Thinking out loud – Riot in Singapore?

I’m away from Singapore at the moment and the only news I get from home comes from my Facebook newsfeeds that I access from time to time on my mobile phone. Imagine my surprise when I read about a riot in Little India and I saw for myself the overturned police vehicles and an ambulance which were set on fire. The reason for the riot? A bus collided into an Indian foreign worker by accident and killed him. The people around him went into a frenzy and they started the riot.

I have also read (all from my Facebook newsfeeds) the comments made by many Singaporeans and their typical anti-government diatribe. They say the foreign workers must have been very upset with the terrible living conditions and the poor wages they get and all it took was one small spark to set off a riot. At the same time, I’ve read arguments from some other people online that Singaporeans should not be racist in their comments against the rioters.

What is clear to all of us is this: we all love Singapore for its peace and stability and nobody, whatever their nationality or ethnic group, has the right to destroy what we have all worked to build up over the decades. Rioting of any sort is wrong. If you don’t like the wages, go elsewhere. If you prefer living conditions in another country, go there. This is a free world. There is no slavery and every workman has the right to go where he pleases and work where he wills or not work at all. That’s entirely up to him.

But there will always be the anti-government lobby that will seize any opportunity to slam the government. We’ve seen all that before. When there is flooding in Singapore (extremely mild flooding and not the calamitous sort we see in many other countries), the government is blamed. If there is a crack on the road surface, the government is at fault. And now, if there is a riot, again, the poor government is blamed. To this group, even bad weather is attributable to the government.

Why then did they riot over something like a mere road accident? A friend of mine on Facebook who is an Indian national explained to me why he thought the riot happened. He said it was cultural. In India, riots take place every now and then and they are so common that they are not reported in the newspapers. It’s very common for villagers to go on a rampage and attack government vehicles whenever there is a road accident, usually if the accident results in death. Typically, civilians are not harmed and most of the time, even government officers escape unscathed. It’s only government vehicles and buildings that bear the brunt of their of their anger.

In just the State of Kerala alone, cases of riots rose from 8,057 in 2008 to 10,938 in 2012. By any standard, such figures are extremely high. We can’t even imagine having 10 cases of rioting a year in Singapore. These figures are obtained from the police website in the State of Kerala.

It’s wrong to go on a witch-hunt and put the blame on the government, employers or fellow Singaporeans. The rioters are criminals and they have broken our laws. It does not matter what their race or nationality is. It is not racist or xenophobic to denounce them for disrupting our peace and threatening our security. It’s not wrong to slam them for humiliating our police force and the authorities. Some of us who are typically anti-government should stop our anti-government frenzy and call a spade a spade. When criminals commit a serious crime, they must be punished severely. It’s wrong to excuse their wrong by putting the blame on others who are totally innocent and not all connected to the crime, even if we have a personal anti-government agenda.

It may be common in India to riot when there is a fatal accident and it may be a part of their culture. But if they import that culture to Singapore, we have every right to enforce our strictly no-nonsense laws and exact the maximum penalty that the law provides for. Singapore is obviously attractive to many foreigners which is why they are here. But we must ensure that they abide by our laws and when they don’t, they must bear the full force of it. Singaporeans should support and uphold our laws and not seize this opportunity to criticize the government. The rioting has nothing to do with the government. Let’s not allow our imagination to run wild and if we have a bone to pick with the government for whatever personal reasons we may have, let’s not take the side of criminals to achieve our goal.

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