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Bus ferry service ban among ‘cooling off’ moves in Little India

SINGAPORE — The authorities yesterday rolled out a series of “cooling off” measures in addition to the alcohol ban in Little India this weekend, including suspending 25 private bus services which ferry workers to the area and invoking a little-used law.

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SINGAPORE — The authorities yesterday rolled out a series of “cooling off” measures in addition to the alcohol ban in Little India this weekend, including suspending 25 private bus services which ferry workers to the area and invoking a little-used law.

Little India will be declared a “proclaimed area” under the Public Order (Preservation) Act, which will allow police officers to take action against anyone consuming alcohol in a public place within the vicinity, including seizing their bottles of liquor.

The area stretches from the intersection between Short Street and Selegie Road, Hampshire Road, Dorset Road, the junction of Serangoon Road and Beatty Road to the stretch along Jalan Besar.

It is believed to be the first time the Act, which came into force in the years of Singapore’s independence to provide for the possibility of curfews and other measures necessary to preserve public order in emergency situations, would be invoked.

The police also said yesterday anyone who is drunk and behaving in a disorderly manner may also be arrested under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.

The measures dovetail with a blanket ban on the sale of alcohol at 374 establishments in the area, including liquor shops, restaurants, hotels, pubs, coffee shops and convenience shops. Establishments selling alcohol during this suspension period could be fined up to S$5,000 upon conviction and risk having their licence revoked. The ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol in the area will be in effect from 6am tomorrow to 6am on Monday.

“This is just an interim position we are taking to allow the situation to stabilise, calm down, get the anxiety eased,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police T Raja Kumar at a joint press conference held by the police, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Land Transport Authority yesterday.

The Deputy Commissioner said the police will review the renewal of liquor licences as one of its future measures. “Even after we have lifted the alcohol ban, there will in most likelihood continue to be certain restrictions on the sale of alcohol, and certain areas where alcohol consumption will not be allowed.”

Another four Indian nationals were charged yesterday with rioting in Little India last Sunday, in the Republic’s worst outbreak of mass violence in more than 40 years. This brings the total number of people brought to the court to 31. Floodlights were also installed yesterday at a field along Race Course Road where foreign workers are known to gather.

Explaining how the boundaries for the blanket ban on alcohol this weekend were drawn up, the Deputy Commissioner said the police had first looked at the establishments selling alcohol in the immediate vicinity of Race Course Road.

“But it wouldn’t make sense to just confine it along the stretch of Race Course Road given that there are so many outlets within a stone’s throw of that area,” he said.

Responding to queries on how some businesses felt that indoor establishments or restaurants catering to expatriates and locals should be exempted from the ban, the Deputy Commissioner pointed out that the blanket ban was a prudent measure for the weekend.

He pointed out that customers can visit indoor establishments to drink beer while dining in and choose to take away a half-consumed bottle of alcohol. “We believe it is prudent this coming weekend to adopt a more aggressive control on the alcohol that is brought into the area, that is consumed in the area. So I make it clear that these high-end measures are just for the weekend. Then what we will do is further consult the array of stakeholders in the area,” said the Deputy Commissioner.

The MOM also said yesterday they had been in touch with dormitory operators and major employers’ associations and urged vigilance and calm among the foreign workers.

Complementing their communication efforts, Mr Alvin C T Lim, Divisional Director of the Workplace Policy and Strategy Division at the MOM, pointed out that written advisories and posters — in English, Chinese, Tamil and Bengali — were issued yesterday.

The Dormitory Association of Singapore yesterday also called on members to advise tenants against going to Little India over the next two weekends, unless “there is specific business or personal work to be done”.

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