMPROVING POLICING CAPABILITIES

3.17pm: Police have an ongoing programme, started a few years ago, for a major upgrade of its C3 (Command, Control and Communications) systems. A new Combined Operations Room will be ready in end 2014. The new Police C3 system is also targeted to enter service in end 2014. The new Combined Operations Room and C3 system will strengthen Police’s capability for incident management, and to marshal and deploy forces better to deal with rapidly developing situations.

READ: Better response protocol needed: COI

3.19pm: Police have also started trials for body-worn and vehicle-mounted cameras. All fast response cars will be equipped with cameras by end 2015.

3.22pm: We will increase the size and capability of the SOC (Special Operations Command). We intend to increase the number of troops from 8 to 12 so that we can put a third SOC troop on standby. This additional troop will be configured for rapid deployment on lighter and more mobile platforms. We will also increase the number of officers in each troop from 35 to 44. In total, we will add 300 officers to the SOC, doubling its current strength of deployable front-line troopers. We will commence the build-up immediately, and progressively build up its capabilities over the next two to three years.

3.25pm: Police have enhanced its employment terms and provided more upgrading and education opportunities for in-service officers. SPF has also raised the retirement age of uniformed officers from 50 to 55, and re-employed more retired officers. More civilian officers have also been recruited to take on specialised roles, for example in forensics and cyber-crime, to complement uniformed officers.

3.27pm: Police have also invested in technology as a force multiplier. For example, the more than 18,000 Police Cameras so far installed at 3,300 HDB void decks and multi-storey car parks have been effective in deterring crime. All 10,000 HDB blocks will have PolCams by 2016.

3.29pm: The COI found that the approval process for activating the SOC was one factor that slowed their arrival. The Police have shortened the approval process. Division Commanders can now activate the first SOC troop while alerting Police Headquarters at the same time.

DPM TEO: MANAGING FOREIGN WORKER CONGREGATION AREAS

3.31pm: The sixth recommendation is to install additional lighting, safety and surveillance devices in areas which see large congregations of foreign workers, in addition to making better basic facilities available to those who congregate there. Since 2009, Police have deployed auxiliary police officers and private security officers in Little India to manage anti-social behaviour. Since 2011, there are 81 officers deployed on weekends.

3.34pm: Prior to the riot, there were 113 police cameras in public areas and HDB blocks in Little India. Since then, we have more than doubled the number to 250 police cameras. All 41 HDB blocks in Little India now have police cameras. Police will progressively install another 88 cameras in public areas between now and December 2015. Police have stepped up its presence in Little India since the riot, with an additional 20 to 30 Police officers deployed every weekend along with a dedicated SOC troop.

3.37pm: Public agencies have also been working together to address issues in other foreign worker congregation areas such as Geylang. For example, there will be stricter enforcement of licensing and parking rules, and 252 more cameras installed in Geylang by end 2016, compared to the 47 existing ones. We will also be enhancing the street lighting at 36 back alleys in Geylang. For these congregation areas, Police will continue to conduct frequent patrols and enforcement checks to maintain law and order.

3.39pm: In formulating the new measures on the sale and public consumption of alcohol, we will take into consideration public and industry feedback, the COI’s recommendations, and our experience from the alcohol restrictions in Little India. We will introduce the necessary legislation within the next six months, before the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Act expires in March 2015.

MANPOWER MINISTER TAN: NO SYSTEMIC DISSATISFACTION

3.43pm: I am glad that the COI has established that the underlying cause of the 8 Dec riot was not systemic dissatisfaction with employment and living conditions in Singapore among foreign workers. The COI has also concluded that by and large, we have a good framework in place to protect foreign workers. This includes regular reviews to ensure that legislation is adequate and appropriate.

READ: Dissatisfaction not a cause of riot: COI

3.45pm: While the COI has found no evidence of systemic mistreatment of foreign workers, they have pointed out that there might nonetheless be a minority of errant employers who mistreat their workers. My Ministry treats feedback on mistreatment of workers, whether local or foreign, very seriously, and will investigate such employers. If there is clear evidence that any employers or any other persons have breached the law, we will not hesitate to take the necessary enforcement action.

3.48pm: Efforts are on-going to speed up the construction of dormitories which, beyond providing adequate living space, have in-built amenities and recreational facilities to take care of the daily basic living needs of workers. The new dormitories which are being launched are required to be self-contained, with adequate space set aside for living and gathering, as well as the provision of facilities like mini-marts, gyms, canteens, TV rooms ... and WiFi. Over time, we aim for more workers to be accommodated in such self-contained housing facilities which will reduce their need to travel far for basic services.

READ: Improve amenities at dorms: COI

3.50pm: The government is also pressing on with our efforts to establish more dedicated recreation centres for foreign workers. There are four today – in Soon Lee, Kaki Bukit, Woodlands and Penjuru. We will increase their number in tandem with the increase in our foreign workforce numbers. These centres provide a wider range of amenities that individual dormitories may not be able to, such as remittance and banking services, supermarkets and sports facilities.

MANPOWER MINISTER TAN: REDUCING RELIANCE ON LOW-COST LABOUR

3.52pm: Even as we undertake to more effectively manage the foreign workers in our midst, the broader lesson is that growth in foreign worker numbers cannot go unabated. we have begun to moderate the growth of foreign workers to more sustainable levels, with a greater emphasis on productivity improvements. We have also taken deliberate and progressive steps to raise the quality profile of our foreign workforce and help businesses reduce their reliance on low-cost foreign labour. Excluding construction and domestic workers, the foreign worker growth rate was halved from 9.4 per cent in 2011 to 4.6 per cent in 2012, and halved again to just 2.3 per cent in 2013.

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