Singapore police seek more power to enforce public order in Little India

Policemen stand on the street in Little India on December 9, 2013, following a riot the day before by South Asian workers in the worst outbreak of violence in more than 40 years in the tightly controlled city-state

Singapore authorities are seeking the passage of a temporary law that would provide them with additional powers to maintain public order in Little India, the site of a rare riot in the city-state.

“The new law will allow Police and other agencies to enforce the alcohol restrictions and regulate the movement of persons,” Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said in a speech in Parliament on Monday afternoon in response to a series of 21 questions on the riot and its aftermath.

He said the law, which he proposes to be effective for one year, will be scoped “more tightly” compared to the powers that police have under the Public Order (Preservation) Act, which imposes alcohol restrictions in the Little India zone until June.

Under the bill, law enforcement officers will be empowered to inspect and interview any persons who enter the special zone for alcohol or prohibited items. Officers will also have powers to exclude or ban persons from entering the special zone for specified durations if his presence or actions are likely to threaten public order.
“This [proposed temporary law] will provide sufficient time for my Ministry of enact longer term legislation to take into account the findings and recommendations of the COI (Committee of Inquiry into the Little India riot), and recommendations arising from public consultations on the review of the liquor licensing regime,” he added.
On 8 December last year, Singapore was shaken by a rare riot involving about 400 people that came after a fatal accident involving an Indian national. During that riot, the first in the island nation in more than 40 years, 23 emergency response vehicles were damaged with five burnt, and 49 Home Team officers were injured.
A total of 82 men have since been either charged in court or deported for their involvement, and a further 213 were issued police advisories.

Additional reporting by Nurul Azliah Aripin and Michelle Kwara