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The Little India Riot in Singapore
Mutual Respects Needed to Root Out Similar Riots in Singapore
By SUN Xi
The recent Little India Riot during night on 8 December in Singapore was the first major riot in 44 years since the racial disturbances in 1969. It was a shock to most of us.
An Accidental Incident
Clearly, the riot was not pre-planned and organized.
After a drunk Indian worker was accidentally struck and killed by a private ferrying services bus, more than 400 South Asian workers on the scene suddenly started rioting and attacking the bus, police vehicles, as well as police officers.
Most of those aggressive rioters were found being fuelled by alcohol which caused their behaviour bolder and less rational. Moreover, the massive laborers gather during weekend in the area surely facilitated the disturbance, because most followers were likely driven by the herd mentality.
A Sad Tragedy
Finally, all parties involved in the riot suffered.
The traffic accident claimed a young life and caused the Singaporean bus driver arrested. And the riot injured 22 police officers and five auxiliary police officers who restrained from using violence, while damaged 16 police vehicles. So far, 33 Indian rioters have been charged in court, possibly facing imprisonment and caning.
Furthermore, the temporary ban of alcohol sales and stoppage of shuttle service in the riot zone will affect related retailers, drivers and residents. Worse, Singapore’s reputation as an internationally renowned harmonious and secure city-state has been inevitably damaged.
Mutual Respects Needed
Notably, the riot was not the first labor unrest in Singapore. Last year, hundreds of mainland Chinese bus drivers who complained being paid less than local colleagues went on a rare strike in more than 20 years in Singapore.
Mr. K Shanmugam, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law of Singapore, said that there is no evidence showing that those foreign workers involved in the riot were unhappy with their employers or the government. However, a warning signal of the deepening tension between locals and foreigners in Singapore should not be ignored.
Immediately following the riot, another riot erupted online by local netizens full with intensive xenophobic sentiment. Frankly speaking, most Singaporeans are not hostile to foreign workers and immigrants, although they have been quite unhappy with government’s relevant policies.
Along with the increasing uncomfortable sentiment over the influx of foreigners, the underneath complaints or even hatred among certain Singaporeans and partial foreigners are secretly accumulating and any single incident may trigger the hidden tinderbox. Therefore, mutual respects are urgently needed so as to root out such potential risk.
On the one hand, foreigners should respect Singapore’s laws, rules and social customs.
Singapore is a society based on rule of law and nobody is allowed to undermine such cornerstone. All lawful rights will be protected by law and most disputes should be solved in legal ways. Individuals resorting to violence to pursue personal rights will eventually hurt themselves too.
On the other hand, foreigners should be treated with more respects in Singapore.
Most foreigners value their choices to work, study or live in Singapore, especially for those over one million foreign workforce. None of them are intended to bring troubles but simply to earn a living. Therefore, their contributions to Singapore's development should be fully and decently recognized, while their personal dignity should be equally and genuinely respected.
As an open society, Singapore is not only the home to its citizens but also a dreamland for many foreigners. Both locals and foreigners should contribute their parts to a harmonious and prosperous Singapore.
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