Wednesday 26 February 2014

Little India Riot COI: Day 4

'We felt outnumbered by mob and in danger'
If arrests came earlier, unrest may have been quelled: Auxiliary cops
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 25 Feb 2014

THE violence in Little India may not have spun out of control had there been more police officers on the ground making arrests earlier.

That was the opinion of two auxiliary police officers who testified on day four of the Committee of Inquiry into the Dec 8 riot.

The two officers from security firm Certis Cisco told how they felt outnumbered and in danger of being overrun by a crowd of what seemed to them like 1,000 rioters.

Constable Nathan Chandra Sekaran, 35, recounted how, armed with a baton and pistol, he and two unarmed protection officers answered a request for assistance from a fellow Certis Cisco team at about 9.20pm on Dec 8.

A similarly configured team of three officers arrived minutes later and, along with the original team, the nine officers formed a "human shield" to push back the crowd. The mob had been trying to get to Madam Wong Geck Woon, the timekeeper on a bus which had run over and killed 33-year-old Sakthivel Kumaravelu.

Some workers blamed her for his death and were already attacking the bus in an attempt to get at her, shouting that they were going to burn it.

The crowd of roughly 200 that had gathered shortly after the accident soon swelled to what Mr Nathan estimated to be 1,000.

Last Friday, the inquiry heard that at about 10.30pm - before troops from the Special Operations Command arrived - there were fewer than 100 police officers at the scene. And only 65 of them, mainly from Tanglin and Central police divisions, were directly involved in dealing with the rioters. The remaining 30 were Traffic Police officers who were performing traffic control operations on the outskirts of the area.

"I did feel that I was in danger, but it was important to form a protection line (to guard Madam Wong)," he said.

The police and Singapore Civil Defence Force managed to rescue Madam Wong and the bus driver, but this only appeared to incite the crowd which, according to Constable Raymond Murugiasu, 20, was becoming "rowdier".

"I was hit on the head and shoulders by bottles," he said. "I also injured my leg from the broken glass on the road," he said.

However, Mr Nathan said that only a small group within the crowd - most of whom were farther back - were shouting threats and throwing projectiles.

A CCTV clip played in court showed another handful of men defiantly gesticulating at Mr Nathan's colleague. At one point, some of them shoved the protection officer, spoiling for a fight.

"I truly believe the riot would not have gone out of control if the police had arrested some of the troublemakers early," Mr Nathan said in his police statement.

"The rest of the police vehicles might not have been burned if we arrested a few of those persons in the crowd who were threatening to burn the bus earlier."

Asked by State Counsel John Lu whether he could have possibly quelled the riot by arresting a man he suspected had struck his head with a stone, Mr Nathan disagreed. "You can't stop it by arresting one man; you need a 'man force' and you need to make a few arrests," he replied, noting that at that stage there were insufficient law enforcement officers on the ground - about 20 against a crowd around 50 times as large.

Mr Nathan eventually helped police arrest three rioters at about 10.40pm.

Mr Raymond also told the inquiry that police had "reacted too slowly", while those who arrived on the scene early only reported the incident and waited for back-up.

Both auxiliary police officers said most of the rioters were drunk, displaying signs such as slurred speech and emboldened behaviour. The two men estimated that at least 80 per cent of the workers who visit Little India drink when they are there.

"At the Tekka Lane open field, there would be 800 workers seated," recalled Mr Raymond of a typical weekend. "You can hardly walk around the field because they are in such large numbers."

The hearing continues today.


The bus was turning at a junction when I saw someone dashing to the front of the bus from the side... The bus driver did not appear to notice the person running next to the bus. I think this was because he was looking in other directions while the bus was turning. Subsequently I felt a hard bump... and the bus stopped. I concluded that the bus must have run over the person.
- Indian national Ganesan Thanaraj, a passenger on the bus that was involved in the fatal accident that sparked the riot


I heard the foreign workers shouting the words to the effect that the timekeeper had caused the death of (Mr Sakthivel Kumaravelu)... they wanted to kill her and they wanted to burn the bus. I observed that these shouts were coming from some foreign workers who were standing at the back of the crowd throwing projectiles at the bus.
- Auxiliary Police Officer Nathan Chandra Sekaran from Certis Cisco, recounting what he heard at the scene of the accident


In my opinion the police reacted too slowly to the riot on Dec 8... more police officers should have been sent to the scene earlier. I truly believe that the riot would not have gone out of control had the police arrested some of the troublemakers early.
- Auxiliary Police Officer Nathan Chandra Sekaran

Officer held back as he feared 'provoking the crowd'
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 25 Feb 2014

AN AUXILIARY police officer yesterday explained why he did not make any arrests sooner during the Dec 8 riot in Little India.

This, even though a stone thrown by a man in the unruly crowd near Kerbau Road had struck him on the head.

"The crowd at that time was aggressive... It's not easy to enter that crowd and arrest that one man," said Certis Cisco Constable Nathan Chandra Sekaran, who was testifying yesterday before the Committee of Inquiry into the unrest last year.

He told the inquiry on the fourth day of the public hearing that he held back because he "feared that this would provoke the crowd".

State Counsel John Lu, who was presenting the evidence during yesterday's inquiry, asked if arresting the man would have stopped the others. Mr Nathan said no.

If he had gone into the crowd to arrest the man, he may have been attacked and have to use his revolver, he said. "It's too risky to go in (because) if I get caught as a single person in that crowd, they may get hold of my revolver. They may use it against us and attack my officers."

The 35-year-old was one of the first emergency responders at the scene to appear before the committee.

A total of 49 Home Team officers and five auxiliary police officers were injured in the fracas.

More than $650,000 worth of government property was also damaged, including 23 emergency response vehicles, five of which were set on fire.

Mr Nathan said the mob he faced that day appeared to be about 1,000-strong, although police estimates placed it at about 400.

Three Indian nationals have since been jailed between 15 and 18 weeks for their role in the unrest, while cases against 22 others are pending in court.

Another 57 foreigners arrested in connection with the incident have since been repatriated, while police advisories were issued to 213 others for their passive and incidental involvement in the riot.

Man who died appeared drunk, says passenger
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 25 Feb 2014

THE man who was killed after he tripped and fell into the path of a moving bus as he was running after it had appeared drunk before the accident in Little India, said a passenger on the bus.

Mr Ganesan Thanaraj, 34, told the Committee of Inquiry into the Dec 8 riot yesterday that he first noticed Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu after he staggered into a bus queue.

The welder, who is also from India, said he was standing in line for the private bus bound for a dormitory in Jalan Papan when Mr Sakthivel, a 33-year-old construction worker, approached him.

"He was asking if Bangladeshi workers were better than Indian workers," said Mr Ganesan.

"He then came up to me and asked me the same question... I told him that he was saying the wrong things."

This was after the bus timekeeper Wong Geck Woon asked a Bangladeshi worker to help tell all the workers from India to stand in line.

After ranting about the issue to others in the queue, Mr Sakthivel jumped the line and managed to get on the bus that was parked along Tekka Lane.

Madam Wong, 38, later ordered the Indian national to get off the bus after he allegedly dropped his bermuda shorts while on board.

Although Mr Sakthivel did not react at first, he alighted "on his own" after she raised her voice at him, Mr Ganesan said.

Mr Sakthivel would later be seen on closed-circuit television camera footage - that was presented to the committee - chasing after the bus before he fell and was run over by the vehicle as it made a left turn into Race Course Road.

"The bus was turning at a junction when I saw someone dashing to the front of the bus from the side," said Mr Ganesan.

"Subsequently, I felt a hard bump... and the bus stopped.

" I concluded that the bus must have run over the person."

Timekeeper pushed workers, used insults: Auxiliary cops
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 25 Feb 2014

BUS timekeeper Wong Geck Woon, one of the targets of rioters in the Dec 8 riot in Little India, was known to be rude to foreign workers, the Committee of Inquiry into the incident was told yesterday.

She was overheard calling them "stupid", "idiot" or other worse insults, said auxiliary police officer Nathan Chandra Sekaran, 35, on the fourth day of the public hearing.

Madam Wong, 38, had scolded and shouted at the workers to get them in line for the buses because of the messy queue system before the riot, said the constable from security firm Certis Cisco.

From what he has seen, she was the only bus timekeeper to resort to such insults, he added.

His colleague, Mr Raymond Murugiasu, 20, also told the committee yesterday that Madam Wong was rude to the workers.

"She's fond of pushing foreign workers and she uses vulgar language when she talks to them. They usually retaliate by shouting back at her," he said.

He had seen an Indian man fall down after being pushed by her, he added.

The testimonies yesterday contrasted with what Madam Wong said under oath last Thursday, when she flatly denied ever insulting or roughing up anyone.

However, Mr Nathan said in her defence: "I wish to say that it is difficult for her to carry out this job without scolding them."

The two officers have been performing "foreign worker management" duty in Little India for almost every weekend and public holiday for the last three years.

Mr Nathan said the workers may have been angry with her out of "human nature" after being scolded every weekend.

Mr Raymond agreed that the history of bad blood between Madam Wong and the men was a possible cause of the riot.

Little India Riot COI: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

No comments:

Post a Comment