Singapore to deport South Asian workers involved in riot

Singapore to deport 53 South Asian workers and pursue criminal charges against 28 others

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 8:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 8:31pm

Singapore said on Tuesday it will deport 53 South Asian workers and pursue criminal charges against 28 others for involvement in the city-state’s first riot in more than four decades.

“We have taken strong and decisive action to charge and to repatriate those who took part in the riot to send a strong signal that we will not tolerate actions by anyone which threaten law and order in Singapore,” Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean told a news conference.

The riot on December 8 by hundreds of South Asian workers has forced the tightly controlled city-state to examine how it deals with the presence of nearly a million low-paid foreign workers, who drive its economic growth.

The rampage, which erupted after an Indian man was killed by a bus in a district known as Little India, saw 39 people injured, including police officers, and 25 vehicles destroyed.

Fifty-two of the 53 men being deported are Indian nationals and one is a Bangladeshi, said police commissioner Ng Joo Hee.

They were hauled up on Tuesday morning and will be deported after travel and administrative arrangements are settled, he said.

The 28 men facing rioting charges remain in police custody pending further investigations and can face seven years in jail plus caning if found guilty.

Seven Indian nationals who had previously been charged were released on Tuesday after charges were withdrawn.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement that investigations showed the 28 facing charges were involved in “acts of violence, damage to property, defying police orders, or inciting others to do so”.

The men being deported failed to disperse despite police orders, and threatened public order, “making their continued presence in Singapore undesirable,” it said.

About 200 others who were at the scene of the riot but whose involvement was deemed to be “relatively passive” will be handed “formal advisories” by the police.

“No further action will be taken against them and they will be allowed to remain and work in Singapore, so long as they continue to abide by our laws,” the ministry said.

The riot was Singapore’s second incident involving a large group of foreign workers in the past year.

In November last year, 171 Chinese bus drivers stopped work to demand better wages and living conditions – the first industrial strike in the city-state since 1986.

Five of the drivers served jail terms after the strike was declared illegal, while 29 others were deported without trial.