First man to plead guilty in Singapore Little India Riot gets 15 weeks jail

Pedestrians look at a tribute board on December 11, 2013 set up for the Indian national who was killed in an accident which triggered a riot in Singapore's Little India district

Singapore’s courts on Monday afternoon sentenced the first of 25 men who were charged in the aftermath of the Little India Riot.

Indian national Chinnappa Vijayaragunatha Poopathi, 32, was sentenced to 15 weeks in jail for failing to disperse from “an assembly of about 10 men” at a nearby canteen despite police orders to do so, reported Channel NewsAsia on Tuesday morning.

Chinnappa, who was not actually part of the mob, was initially charged with rioting, but on Friday pleaded guilty to an amended charge of failing to disperse. This is an offence that is punishable by up to two years’ jail and a fine. This is also reportedly the first time a person has been charged and sentenced for failing to disperse.

Watch a video of the riot that took place on 8 December here:

Prosecutors repeated the statement of facts, noting that Chinnappa and a friend had gone to a canteen at the junction of Kerbau and Chander Road, near where the riot had broke out, that evening.

Despite being ordered by police to leave the area, he and his friend joined the group of about 10 there, shouting at the canteen’s employees to reopen the shop to allow them to buy things.

CNA reported that they also called for a four to six-month deterrent sentence, saying Chinnappa’s acts served to “further heighten tensions”.

In sentencing, Deputy Chief District Judge Jennifer Marie noted that Chinnappa was not in the immediate vicinity of where the riot first started or was taking place, and that he was not involved in any acts of violence or damage to any property. Neither did he restrict emergency rescue operations or prevent assistance from being rendered to the injured, she reportedly added.

Still, “the courts must send a strong signal in sentencing; unruly and defiant conduct will simply not be tolerated and punishment for such conduct will be certain and unrelenting", she reportedly said.

“The accused and potential offenders should have no illusions as to what consequences would flow should they knowingly choose to ignore the lawful orders of the police."

How South Asian workers responded to the riot:

Chinnappa’s defence counsel Sunil Sudheesan also reportedly said later on that Chinnappa feels remorse for his actions.

“I don’t think he knew the extent of what was going on at that point of time, because he wasn’t at the Race Course Road area,” he added.

Chinnappa’s sentence was backdated to 8 December, the night he was arrested, and he will be deported upon his release, reported CNA.

The riot in Little India was the first Singapore had seen in more than 40 years. It resulted in 24 emergency vehicles damaged or burnt and 43 enforcement officers injured.