Channel NewsAsia

Recommendations from the Little India riot COI "holistic": Denise Phua

MP Denise Phua has described Monday's Committee of Inquiry report on the Little India riot as offering a "holistic set of measures". She has been lobbying for stricter crowd control and alcohol restrictions in Little India.

SINGAPORE: Many in Little India say since the area was marked a Special Zone, there have been fewer incidents of public disorder. MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC Denise Phua says the recommendations from the Committee of Inquiry into the Little India riot released on Monday (July 1) are heartening, and "holistic".

She also says residents want the enhanced police power in Little India to continue. They also want the restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol to be in place for the long term.

Ms Phua agrees there should be stricter enforcement of public drunkenness, especially in shared spaces.  

"Much needs to be done about restrictions on the sale of alcohol. Please, not on the ground floor where my residents are living for example, and also consumption of alcohol in public spaces, especially when there are also residents going there - the families, the young kids, the ladies coming home from school. (People) shouldn't be drinking publicly in the void deck, playground and elderly equipment places," she said.iii 

On the flip side, business owners say they are suffering. Since restrictions to the sale and consumption of alcohol were put in place in Little India, business owners say revenue has drastically gone down. We're told that just over the last six months, about seven restaurants and 15 liquor shops have closed down. And having seen the recommendations from the committee, they are concerned.

Their wishlist - to reduce restriction hours for liquor sale by one day, and have it start on Sunday. Also, they want to extend the pick-up time for workers headed back to their dormitories by one hour to 10pm.

Said Mr Rajakumar Chandra, the Chairman of the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association, "We know that not many foreign workers come at this time, it's not that they are all here and the policy is being tweaked to help businesses but generally when you look at it. On Saturday evenings, you don't find that much crowd, it's just like a normal weekday. It's only on Sunday that you find the crowd comes in after 4, 5 o'clock - so till then, the restriction to the sale of the alcohol really affect the sales of businesses, at least let them do a little bit more business."

"The businesses are also important stakeholders," Ms Phua acknowledged. "Of course, for many years they have had a good run. The number of foreign workers supporting our economy has grown so the business has grown bigger for them  and the nature of the trade has also changed to cater to many of the foreign workers. Their livelihood is important, but let's think of creative measures by which there could be a win-win situation.

"The businesses which specialise, which have really good network and the skills and expertise for these kinds of businesses - could we help them expand their business network? Put them in dormitories, give them a chance, help them build a network, so that the negative impact on their business is not as much."

Mr Rajakumar said he hopes Little India merchants will be given priority when tendering for shop spaces at new recreation centres for migrant workers. "Hopefully there are other recreational centres which can be opened and all these merchants can be given a chance to do business. At least they could have another branch there to cover their loses here," he said.

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia