Channel NewsAsia

New Bill incorporates features of existing laws to address concerns over Little India riot

The Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) that is scheduled for debate in Parliament on February 17 mostly draws on various existing laws to address the needs and concerns of various parties following the riot in Little India last December.

SINGAPORE: The Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) or PO (ATM) Bill that is scheduled for debate in Parliament on February 17 mostly draws on various existing laws to address the needs and concerns of various parties following the Little India riot on December 8, 2013.

It includes some of the features of the Public Order (Preservation) Act, or POPA, that was put in place in the 1950s to deal with emergency situations then, such as the ability to proclaim an area a special zone, and to limit the consumption of alcohol on certain days.

It also includes features of other laws such as the ability to restrict retail hours for alcohol sales as provided for under the Customs (Liquors Licensing) Regulations.

In an interview published at the Singapore Public Service's news portal "Challenge" on February 14, Home Affairs Deputy Secretary of Operations and Development Roy Quek said the drafting of the PO (ATM) Bill was a multi-agency effort.

For instance, the Transport Ministry and the Land Transport Authority provided input on bussing arrangements; the National Environment Agency on licensing, the Manpower Ministry on the foreign worker situation, the Trade and Industry Ministry on how businesses are being affected, and the Attorney-General's Chambers on legal considerations.

"It wasn't just the government because we relied a lot on feedback from the ground -- from the residents, from the grassroots organisations, from the stallholders, from various other stakeholder associations and all. Everyone had their views on certain things and so we put it all together," said Mr Quek.

Although comprising mostly features of existing laws, the proposed law also includes a new feature that fills the gap of existing laws on liquor sales.

Currently, licensed liquor sellers could get their licences suspended in addition to being charged in court if they breached the conditions of liquor sale.

But those who sell liquor illegally without a liquor licence, for example a restaurant owner, could be charged in court, but would not face the additional penalty of having their licence suspended since the suspension applies to the liquor licence only.

Under PO (ATM), the restaurant business of the individual could be affected.

Turning to criticisms that the proposed new law would give the police extensive powers, Mr Quek said: "The ability that the police have to conduct a search on an individual or any premise or a vehicle, it's already in the existing laws. It's nothing new."

He also said: "We have what we call the Public Order Act, Special Events. So during special events -- National Day Parade or F1 -- and within special event zones, certain laws are applicable to ensure safety and security in the event zone.

"So we just ported them over to the special zone that is now Little India. So it's no different from what we already have."

On criticism that the proposed law could result in racial profiling of South Indians, Mr Quek said: "Why is it Little India? It's Little India because a riot happened there.

"It (would be) the same if the riot happened at Geylang, or Holland Village. And then we would impose the measures on that area. (It has) nothing to do with the profile of the community there."

Summing up the purpose of PO (ATM), he said: "This single receptacle is therefore defined and limited, and not broad like POPA. And it has a shelf life of a year, enough time for us to let the Committee of Inquiry (COI) run its course and for MHA to consider and implement its recommendations."

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna