Riots rock Singapore after bus accident kills Indian worker

First riots in decades cause major unease in normally placid state

Riot police stand guard during a riot Singapore’s Little India district. Photograph: Reuters/Mark Cheong/The Straits Times

Riot police stand guard during a riot Singapore’s Little India district. Photograph: Reuters/Mark Cheong/The Straits Times

Tue, Dec 10, 2013, 01:00


Normally placid Singapore was shocked by an outbreak of violence at the weekend, when a crowd of about 400 people set fire to vehicles and clashed with police in the Indian section of the city state.

The rioters took to the streets on Sunday after a bus ran over and killed a 33-year-old Indian national worker. It was the first major riot in Singapore in more than 40 years.

Police said they had arrested 27 suspects after the riot, including 24 Indian nationals, 2 Bangladeshi nationals and a Singaporean permanent resident. The bus driver, a 55-year-old Singaporean, has been arrested for causing death by negligent act and was assisting with investigations. Those arrested were of South Asian origin and police said that they expected to make more arrests in coming days. About 300 officers were sent on to the streets to quell the riot.


‘Wanton violence’
Police commissioner Ng Joo Hee condemned what he called “intolerable, wanton violence”.

“As far as we know now, there was no Singaporean involved in the riot. The unwanted violence, rioting, destruction of property, fighting the police, is not the Singapore way,” Mr Ng said.

There is rising discontent in Singapore over foreign workers, as the government tries to boost the population and meet demand for labour by encouraging immigration, but many locals complain about congestion and infrastructure strains at a time of widening income inequality.

Last year, Singapore saw its biggest outbreak of labour unrest in years when about 170 bus drivers from mainland China went on strike illegally.

Prime minister Lee Hsien Loong ordered an inquiry into the riot, saying “There is no excuse for such violent and criminal behaviour.”

A committee of inquiry will look into the reasons for the riot and how it was handled, and review how the government manages areas where foreign workers congregate, he said.