Hard truth about Little India riot

One year has ended and another has begun. As we look back at events in the year just passed, the most memorable one is the riot in Little India. The riot may have ended but the waves it created continue to ripple through our society. Next up will be the Commission of Inquiry. This may be a frivolous exercise if it refuses to face the problem squarely.

The hard truth is this:

1. Too many Indian foreigners have been allowed to come in to Singapore.

2. Every Sunday, they congregate in the thousands at a place called Little India. While there, everywhere they look, they only see people of their own kind. This makes them believe that that part of Singapore has become a part of India.

3. They feel at home and become bold, reckless and unreasonable in their behavior. They walk all over the place without regard to vehicle traffic. Vehicles are expected to give way to them. They become public nuisance, getting drunk, creating disturbing noises, sleep, pee and poo wherever they like and disturbing the unfortunate women who cross their path.

4. Their exclusive presence in huge numbers give them a sense of strength and superiority. Over time, they begin to feel they are the master of the place.

5. When one of their kind was fatally knocked down by a bus driven by a person of a different race, they felt strongly for the victim and became angry. Coupled with their sense of superiority in numbers, the anger turned into violence. Hence the riot.

But such hard truths will surely not be reviewed by the COI because they will be deemed to be too “insensitive”. Instead the outcome of the COI will be mostly about the environmental and social conditions of the workers – how these resulted in the riot and then how they should be improved. Expect things like how the living and working conditions for the workers should be improved and how efforts should be made to integrated them into our society.

Critics who correctly identify the root cause of the riot have themselves been criticized as indulging in xenophobia and racism. If there is any fear, it is not about the foreigners but our own safety and security. Even the Indians in India are showing their support for the rioters.

How do we end up with such a disproportionately large number of foreign workers of one nationality and ethnicity? There is no good reason which can justify such a skewed proportion of Indians in our labor force. For the sake of diversity and inclusiveness? In that case, we should not only have a wide variety of nationalities and ethnicity but more importantly, a fair and even distribution of the number of workers from different nationalities. For the sake of meritocracy? Indians are not well known for their building and construction skills. They come from a country notorious for its under-developed infrastructures and decrepit buildings. If I’m not mistaken, a couple of years ago, a newly constructed bridge for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi collapsed just on the eve of the opening of Commonwealth Games.

It does not take a COI to know how to prevent another riot in Little India. The solution is simple:

1. Reduce the number of foreign workers in Singapore.

2. Do not allow them to congregate in large numbers in any one place.

3. Do not refer to that place as Little India. Just call it “Serangoon Road area”.


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