Ban on alcohol consumption in Little India to stay on weekends, public holidays

[UPDATED on 18 December 6pm: Adding update on ban of alcohol consumption in Little India]

A ban on the consumption of alcohol in public places in Little India will continue for up to six months during weekends and public holidays, said the police during a Wednesday press conference.

The ban is part of a series of cooling-off measures introduced by the government in Little India last weekend, following a riot on 8 December.

Police deputy commissioner T. Raja Kumar said that the ban will be in force every weekend – from 6am on Saturdays to 6am on Mondays – and public holiday and eve of public holiday – from 6am on the eve of public holiday to 6am on the day after the public holiday.

The area will cover the same area as announced last weekend.

Additionally, shops within the demarcated zone that sell "takeaway" alcohol will only be allowed to do so between 6am and 8pm on weekends, eves of public holidays or public holidays. This measure will also be put in place for the coming six months.

However, establishments holding public house and beer house licences will be exempt from this, and its customers will be allowed to purchase and consume alcohol within their premises, said deputy commissioner Raja.

Some 240 establishments fall under the latter measure, while 134 are affected by the takeaway alcohol sale restriction.

Separately, 25 Little India bus services run by private bus operators that transport workers to and from their dormitories to the area will resume operations this Sunday between 2pm and 9pm, according to the Land Transport Authority (LTA). The bus services previously operated until 11pm.

LTA also said that the number of buses in operation, usually between 250-280 buses, will be reduced by half. LTA is looking to reduce the number of passengers to around 12,000.

Meanwhile, the Manpower Ministry announced some plans to provide more recreational activities for foreign workers, such as this weekend’s movie screenings at a few dormitories organised by People’s Association in partnership with grassroot organisations.

Last Thursday, the government imposed a blanket ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol in all public spaces and commercial outlets in the Little India district for two days, in the wake of the worst riot in Singapore in more than 40 years.

From 6am last Saturday, 14 December till 6am on Monday, 16 December, all visitors to the area demarcated by the police (indicated above) were not allowed to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages.

If a person had displayed drunken or disorderly behaviour, he or she would have been subject to police action under the Public Order (Preservation) Act.

Police last Thursday said its steps are necessary to "calm and stabilise the situation" in Little India where an estimated 400 people of South Asian origin rioted on the night of 8 December, overturning police vehicles and burning an ambulance. The incident came after a traffic accident involving a private bus led to the death of 33-year-old Indian national.

Deputy commissioner Raja said last Thursday, "This will also allow police to assess the next steps in consultation with the various stakeholders for a more permanent intervention to ensure that a repeat of last Sunday's riot does not occur, and to restore the sense of safety and security for residents, shopkeepers, visitors and other stakeholders in the area."

The suspension in alcohol sales affected some 374 establishments and stakeholders located in areas that include Mackenzie Road, Race Course Road, Farrer Park Road and Petain Road. All establishments — which range from liquor shops to restaurants, hotels and convenience stores — have been notified of the suspension, police said.

Separately, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) suspended private bus services that ferry workers from their dormitories to Little India on Sunday. Public buses and trains still commuted in and through the area, and workers were not restricted from travelling to the area, stressed the police.

The LTA is prepared to "beef up (its) resources" should overcrowding occur, though, although specific plans for this have not been decided upon yet.

Major dormitory operators have also been encouraged to organise recreational activities for their residents this weekend, added the Ministry of Manpower. Some of these, it said, already have plans to do so.

Thousands of foreign workers have so far been questioned by the police in relation to the incident. As of 17 December, 28 men — all of whom are Indian nationals — have been charged in court for rioting.