30 December 2013

Little India Riot — Dealing With Rioters And Others

The migrant workers who were "involved" in the 8 December riot in Little India were placed in three groups by the police.[1]

Group One Charged
This group comprised persons who, based on police investigations, were found to be "actively involved in the violence, and who had damaged property, defied police orders or incited others to do so". These individuals have been formally charged in court.

This may be understood to mean that the persons were alleged to have:
▪ Actively involved in the violence, and
▪ Damaged property or defied police orders or incited others to do so.

Group Two — Repatriated
This group comprised 57 persons whose involvement in the riot, based on the police's evidence, "was assessed to be less egregious". They had knowingly joined or continued to participate in the riot, after being ordered to disperse, or had impeded riot control and emergency rescue operations.

This may be understood to mean that these persons were found to have done one or more of the acts:
▪ Knowingly joined in the riot, or
▪ Continued to participate in the riot after being ordered to disperse, or
▪ Impeded riot control and emergency rescue operations.

The Government is empowered to issue them with stern police warnings, serve them with immigration removal orders and bar them from entering Singapore again. The Government's decisions and actions cannot be subject to judicial review.

Praveen Randhawa, press secretary to the Minister for Law, said that it is in the interest of Singaporeans that decisions on repatriation continue to be made by the Minister for Home Affairs. One of the conditions under which foreign nationals are allowed to work here is that they can be repatriated if, for example, the Minister assesses them to be security threats.[2]
Nevertheless, the question that has been raised is this: could the police have made any error in their collection of evidence and their assessment?

After all, seven persons who were previously charged in court had their charges withdrawn by the prosecution. Four out of these seven persons were issued with stern police warnings and served with immigration removal orders were repatriated while the remaining three were not.

These migrant workers who were repatriated had paid huge sums of money to come to work here. If they have not earned enough to cover what they have expended, they would be in dire straits.
And a record of having run afoul of the law may make it more difficult to get another job.
That's fine if they are guilty, but what if they are not?

One other question. These migrant workers were repatriated because their involvement in the riot was neither sufficiently serious for them to be charged but sufficiently serious that a formal police advisory would be inappropriate. If a citizen was assessed to be involved to a similar extent, how would he have been dealt with, since he can't be deported?
Group Three — Police Advice
This group comprised about 200 persons who were physically present at the location of the riot, but whose involvement was passive and incidental.

These persons were issued with formal police advisories.

They will be allowed to stay in Singapore and continue with their employment, but they "must not come to adverse notice" again.

What do the police mean when they say that their involvement in the riot was passive and incidental. Did they become a statistic because they were simply standing there and watching the proceedings? Or were they more than mere spectators, either encouraging the rioters or screaming profanities at the police or emergency rescue personnel?
Will there persons be allowed to renew their work permits when they expire?
1. SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE Statement by Commissioner of Police, Ng Joo Hee, on the Little India Riot 20 Dec 2013.
2. PRAVEEN RANDHAWA Singapore’s Legal System Is Firm, Just And Fair TODAY 23 Dec 2013.

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