SINGAPORE: Police officers were deployed to the Westlite Jalan Tukang migrant worker dormitory in October following information that a group of workers had been “behaving aggressively, with potential for violence”, said Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan on Monday (Nov 1).
Mr Tan was responding to a question by Member of Parliament He Ting Ru (WP-Sengkang) on whether the situation at the dormitory on Oct 13 had warranted the deployment of police officers.
Workers had complained about breaches of COVID-19 health protocols, a lack of access to medical support and poor quality of catered food at the dormitory in Jurong.
Disgruntled workers had shared photos of insects and hair they found in their food through an online article on Weixin, the domestic version of WeChat used in China.
Some workers quoted in the article also said they had slept on the ground outside their rooms to avoid infecting those they shared a room with and had to wait a long time before receiving medical attention.
The Ministry of Manpower said a few days later it had deployed "insufficient resources" for an "unexpected" increase in COVID-19 cases at the dormitory in Jurong, resulting in delays to the transfer of these cases to care or recovery facilities.
On Monday, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Koh Poh Koon said there were “shortcomings by all parties” on the ground surrounding the incident.
WHAT HAPPENED ON OCT 13
On the afternoon of Oct 13, there was a heavy security presence at the dormitory, with Special Operations Command vehicles and several other armoured police vehicles parked along the road outside.
Dozens of police officers were in protective gear, along with other officers in red berets.
The police responded to a call for assistance at the dormitory on Oct 13, said Mr Tan, speaking in Parliament on Monday.
“The information received was that a group of workers were behaving aggressively, with potential for violence,” he added.
Patrol officers from Jurong Police Division were dispatched to the dormitory, where MOM officers were already engaging the workers, said Mr Tan.
“The officers from Jurong Police Division, together with the dormitory staff and officers from MOM, managed to resolve the situation,” said the Home Affairs Minister of State.
“While the Jurong Police Officers were thus engaged, they also assessed that it was necessary to have other police units on standby if the situation became violent," he added.
"And additional units were placed on standby. However, these additional units were not needed to be deployed.
“No arrests were made by the Police during the incident.”
Ms He of the Workers' Party also asked how often and under what conditions the riot police had been deployed to respond to an active situation over the last five years.
“The police do not track the number of times that its contingency forces have been activated to respond to public order incidents or forward staged,” Mr Tan said.
“Such activations may take place in a variety of situations, including management of large crowds that may turn disorderly, protests or riots.”
Officers from the Special Operations Command were previously activated in response to public order incidents at the Singapore Boys’ Home in September 2016 and September 2018, he added.