Singapore: Singapore on Tuesday said 52 Indians will be deported and it will pursue criminal charges against 28 alleged rioters who actively participated in the country's worst outbreak of violence in over 40 years, sending a tough message to trouble-makers.
Fifty three people, including 52 Indians and a Bangladesh national, to be deported, were arrested by police but not charged in court as their involvement in December 8 violence was assessed to be less egregious.
"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 police said that it had completed its investigations into the riot on December 8 in Little India, a precinct of Indian-origin businesses, eateries and pubs where most of the South Asian workers take their Sunday break.
The trouble started after a private bus fatally knocked down an Indian pedestrian, 33-year-old Sakthivel Kuaravelu in Little India.
Some 400 migrant workers were involved in the rampage that left 39 police and civil defence staff injured and 25 vehicles -- including 16 police cars -- damaged.
Singapore previously witnessed violence of such scale during race riots in 1969. A total of 28 individuals, all Indians, have been charged for their involvement as "active participants", another 53 will be repatriated for being participants and some 200 will be issued formal advisories, police said at a press conference here.
Earlier, 33 had been charged for alleged role in the rioting but seven were acquitted on Tuesday and two others were arraigned bringing the number of those charged in the violence to 28.
The 53 individuals who will be repatriated will be interviewed by the Committee of Inquiry (COI) before they leave, police said.
Teo, who chaired the press conference along with Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee, said the 53 people were identified to have taken part in the riot and had failed to obey police orders to disperse.
The response of the 53 people makes their continued presence in Singapore "undesirable", Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, said.
The 53 people who are to be deported were employed by 48 different companies in Singapore. The majority of them have been in Singapore for less than five years, and about half of them worked in the building and construction sector.
"Moving forward, we do not expect to be arresting, charging or repatriating many more persons. Of course, should new information or evidence come to light, police will pursue them to their logical conclusions," a police statement said.
Charges against seven Indians were dropped after they had spent a week in detention for their alleged roles in the December 8 riot in Little India.
The cases against 21 out of the remaining 28 was also heard in court, with the prosecution asking for them to be remanded for another week for further police investigations.
In his application, Deputy Public Prosecutor John Lu cited copious amount of work such as going through the statements of all accused involved, the evidence of more than 300 police officers at the scene, video clips and surveillance camera recordings that needed to be examined.
District Judge Lim Tse Haw agreed to grant the request, but not without asking the prosecution to call on the police to "expedite" matters.
When he asked if the defendants had anything to say, some suspects took the opportunity to speak up, through an interpreter. Some of them alleged assault by police officers while under lock-up in a "place where there was no camera", and expressed concerns that their family have yet to be notified, The Straits Times reported.
Many denied involvement in the riot, saying that they were in Little India to remit money, or saying that the charges were "fabrications" as they were not even at the scene at the given time, the report said.
The cases against five others who were also charged last week would be heard in the next few days. Meanwhile, two more Indians, Samiyappan Sellathurai, 41, and Sarangan Kumaran, 35, were charged in court today and accused of being part of an unlawful assembly and throwing pieces of concrete at other people in the vicinity of Little India's Race Course Road and Kerbau Road.
Both face one charge of rioting and if convicted they could be jailed for up to seven years liable to caning. Deputy Prime Minister Teo said the traffic accident which killed the foreign worker is still being investigated.
"We want to take special care in arriving at our findings," he said, adding that the government has hired an independent expert to reconstruct the accident. The provision of shuttle buses that ferry workers to and from Little India is still under review by the Land Transport Authority and the Transport Ministry, he said. Manpower Ministry officers were facilitating the final settlements of salaries, closing bank accounts and carrying out other administrative procedures to facilitate the deportation of the 53 people.
The Indian and Bangladesh High Commissions have been informed of the police action to arrest the 53 people to be deported and given full consular access to their nationals.
The group of 200 people who are to be issued formal advisories have been called up by police, were assisting in the investigations "Although they were physically present at the location of the riot, we are satisfied that their involvement has been passive and incidental," the statement said.
They would be allowed to stay in Singapore and continue with their employment on the condition of continued good behaviour, it said. Teo said the government will review the ban of consumption and sale of alcohol and will announce revised measures in the next few days.
He said these measures are likely to remain in place for the time being. Long term measures, he said, will depend on on-going public consultations and the COI findings. Traffic Police already have good information on what had happened.
"As the accident had sparked off the ensuing rioting, we want to take special care in arriving at our findings. As such, police is in the process of securing the services of an independent expert on accident reconstruction to analyse the information that we have and to provide us with an additional opinion," the statement said.
Commissioner Ng said police investigations following the riot were intense and wide-ranging. More than 500 police investigators were deployed. Careful forensic examination of the incident scene yielded more leads which eventually led to further arrests.
Video and photographic evidence also proved to be invaluable in an effort to identify riotous individuals. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, and in the days afterwards, police officers up and down the country checked and screened almost 4,000 foreign workers.
In the process, more than 400 were subsequently called for further interviews. "From these, we were able to zero in on those who were involved and to assign culpability," he said.