The big Little Indian clean-up Part 2

In News Reports on December 11, 2013 at 1:44 am

Seriously, when it comes to reporting on the ground, metinks The New Paper wins hands down. First, we get a break from seeing busty babes on its cover. Second, it has reporters who do plenty of legwork, this time in Little India.

So we know that there are close to 300 buses which ferry foreign workers from their dorms to the area every Sunday. A conservative estimate means the area fills up with an extra 40,000 or so bodies on weekends.

We know that there are seven liquor shops along the 400m stretch of Chander Road. Just one road. We even know the names of Indian beer, like Kingfisher, Knockout, Haywards 5000, which go for about $3.50 a can, compared to $4 Heinekens and Tigers. At 8 per cent alcohol content, they can knock you out faster than a 5 per cent Tiger.

Both transport operators and liquor shops rake in big bucks from their South Asian patrons – and both are now worried that the G will clamp down on their operations. Should we side with them? Or say that this is the price of keeping the peace? It really depends on the G means by a “calibrated’’ response – so not a total ban on alcohol sales, but maybe on selling hours. Not a ban on entry to Little India, but better staggered “visiting hours’’?

Seems like the G is pulling out other stops, with cameras in Little India (you mean, there are none now?) and stepped up police presence in the area as well as where foreigners congregate, like the Geylang and Golden Mile stretches. People are asking for fences to close in the residential areas from outsiders. Others are asking for more social amenities and spaces so that they can enjoy their weekends stone cold sober.

That’s a good point. Do we really expect workers who do hard labour to stay in their dorms on their day off? They want to meet and mingle, send money home and yes, knock back a few beers just like the locals do.

TWC2 has a point when it said that “a more sustainable solution’’ involving creating sheltered spaces with amenities should be found. “We need to be conscious of the fact that sometimes Singapore actively denies foreign workers use of public spaces, such as void decks. Moreever, with low pay, they can’t afford to spend their leisure time within commercial spaces,’’ the NGO said on its website. With just the five-foot ways and open fields which are no good in the rain, they will crowd on walkways.  

“This can raise tempers,’’ it said. Presumably it is referring not just to the temper of the migrants but residents, shopkeepers and other locals who would view it as an “invasion’’ of their space.    

Maybe the NGOs themselves can step up to the plate here?  Not too long ago, there were movie screenings on open fields for them – are they still on? And football and cricket matches were played. Can NGOs and business groups, and even the labour movement, work together to take over the organisational aspects? Or can the foreign workers themselves be encouraged to organise such activities for their community?

Possible to bring the remittance agencies to the dorms? Rather than have them go to Little India to send money home?

What I really want to know is the name of the hero who tried to protect the female bus conductor in the initial stages of the riot. The burly man in a plaid shirt has been caught on camera and video shielding her and waving off the rioters. I hope he wasn’t injured in the process.  

We should give that man a…Kingfisher?

  1. Congregation of the South Asian workers at little India has been going on for years. Why not close some roads on Sundays and redirect traffic…I mean if you know hundreds of busloads of foreign workers would be dropped off there every Sunday? This G is increasing reactive, no foresight at all. Now you want the NGOs to step up and provide entertainment and activities for the workers. Come on, the G has been collecting workers’ levies for years. Time for them to put some of that money to good use. Or I am asking for too much of this G?

  2. Little India Riot – what comprehensive approach is needed to address this to prevent it from happening again?

    At the hot spots [Little India, Geylang, etc], where possible, I hope the Govt should consider closing some side roads to traffic [on Sunday from 6pm to 10pm for example] and convert it to pedestrian/shopping mall to cater and meet the needs of the law-abiding FWs.

    I hope in the course of the police investigation and COI proceedings, it would be revealed how many of the 27 or others yet to be arrested and charged have previous criminal records or violent traits before coming to work in Singapore.

  3. Justice in Singapore is served fast. 21 days more to welcome sunrise on 1 Jan 2014. These 24 guys charged in court today will not be able to welcome 1 Jan sunrise in joy. Their loved ones too will be concerned and worried. I hope many people will welcome 1 Jan in health and joy, and not many will end up behind bars. But not all can. We are in very severe times. Don’t be caught offguard momentarily.

  4. Lucky no death arising from the carnage. Only some were violent. Not all. Four of the 28 were released, not charged in court. Probably some have past violent traits before coming here to work. Now, the fun over, time to end up behind bars for a few months, rotan, and then be packed and sent home for good.

  5. ‘In my mind it was quite evident that alcohol could have been a factor,’ says MOT Minister Lui after the Little India Riot.

    It could be true.

    But it could be more than meet the human eye. There are many other factors, some are mere physical aspects like these:

    [1] overcrowding where pedestrians are forced on the roads; where places in Serangoon Little India and in Geylang areas are famous hot spots;

    [2] jaywalking on main roads by many like no law and order;

    [3] also, those on bicycles going against traffic on main roads;

    [4] all these negative attitudes have forced many to encroach on road space meant for vehicles thus slowing down traffic flow, forcing motorists to jam their brakes to avoid accident;

    [5] some motorists and taxi drivers when fighting for time and space in a rush to move faster would move at speed that have
    seen some having near misses with jaywalkers;

    [6] the brave takes all attitude have resulted in no respect by many for one another when using public space and road space under such tight and overcrowded situations, and tension has been brewing;

    [7] when tension turns to anger, hatred, resentment, dissatisfaction, discontent, contempt for one another; it
    will eventually result in anti-social behaviour of the worst kind; the seed for trouble has been sown and need only to sprout;

    8] it will only need a mob with a single spark to light up a prairie fire. It was the case at Race Course Road, Little India last night at 9.23pm, 8 Dec 2013;

    [9] the mob took over; tension rose; violence and arson resulted;
    overturned police cars, and ambulance; and officers were injured when trying to control the mob violence and mayhem;

    [10] Will we ever learn from hard knocks and this testing lesson going forward, or we don’t;

    [11] What is the solution, or there is no solution, or we go for easy solution, soft option? We wait.

    I hope time is on our side. We have 22 days to welcome sunrise on 1 Jan 2014. Those who died last night and those injured would not be able to welcome 1 Jan in health and joy.

    My condolences to their loved ones in suffering too. They have my compassion and tears in seeking mercy for we know not that we have taken tranquility for granted.

    We are indeed in very severe times. Events least expected will happen suddenly, all of a a sudden, many were caught offguard and ill-prepared for the changed in situations, from peace to
    violence, from tranquility to time of disaster.

    I hope many will learn. And, learn well.

  6. Migrant workers from the nearby 3-4 dorms & numerous rental flats used to play cricket or football (& sometimes both simultaneously) every weekend without any incident at the only field in my estate. This open field was also occasionally used by local residents for flying kites & R.C. planes.

    However, suddenly up went those blue SLA signages (3 of them within a field that’s around 200m by 125 m big) stating: “State Land – Reserved for future development”.

    Upon which all casual recreational activities at the said field abruptly stopped — save for authorized tented events organized by the town council. It seems that nobody dares to use the field anymore.

    One should consider if there has been none-too-subtle attempts to alienate both tthe migrant workers & local residents like. The end result ? Everyone (other than the powers that be) is disenfranchised.

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