Singapore has assured Indian workers they will not be affected by a new bill that gives special powers to police in Little India, the scene of the country’s worst riots in over 40 years.
Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam said the bill was among “temporary measures to try and nip things in the bud” at Little India, a precinct of Indian—owned businesses, eateries and pubs where South Asians working in Singapore spend their day off.
He said the bill was confined to Little India as it was the government’s duty to do what it can to prevent another incident.
The public has little to worry about it, he said, adding that the bill was not discriminatory.
“If you are coming in, taking in the air, going into the restaurants, enjoying the open air, walking about — none of these powers would impact on you,” Shanmugam told over 400 workers in Tamil at the foreign workers’ dormitory last night.
“We are trying to restrict it, to keep it contained. The incident (riot) took place there. There is where you get a large concentration of foreign workers coming on weekends. We haven’t yet seen a similar situation in other places,” the Minister was quoted as saying by The Straits Times.
Singapore on Monday introduced a new bill in Parliament that will give police special powers to maintain public order in Little India. The proposed law would allow police and other state agencies to enforce the alcohol restrictions and regulate movement of persons.
Shanmugam also noted that the mood of the workers was .
“much more positive“.
“They were (then) concerned about themselves, as to...whether they would be sent back,” he said, recalling his previous visit.
Shanmugam visited the dormitory in the Jurong industrial region on December 17, in the wake of the December 8 riot.
“I assured them that if they did nothing wrong, nothing would be done...Now they know that that assurance is true...so they feel a certain sense of confidence,” he said.
Shanmugam also assured the workers, mostly from Southern India, that action would be taken to improve their welfare, such as the costs within the dormitories.
The December 8 riot, triggered by the death of an Indian national in a bus accident, was Singapore’s worst outbreak of violence in 40 years.
Over 400 migrant workers rioted, injuring 39 police and civil defence staff and damaging 25 vehicles, including 16 police cars.
Following the incident, 25 Indian nationals are facing court charges for rioting.
The authorities have also deported 56 Indians and one Bangladeshi and issued police advisories to 213 others in connection with the riot.