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Little India Riots: Booze could have been a factor, says Lui

SINGAPORE — Alcohol could well have played a part in the Little India riot yesterday (Dec 8) evening sparked by the death of a construction worker in a traffic accident, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said today while visiting the scene near Tekka Centre.

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SINGAPORE — Alcohol could well have played a part in the Little India riot yesterday (Dec 8) evening sparked by the death of a construction worker in a traffic accident, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said today while visiting the scene near Tekka Centre.

He also said that traffic conditions around Little India area have improved in recent years, with barricades put up along some areas to ensure that people do not jaywalk. The deployment of auxiliary police officers has also helped maintained law and order in the area, he added.

Mr Lui and fellow Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP Denise Phua have tried to limit the number of liquor licenses in the area, which is a popular hangout among South Asian foreign workers on Sundays. He noted, however, that MPs have had more success limiting liquor licenses on Balestier Road, where there is now “a freeze on the number of establishments with liquor licenses”.

“In my mind it was quite evident that alcohol could have been a contributory factor,” said Mr Lui, who is also the Member of Parliament for the Moulmein ward in the Moulmein-Kallang GRC.

He also noted also that rioters hurled beer bottles and cans at police cars and ambulances during the incident — which started at around 9.30pm when Indian National Sakthivel Kumaravelu was knocked down and killed by a private bus — but added that it is still “too early to say what caused the riot other than the traffic incident”.

“It is important for us to understand why the workers behaved how they did,” he said.

The minister said he has been in an ongoing consultation with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on limiting liquor licenses in Little India.

“We need to properly demarcate areas and the time drinking is allowed ... In my opinion, there are too many liquor licenses in the area,” he said.

The minister added that “those permitted to sell (alcohol) should do so responsibly”.

Tekka Residents’ Committee Chairman Martin Pereira said that he has noticed an increase of liquor licenses in the area since he took charge of the RC five years ago.

He noted that there are nine outlets with liquor licenses on the Chander Road, a short side road next to Tekka Centre and about 100m away from the epicentre of the riot.

“The problem persists across Little India due to the profitability of liquor,” said Mr Pereira.

“Last night, we passed by those who were apprehended and quite a few smelled of liquor. We do have a high number of people who drink here on weekends, and residents have noticed.”

Mr Lui assured residents that police presence will be stepped up in the area, and that the situation has “improved over the past few years” with increased auxiliary police presence in the area.

He also warned Singaporeans to not add a “racial tone” to the incident.

“Whenever you have an incident like this, we have those on the web who will cast it as foreign worker related,” he said. “I urge everyone to look at it in a calm manner and give the police the support they need.

“It is not the time to go into the 6.9 million issue again. Let’s confine it to just this situation.”

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