- POSTED: 12 Dec 2013 16:14
- UPDATED: 19 Feb 2014 18:32
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Singaporeans have reacted peacefully and calmly to Sunday's riot at Little India despite being initially shocked at the event, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
SINGAPORE: Singaporeans have reacted peacefully and calmly to Sunday's riot at Little India despite being initially shocked at the event.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said this during an interview at the end of his official visit to South Korea on Thursday.
He also said that foreign workers are critical to Singapore's growth, including its housing and public transport development plans.
And there is a need to be fair to those who were not involved in the incident, as well as those who were.
Prime Minister Lee said Singapore has not seen a riot like that for a very long time, and such incidents are beyond living memory for most Singaporeans.
Sunday's riot was triggered by a fatal traffic accident at Little India involving a private bus and an Indian worker.
Some 400 people then started attacking the bus and the first responders who arrived at the scene.
Mr Lee said Singaporeans' anxiety and alarm towards the riot is understandable, but "we have to be fair to the persons who are not involved, even the persons who are involved, there has to be a due process of the law".
He said: "We have one million plus foreign workers in Singapore, and about 400 were involved in this riot. There was a specific circumstance, it was a localised riot -- I think the people who were involved would have to be treated severely.
“But the population at large, the other foreign workers who are here, who are making a living here, who are making a contribution to our economy, who had nothing to do with this, I think it would be quite unfair for Singaporeans to look at them all and say 'they're all a problem, we cannot accept them'. I think that's not correct and that's not wise."
Mr Lee said police investigations are ongoing, and Singaporeans who were witnesses have been very helpful, sending videos and photographs to the police.
He said there is no justification for such behaviour in Singapore, and authorities will deal with the matter very firmly.
So far, 31 people have been charged in connection with the riot.
The incident has also attracted significant international attention, which Mr Lee said is understandable.
He said: “Certainly, the investors are also watching. Even on this trip in Korea, one or two of the Korean businessmen have asked me about this... what do I think, what caused it, what is the Singapore government going to do about it.
“So it's quite understandable that the media would have reported it as significant news. I think all the more, we have to be very proper in our response as a government, and Singaporeans also have to be very responsible and measured in our reaction as a people.”
The members of a Committee of Inquiry set up to look into the incident are expected to be unveiled in the next few days.
Mr Lee said the committee will study various issues, including the sale of alcohol in the area and transport arrangements.