Friday 13 December 2013

PM Lee: Singaporeans have reacted calmly to Little India riot

By Sharon See, Channel NewsAsia, 12 Dec 2013

Singaporeans have reacted peacefully and calmly to Sunday's riot at Little India despite being initially shocked at the event.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said this during an interview at the end of his official visit to South Korea on Thursday.

He also said that foreign workers are critical to Singapore's growth, including its housing and public transport development plans.

Prime Minister Lee said Singapore has not seen a riot like that for a very long time, and such incidents are beyond living memory for most Singaporeans.

Sunday's riot was triggered by a fatal traffic accident at Little India involving a private bus and an Indian worker.

Some 400 people then started attacking the bus and the first responders who arrived at the scene.

Mr Lee said Singaporeans' anxiety and alarm towards the riot is understandable, but "we have to be fair to the persons who are not involved, even the persons who are involved, there has to be a due process of the law".

He said: "We have one million plus foreign workers in Singapore, and about 400 were involved in this riot. There was a specific circumstance, it was a localised riot -- I think the people who were involved would have to be treated severely.

Mr Lee said police investigations are ongoing, and Singaporeans who were witnesses have been very helpful, sending videos and photographs to the police.

He said there is no justification for such behaviour in Singapore, and authorities will deal with the matter very firmly.

So far, 31 people have been charged in connection with the riot.

The incident has also attracted significant international attention, which Mr Lee said is understandable.

He said: “Certainly, the investors are also watching. Even on this trip in Korea, one or two of the Korean businessmen have asked me about this... what do I think, what caused it, what is the Singapore government going to do about it.

“So it's quite understandable that the media would have reported it as significant news. I think all the more, we have to be very proper in our response as a government, and Singaporeans also have to be very responsible and measured in our reaction as a people.”

The members of a Committee of Inquiry set up to look into the incident are expected to be unveiled in the next few days.

Mr Lee said the committee will study various issues, including the sale of alcohol in the area and transport arrangements. 

S'pore, Korea 'have much to learn from each other'
Greater cooperation in education, R&D, aviation will strengthen ties: PM Lee
By Fiona Chan, The Straits Times, 12 Dec 2013

SINGAPORE and South Korea have much to learn from each other as both countries adjust to domestic changes and increasing global uncertainty, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

The two Asian Tigers should thus build on their already "excellent" ties, founded on similarities including rapid economic growth and interest in the region's peace and stability, he said at a dinner hosted by South Korean President Park Geun Hye at the Blue House, her official residence.

Mr Lee described Singapore as "feeling a new way forward" in pursuing inclusive growth, while Korea is "moving towards a new era of hope, underpinned by a creative economy, a flourishing culture and personal happiness".

"We have much to learn from each other... I am very glad to enhance our bilateral cooperation in areas like research and development, education, and aviation. These will pave the way for even closer ties in future."

Despite Seoul's sub-zero temperatures, there was distinct warmth between the two Asian leaders, with Ms Park saying Singapore has been "unfailing as a friend" since Korea set up a trade mission in the Republic in 1970.

She also spoke of the warmth and kindness shown her by Mr Lee's parents, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and Mrs Lee. Ms Park's father was former Korean president Park Chung Hee.

She praised Singapore's "diplomatic calibre" and said it was a valued partner in South Korea's foreign policy efforts, including its goal of peaceful reunification with North Korea.

On a lighter note, Ms Park also noted the "growing mutual interest" between the two countries, buoyed by the popularity of Hallyu, or the Korean Wave.

Korean pop culture made an unexpected appearance at the state dinner last night: among the guests was 20-year-old Natasha Low, or Tasha, the Singaporean singer of K-pop band Skarf.

Mr Lee welcomed her, adding that Korean dramas also have a large fan base in Singapore - including his wife Ho Ching, who was present at the dinner.

The dinner followed a meeting at which Mr Lee and Ms Park agreed to review the Korea-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, concluded in 2006, to promote more trade and investment.

On air services, they will work to achieve a "mutually beneficial package of traffic rights", said a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

They also discussed the agenda for next year's Asean-Korea Commemorative Summit.

Mr Lee, who arrived in South Korea on Tuesday, also met Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Strategy and Finance Hyun Oh Seok yesterday and attended a lunch with Korean business leaders organised by the Korea International Trade Association.

Bilateral trade between the two countries exceeded US$23 billion (S$28billion) last year and South Korea is Singapore's seventh-largest trading partner.

PM Lee leaves for Tokyo today to attend the Asean-Japan Commemorative Summit.

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