Singapore: Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that last Sunday's riot in the city state was spontaneous and there is no reason to believe that it was due to unhappiness among foreign workers.
The incident was "spontaneous", and the migrant workers involved were employed by a variety of companies and lived in different places, Lee said in Tokyo. Asked whether one of the possible causes of the riot was the eruption of pent-up tensions among foreign workers in Singapore, Lee said, "We have not seen any evidence of that. There is no tension, there is no sense of grievances or
hardship or injustice."
The trouble started after a private bus fatally knocked down an Indian pedestrian, 33-year-old Sakthivel Kuaravelu, at the junction of Race Course Road and Hampshire Road in Little India, a precinct of Indian-origin businesses,
eateries and pubs where most of the South Asian workers take their Sunday break.
The migrant workers involved in the rampage left 39 police and civil defence staff injured and 25 vehicles -- including 16 police cars -- damaged or burnt. Singapore previously witnessed violence of such scale during race riots in 1969.
"The riot happened spontaneously, it was localised. The people who were involved in the riot were not from one company, or one dorm (dormitory); they were from several dorms, many different companies, and it is unlikely that all the companies will have the same problem," The Sunday Times quoted Lee as saying.
"We believe that foreign workers in Singapore ought to be treated fairly and properly. We do not stand for ill treatment or unfair treatment of foreign workers. We have to make sure they are well treated, they are paid properly on time, their safety is taken care of, their living conditions are up to
standard, and they are given full protection of the law," he said.
Lee has ordered the formation of a special committee to probe the riot and warned to use "full force of the law" against trouble-makers. A two-day ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol were imposed after the riot covering an area of 1.1 square kilometres in the Serangoon Road area, most of which covers
Little India, which was the scene of the riot on December 8.
The Prime Minister said that there were some signs that alcohol was a factor in the rioting. Even as authorities tighten the inflow of foreign workers
over the years, Lee said their population needs to be managed and there was an on-going inter-ministerial committee that looks into their welfare.
"One of the focuses was to try our best to see how we could speed up the construction of more dorms, so that the workers who are now housed in HDB estate or private properties, which have been rented out, they can be put in proper dorms. Then I think they can be better taken care of and there can be less impact on the community," Lee said.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam visited several dormitories and interacted with foreign workers, mostly South Asians.