Thousands questioned in Singapore amid growing post-riot crackdown
By Bhavan Jaipragas, AFP
December 12, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
SINGAPORE--Singapore police have questioned nearly 4,000 foreign workers in a widening crackdown following the city-state's first riot in more than 40 years, officials confirmed Wednesday.
Three more Indian nationals were charged in court Wednesday with rioting, in addition to 24 compatriots charged a day earlier with the same offence, which is punishable by up to seven years in jail and caning.
An estimated 400 South Asian workers went on the rampage on Sunday night after an Indian construction worker was struck and killed by a private bus in a district known as Little India, leaving 39 police officers and emergency responders injured.
A police spokeswoman told AFP that so far 176 men including those placed under arrest had been taken to a police complex to have their statements recorded.
Around 3,700 foreign workers living in dormitories have been interviewed on site as well, she said.
The breakdown of their nationalities was not given.
A total of 25 vehicles — including 16 police cars — were left damaged or burnt after the fracas.
The 55-year-old Singaporean bus driver who knocked down and killed Indian construction worker Sakthivel Kumaravelu, 33, has been released on bail after being charged with causing death by a negligent act.
Activists have urged authorities to investigate whether the violence on Sunday was an indication of wider discontent among low-wage migrant workers.
Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean, who looks after internal security, said police had increased their presence in worker dormitories and places where foreign workers gather.
“Investigations will continue so that all those who have broken the law will be dealt with strictly, firmly and fairly in accordance with the law,” Teo said in a statement late Tuesday.
On Wednesday workers were seen installing new surveillance cameras on lampposts along Race Course Road, where the riot broke out.
A makeshift memorial board in memory of Sakthivel had also been erected at the scene.
Local media reported substantially more police patrolling the area.
Singapore's foreign ministry said it was working closely with the Indian High Commissioner (ambassador) “to facilitate consular access and support for their nationals, including legal representation”.
The wealthy but tiny Southeast Asian nation of 5.4 million depends heavily on guest workers, with laborers from South Asia dominating sectors like construction.
There are nearly 700,000 foreign workers holding permits allowing them to work in certain sectors such as construction and shipping for renewable two-year periods.
Sunday's riot was the second incident involving a large group of foreign workers in the past year.
In November 2012, 171 Chinese bus drivers stopped work to demand better wages and living conditions — the first industrial strike in Singapore since 1986.
Five of the drivers served jail terms after it was declared an illegal strike, while 29 others were deported without trial.