Singapore witnessed their first riot in over 40 years over the weekend, which led to the arrest of 27 people. Following a fatal accident that killed an Indian worker, more than 400 people took to the streets in one of the worst cases of civil unrest in their history. An estimated eighteen people were injured, including 10 police officers.
The riot began after a private bus hit and killed Sakthivel Kuaravelu last night in ‘Little India, where the Indian and Bangladeshi foreign workers live. The crowd chased the bus, that was driven by a Singapore national, and set fire to many police cars and ambulances.
The last time that Singapore, which is considered one of the world’s safest cities, witnessed a riot of this magnitude was in 1969 during the communal riots. The riot in 1969 lasted for seven days and left four people dead and 80 wounded. It is reported that tension has been rising in Singapore since the increase of foreign workers, most coming from South Asia.
Singaporean Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, posted a statement on his personal Facebook page that read: “The Little India riot last night was a very grave incident. Several police officers were injured, and vehicles damaged or destroyed. The situation is now under control, and investigations are underway. Whatever events may have sparked the rioting, there is no excuse for such violent, destructive, and criminal behavior. We will spare no effort to identify the culprits and deal with them with the full force of the law. I urge all Singaporeans to stay calm. Do send the Police any information, photos or videos of the incident that you may have. I also wish the injured officers a full and speedy recovery.”
Loong released an updated statement this morning, via Facebook, discussing the ongoing investigation and the foreign workers in their country.
I have ordered a Committee of Inquiry (COI) to look into the Little India riot. The COI will review the factors that led to the incident, how the incident was handled, and how we manage areas where foreign workers congregate. This was an isolated incident caused by an unruly mob. The vast majority of foreign workers here obey our laws. We must not let this bad incident tarnish our views of foreigner workers here. Nor should we condone hateful or xenophobic comments, especially online. Let us remain calm and continue with our daily lives. Support our Home Team officers on the front line, and share with them any leads you may have. We must unite to deal with this unfortunate incident, to keep Singapore orderly and safe.
Image via Wikimedia Commons