Will Little India still be Little India?

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Human rights group, MARUAH, will be holding a panel discussion on the impact of the proposed Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill on the social landscape of Little India. The bill was last announced in January and is scheduled for second reading on February 17 in Parliament.

The group says there has been very little public discussion on the possible impact and meaning of the bill to Singaporeans and the community in Little India. It also questions if the new bill could ensure the peace in Little India.

“If this bill comes into effect, it lasts one year. What does that mean psychologically, socially and culturally to the people living in Little India? Have we considered the impact?” asks Braema Mathi, president of MARUAH.

The bill, if passed in Parliament, will allow police and auxiliary police officers the right to ask individuals entering the area for their names, addresses and reasons they are there, to empty their bags and to strip search them. Businesses can also be suspended if they break the alcohol sale restrictions.

“There are provisions in the proposed bill like strip search that we want to explore in greater depth. We hope to engage the public and explore what this bill is really about,” says Braema.

The panel discussion will be held next Wednesday at the Academy of Certified Counsellors. The panellists of the event include law academic and adjunct professor at the National University of Singapore, Dr Kevin Tan, an architectural historian who specialises in cultural and social use of spaces, Dr Lai Chee Kien, and Mr T. Sasitharan who is the co-founder and director of Intercultural Theatre Institute.