Little India riot: 53 repatriated; 4 more to be deported

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean speaks at a press conference updating the media on the Little India riot on Tuesday, 17 December. (Yahoo photo)

[UPDATE 20 December 7pm Updating number of people repatriated]

A total of 53 people linked to the recent riot in Little India have been repatriated to their home countries and will not be allowed in Singapore again, police said.

In addition, four people who were previously charged in court but had their charges withdrawn would also be repatriated Friday evening, Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee said in a press briefing Friday afternoon.

According to police, the 53 who were deported had been “identified to have participated in the riot” and “failed to disperse despite Police’s orders to do so”.

Commissioner Ng said they enjoyed full access to consular assistance, and were also seen by members of a Committee of Inquiry (COI).

On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean noted that those who were to be repatriated had “impeded the riot control and emergency rescue operations” and that “their actions and conduct had threatened public order, thus making their continued presence in Singapore undesirable”.

Commissioner Ng said out of the 53, 52 are Indian nationals and one is a Bangladeshi national.

The 53 are employed by 48 companies and 52 of them are work permit holders while one has an employment pass. Half of them work in the building and construction sector and all have them have worked in Singapore for less than 5 years.

Ng said on Tuesday that their repatriation process would start on Tuesday, adding that flights would have to be arranged and they would have to meet with their embassies, settle their salaries with their employers and close their bank accounts.

He explained that this group is less “culpable” than those who were charged, as the latter were “active participants” in the riot, “violent” and “had attacked uniformed personnel and vehicles, damaged property, and had incited others to do so”.

Ng added that charges for seven of 35 earlier charged in court would be withdrawn, which means as of Tuesday, the total number of persons charged for the riot is revised to 28 – all of them Indian nationals.

No further action would be taken against three of them.

Another 200 people were present at Race Course Road that night, but police assessed their involvement to be "relatively passive based on the available evidence". Ng explained on Tuesday that these individuals did not participate in the riot, did not obstruct police and obeyed police orders.

He added that they would receive a formal police advisory, with no further action taken against them, and would be allowed to remain and work in Singapore.

DPM Teo stressed that the government have dealt with each of the people involved in the riot in a “strict and fair way”, adding that the investigators, together with the Attorney-General's Chambers, went through the evidence available to decide on what is the appropriate action for each individual.

Comissioner Ng, said that with the repatriation of these 53, police action against suspected rioters has largely come to an end.

Moving forward, they do not expect to be arresting, charging or repatriating many more persons.

Traffic accident

Ng said a traffic accident, which sparked the riot, is still being actively investigated.
The accident took the life of Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu.
Ng said traffic police already have good information on what had happened.
He added that the police is in the process of securing the services of an independent expert on accident reconstruction. The expert's help is needed to analyse information that the police have and to provide the police with an additional opinion.

Ng said the police will update the media of the progress of investigations at an appropriate time.

Committee of Inquiry

DPM Teo also told reporters that a 4-member Committee of Inquiry (COI) chaired by retired Justice Selvam to look into the factors that led to the riot and to make recommendations to reduce the risk of recurrence, had its first meeting on Monday.

The COI was appointed by him on 13 December.

The committee will also be interviewing some of the foreign workers who will be repatriated, before they leave Singapore, added DPM Teo.
Measures taken to manage public order in Little India
On the measures taken last week to restore order and peace in Little India, DPM Teo said they are reviewing the measures regarding the sale and consumption of alcohol, and have been proactively engaging the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association (LISHA) and other stakeholders as part of this review.
Commissioner Ng said the busing of the workers is still under review, with the Land Transport Authority and Transport Ministry consulting stakeholders.

In concluding, DPM Teo said there is "no justification for the lawless behaviour" exhibited by the rioters that night.

"We have taken strong and decisive action to charge, and to repatriate those who took part in the riot to send a strong signal that we will not tolerate actions by anyone which threaten law and order in Singapore," he said.

In the course of its investigation into the Little India riot, police said they interviewed nearly 4,000 people, of which some 420 were called up for further investigations.

Additional reporting by Peace Chiu

Watch videos related to the riot: