Little India riot: What they say

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By Benjamin Cheah

In the wake of Sunday’s riots,  opposition parties and ordinary citizens are responding with messages of calm,  reconciliation and encouragement.

Workers’ Party Media Team chair Gerald  Giam called for calm. “We urge members of the public to refrain from speculation  and unnecessary accusations while the Police is investigating the matter.” In  addition, the Party said, “The COI should study the underlying causes of the  riot so that the Government can address them and prevent future  recurrences.”

In its press statement, the Singapore  People’s Party said, “We look forward to the report of the COI (Commission of  Inquiry), since not all details of the riot can be fully ascertained yet. We  also hope that the traffic conditions of Race Course Road will be  addressed.”

Both parties also expressed get-well  wishes for the injured and condolences for the deceased.

Ordinary citizens are working to heal  rifts caused by the riot.

Mr Wally Tham and Ms Amizadai Lee on  Monday attempted to organise a procession in Little India to hand out flowers  for “peace and reconciliation”, “as an act of hope not fear”. They invited the  public to join them, but they could not obtain a police permit, causing the  event to be called off.

Meanwhile, Ms Adrianna Tan is planning  a monthly tour of Little India that is open to the public. The objective: “So  that you know Little India is the most amazing place in Singapore. So that you  are not afraid of it. So that you will meet the people I love and maybe learn to  love them too.”

Other netizens have expressed pride in  the way the police handled themselves during the riot. Following the riot, the  Facebook page ‘Stop Racism in Singapore’ commended the police and civil defence  forces, and called out Dee Kosh for making insensitive remarks on Twitter.  Socio-political blog The Online Citizen thanked the police and civil defence on  its Facebook page.

Mothership.sg ran pieces that drew  attention to acts of courage during the riot. One article, describing five  events that occurred during the riot, singled out a specific individual, called  ‘the guy in checked shirt’. He was filmed attempting to dissuade two rioters  from further damaging the bus, and urged others to move along. Another article  showed a group of passers-by signalling a handful of first responders inside an  ambulance that it was safe to run for cover.

A day after the riots, sales analyst  Kristabel Soo started a Facebook page titled SHUT Racism UP SG to combat racism  after she read many ‘”racially-charged” comments online. Garnering over 1300  likes, the page called out and criticised offensive comments on social media in  its Facebook post.

Academic Cherian George criticised  foreign press coverage of the riots. The Financial Times and Fobes Asia’s blog  painted the riot in racial undertones, while Al Jazeera implied race issues by  presenting data on Singapore’s ethnic mix. He argued instead that the riots  highlighted national and class divides, not racial ones, and that the reason the  rioters were primarily South Asian was due to urban geography: South Asian  migrant workers simply preferred to congregate in the area on Sundays.

The Singapore Democratic Party took aim  at the government’s policies. They claimed that in 2006 they had warned “the  social impact of the foreign recruitment policy may yet prove disastrous for  Singaporeans”, and again in their 2013 population policy paper that “the  population explosion will cause further economic, social and psychological  stress for the people, as well as add to national security implications.” The  SDP cautioned people from turning against all foreign workers, instead urging  them to look at the government policies that “create conditions that give rise  to such volatility in the first place.”

It called on the government to “review  its population and immigration policy to produce sustainable growth and enhance  the well-being of our people, including fostering an environment free of  violence and rioting.”

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