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Singapore to arm police with special powers for Little India

Singapore, Jan 20 (PTI): Singapore’s government on Monday introduced a Bill in Parliament that will give police special powers to maintain public order in Little India, the scene of the worst riot in 40 years in the city state following which 56 Indians were deported.

The proposed law would allow police and other state agencies to enforce the alcohol restrictions and regulate movement of persons in Little India, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said in his address to the parliament.

Little India is an enclave of migrant workers from South Asia in Singapore that was the scene of rioting on December 8. The riot broke out after the death of an Indian worker in a road accident.

The Public Order (Additional Temporary Bill) seeks to give law enforcement officers the power to search and interview individuals entering the area for alcohol and prohibited items, and empower officers to ban individuals from being in the area during specified times if their presence is deemed to potentially threaten public order, the Straits Times said.

Powers will also be granted to officers to swiftly cancel or suspend the business license of those suspected to have flouted the law, the daily said.

Teo, who is also the home affairs minister, said the new provision was scoped more tightly compared to the wide-ranging powers that come into effect when the Public Order (Preservation) Act is invoked.

“The Bill proposes that the law be valid for one year. This will provide sufficient time for the ministry to enact longer term legislation to take into account the findings and recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry, and recommendations arising from public consultations on the review of the liquor licensing regime,” Teo said.

The Deputy Prime Minister gave a detailed account of the riot on December 8 and the subsequent measures taken to deal with the incident in his ministerial statement.

Singapore deported 56 Indian nationals and one Bangladesh national relating to the riots, and issued police advisories to some 200 South Asian workers who were allowed to stay on and work in the city state.

Meanwhile, 25 Indian nationals are facing charges in Singapore relating to the riot.

It was the worst riot to hit Singapore since 1969.

The rampage left 39 police and civil defence staff injured and 25 vehicles -- including 16 police cars damaged.

Following the riot, a designated part of Little India was proclaimed as an area in a state of danger to public order under the Public Order (Preservation) Act.

As a result, the sale and consumption of alcohol were restricted on weekends, as well as on the eve of and on public holidays, and during large-scale events.

Describing the riot as the “worst public order disturbance in Singapore in more than four decades”, Teo stressed that the incident did not “spread in time or space, and was contained.”

“The riot, though serious, did not spread to the surrounding neighbourhoods, or other parts of Singapore. It was contained within a particular area in Little India,” Teo said.

“Foreign worker dormitories that night, and workplaces the next day, remained calm and peaceful. Not a single shot was fired that night, and there were no fatalities amongst the rioters, innocent bystanders, or our Home Team officers,” he said.