Thursday 12 December 2013

Shanmugam gives assurance to foreign workers in S’pore

Law-abiding workers 'need not worry'
Shanmugam assures Indian nationals at dialogue during dormitory visit
By Amelia Tan And Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 12 Dec 2013

FOREIGN workers who abide by Singapore's laws need not worry that their jobs will be at stake.

But those who breach any rules will be dealt with firmly.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam told about 40 Indian national workers at a dialogue last night that Sunday's melee, which saw about 400 rioters turning on police and paramedics, had affected Singapore deeply.

But he wanted to quell any fears, raised by workers, that their work permits might not be renewed.

"If you were not involved in the incident, you don't have to be afraid. What objectives you had in mind when you came to Singapore, they will be fulfilled. I'll give you that assurance. Don't be afraid," he said during his visit to Kranji Lodge 1, a dormitory for foreign workers.

Mr Shanmugam told reporters before the 30-minute dialogue that the Government has "zero tolerance" for those who flout rules.

"We have to be extremely strict and enforce (this). That is the only way that everyone will understand and we can make sure that the place is safe and secure."

He was joined on the visit by Member of Parliament Vikram Nair, Nominated MP R. Dhinakaran, and unionists M. Ramasamy and G. Muthukumar.

Workers who spoke up said they were ashamed of last Sunday's show of violence and hoped that Singaporeans would not cast them in the same negative light as the rioters.

Indian national Ramadas Kuberan, 40, said the rioters could have turned aggressive after drinking but added that workers are on the whole happy to be in Singapore.

Construction and marine bosses told The Straits Times they do not foresee a repeat of Sunday's events as their workers are familiar with Singapore's laws and the consequences of breaking them.

But as a precaution, they have told their men to avoid Little India this weekend.

Notices telling workers to keep away from the neighbourhood on their days off have been put up on walls, trees and signboards at dormitories.

Singapore Contractors Association Limited (SCAL) president Ho Nyok Yong, representing 2,800 construction firms, said: "We have told our members to get their workers to avoid gathering in Little India for now until the situation is more stable."

Construction firm Fonda Global Engineering director Melvin Ong explained: "You never know. A few men may get angry and others join in and the situation goes out of control. So better just to avoid the area."

Some firms such as Keppel Offshore & Marine have gone a step further to tell workers to be back in their dorms by 10pm, about two hours earlier than usual, until further notice.

Marine firm Kiat Seng Shipbuilding and Engineering director James Lee has set an even earlier daily curfew of around 9pm for his 100 foreign workers. He has also instructed his senior workers to take note of latecomers and report them to him.

Foreign workers said they would heed the advice to avoid Little India this Sunday.

Said Bangladeshi marine worker Akkash Delowar, 33: "My boss said there's a big problem in Little India, don't go for two to three months."

Many know of friends who were questioned by the police because they were in Little India last Sunday night even though they were not involved in the riot and do not want to be in the same situation.

Said shipyard foreman Weslin Raj, 35: "We are here to earn money for our family. If you find trouble, job gone. No more money. Why do I want to find trouble?"

No discontent among Indian foreign workers: Indian High Commissioner
By Leong Wai Kit, Channel NewsAsia, 12 Dec 2013

No discontentment has been discerned among the Indian community of foreign workers in Singapore, said the Indian High Commissioner to Singapore, Ms Vijay Thakur Singh on Thursday evening.

She said the Little India riot on Sunday was an unfortunate incident, but was not premeditated.

Speaking to workers at Westlite Mandai Dormitory, Ms Singh said she will engage Singapore authorities to find solutions if any problems arise.

She said she has taken note of concerns over wages, benefits and compensation voiced by some workers.

Ms Singh added that the alcohol ban over Little India this weekend has to be respected, but workers are likely to continue heading there.

She also said she has gotten in touch with the Law Society of Singapore to make legal assistance available to those arrested.

And Ms Singh is optimistic that the strong relationship between Singapore and India will continue.

She said: “Harmonious relations exist between the people as well as the two countries. And we have to separate the incident from the relationship. This incident is isolated.

“The relationship between our people and our two countries is very strong. And that relationship will continue. We have with Singapore a strategic partnership, we're talking to them on a wide range of issues. We are going to continue that cooperation." 

Indian TV channel corrects its report
By Nirmala Ganapathy, India Correspondent, In New Delhi, The Straits Times, 12 Dec 2013

AN INDIAN television channel that caused uproar with its reporting on Sunday's Little India riot has aired a corrected version of its initial news report.

"We have corrected the news and the correct version was given at the same time and duration with same kind of prominence as the original news," Sun TV editor-in charge R. Umashankar told The Straits Times.

Its report on Monday night said that the worker who died, Sakthivel Kumaravelu, 33, was pushed off the bus by a female bus driver. It also claimed that Chinese and Singaporean individuals attacked Indian nationals.

Its corrected version on Tuesday said Mr Sakthivel was reportedly drunk and the driver assisted him off the bus, but he was run over as he ran alongside it.

The channel further clarified that a mob went on a rampage and the situation was brought under control by the police.

In its initial report on Monday, Sun TV, based in Chennai, also claimed that Chinese Singaporeans attacked Tamil Indian nationals who hid in their homes for fear of being harassed by the police or attacked by Singaporeans.

He said in his letter: "The riot was an isolated incident arising from the unlawful actions of an unruly mob reacting to a fatal traffic accident. The vast majority of foreign workers in Singapore are peaceful, hardworking and law-abiding workers."

Mr Lim asked Sun TV for an immediate correction "to provide the full facts of the case so that your viewers have an accurate understanding of what really happened".

Responding, Mr Umashankar said he took responsibility. "I sincerely apologise for what has happened," he wrote. "I would like to put it on record that there was absolutely no intention on our part to do anything that will spoil the centuries-old cordial and friendly relationship among various communities living in Singapore."

He said Sun TV has ordered an internal inquiry to find out where the sub-editor who put together the news got the information.

Last night, Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said he was glad Sun TV had apologised but added that "in the first place the error should not have happened and we still have got no explanation as to why the error occurred".

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, he had expressed dismay with the station's coverage.

Other Indian newspapers and TV stations have also covered the incident. The Times of India reported yesterday that the rioters would be brought to court and faced seven years in jail and caning. The Hindu, an English language newspaper, also reported the latest, about the first 24 men who were charged.

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