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Little India COI report "robust": MP Hri Kumar

Government Parliamentary Committee Chair for Law and Home Affairs Hri Kumar Nair says it is important to boost not only the Home Team's capabilities, but soft skills in dealing with foreign workers for officers patrolling Little India as well.

SINGAPORE: The Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Little India riot has produced a "robust" report, with good recommendations on how to improve training and equipment for frontline officers, said Government Parliamentary Committee Chair for Law and Home Affairs Hri Kumar Nair .

He added while it's important to boost the Home Team's capabilities to deal with public order situations, building on the soft skills of police officers and auxilliary police officers (APOs) who patrol Little India can make a difference too.

"One of the things the COI pointed out was the incident escalated because of perceived unfairness in treatment, the perceived thinking that the officers were not doing their job, or at least doing their job in an unfair manner, so if you build up a trust and rapport with them, that's not the first thing that will come to their mind, particularly in difficult situations. So I think that's something we can do better in, and it takes time and effort and that's something we should strive towards," said Mr Nair.

This could mean having officers who can engage the foreign workers in their Mother Tongue, he said. "That's important. You want APOs and officers who are not just there to enforce the law, but also to engage. You would hope that they would talk to foreign workers there, build a rapport, make their presence known, make it clear that they are not just there to enforce the law, but to help and to maintain order. People who they can trust, not just authority figures. And that will take time, but speaking the language I think, is one of the critical factors."

He added that this might require casting the net wider - to include retired police officers, community leaders, and non-governmental organisations. Mr Nair also suggested reducing the turnover rate of migrant workers here. Those who have been here longer would be more aware of Singapore's social norms, and can better educate and guide new workers who come to Singapore.

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