Friday 21 March 2014

Little India Riot COI: Day 19

'Be fair in assessing cops over Little India riot'
Commander says officers' morale hit, but they will have to return to area
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 20 Mar 2014

A POLICE commander yesterday urged the public to be fair when assessing how police officers performed during the Dec 8 riot, given the criticisms levelled against the force during the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the unrest.

"Don't kick us when we are down," said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Daniel Tan, adding that morale of the men and women in blue had taken a beating. The same officers, he said, would have to go back to Little India and deal with stakeholders there.

The commander of Central Police Division, which polices most of the area, spent an hour answering questions during the public hearing.

Before stepping down from the witness stand, he asked the panel, led by retired judge G. Pannir Selvam, if he could have a minute to address the committee.

Mr Selvam - who together with other COI members and witnesses had criticised the police for their perceived lack of action during the early part of the unrest - agreed.

"I am very proud of all our officers who responded," said DAC Tan. "Many of them got injured, but none of them shirked their responsibilities."

He urged business owners, residents and other stakeholders to be objective when drawing up report cards on his officers, adding that police efforts "did not just begin and end on Dec 8".

"I just hope that they can be objective in assessing the police on our report card of what we have been doing all through the years within the community," he said.

"Morale of officers is affected, but these are the same officers who have to work with the community to make sure that such a thing does not happen, and we are committed to doing that because the riot did occur."

Among the questions that had been raised during the hearing was whether the police had sufficient boots on the ground before and during the outbreak of violence that night.

He said Little India has long been deemed a "special focus area". That is why it has a dedicated Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC) and three fast response cars patrolling the area, as opposed to just one in most other estates.

The 41-year-old law graduate said that since the riot and in spite of limited manpower, 20 to 35 more officers have been deployed to Little India at the weekends, often at the cost of cancelled leave days and sacrificed training hours.

The arrests of people who were drunk and incapable of taking care of themselves in public also came under scrutiny yesterday.

This, after police told the COI that the majority of the 60 nabbed in Little India for the offence last year were not foreign workers.

The committee said the figures "do not fully reflect" reality.

Rochor NPC commanding officer Ho See Ying agreed, but said it was because the priority of the police lies first in crime-fighting.

"We have limited resources, and I cannot dedicate all my resources to picking people up from the streets when they are drunk, because we have to fight crime," said the deputy superintendent.

Dorms here 'surpass global standards'
Requirements more stringent than those set by World Bank: Operator
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 20 Mar 2014

SINGAPORE'S purpose-built dormitories surpass international standards in all areas - from amenities to living space - and have always been a step ahead of those in other countries, a dorm operator told a public hearing into the Dec 8 riot in Little India yesterday.

From mandatory free Wi-Fi Internet to air-conditioned television rooms and gyms, standards that took effect in June last year for new dorm tenders are signs of how the Government has raised norms over the years, said Mr Willy Ng, who operates a 3,000-bed dorm in Kaki Bukit as well as one in Dubai.

The standards required of dorm operators here surpass those set by the World Bank for operators who want to secure a loan to build a dorm in a developing country, he added.

But he also agreed there was a severe shortage of dorm beds, which number about 200,000, for the 770,000 work permit holders living in Singapore.

Earlier in the hearing, representatives of migrant worker rights groups had raised the issue of working and living conditions as possible causes of worker unhappiness here.

"By all measures, even way back more than 10 years ago when dormitories started in Singapore, Singapore has always maintained a higher standard in terms of living conditions," said Mr Ng, adding that "other areas peg their standards to Singapore's".

Minimum standards for living space have also been raised over the years, said Mr Ng, who used his own dormitory as an example. Before 2008, there were 26 workers in each 72 sq m room in the dormitory, but this was reduced to 20 workers that year. For new dorms, standards that took effect last year allow only 16 workers to be housed in a room of that size.

A standards document presented by Mr Ng even detailed requirements for the type and number of trees to be planted, as well as different essentials such as rice, cooking oil and sugar, among others, to be sold at a built-in minimart, whose prices cannot exceed those of supermarkets here.

When asked how the Government ensured that older dormitories here met the new standards, Mr Ng said these were conditions that had to be met before landlords such as the Urban Redevelopment Authority or JTC Corporation would approve lease top-ups or intensifications of land use.

"Our Government has always stressed how productively the land should be put to use, and therefore how you intensify your property and you increase the standards is part of that requirement," he said.

But while purpose-built dormitories in Singapore are held to such standards, Mr Ng said the same may not hold true for other forms of worker housing, which include converted flats, shophouses and terraced houses.

He agreed with committee chairman G. Pannir Selvam that the ratio of dorm beds to foreign workers here showed "a terrible shortage".

"The number of available beds is never fixed because it depends on how the Government clamps down on illegal housing," said Mr Ng. Bed numbers would fall in a clampdown. He noted that land scarcity meant the Government has historically been reluctant to release land for long-term use as worker dormitories.

On Tuesday, a Ministry of Manpower representative told the committee there were 49 purpose-built dormitories here with over 200,000 beds, compared to about 770,000 work permit holders.

HK tabloid report on Jurong dorm 'a blatant lie'
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 20 Mar 2014

A HONG KONG tabloid report describing the Jurong Penjuru Dormitory as prison-like is "a blatant lie", said the residence's security manager, who appeared yesterday before the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Dec 8 riot in Little India, to testify about dormitory living conditions.

Mr Saffarullah Abdullah of Mini Environment Services disputed the January report by Hong Kong's Apple Daily, and said it was untrue that barbed wire was used anywhere in or around the dormitory.

The article by a female journalist also stated that foreign workers were squeezed into cramped and dirty dormitories, and lived under oppressive conditions, including having their movements monitored by CCTV cameras.

"We have no barbed wire anywhere at our dorm, and the cameras are all facing the perimeter of the fencing," said Mr Saffarullah.

He added that the 2m high perimeter fencing was a Building and Construction Authority requirement, while residents were free to come and go at any hour of the day.

"She's totally wrong."

While workers are not allowed to bring visitors up to the living quarters, they were free to meet friends at the common areas in the dormitory compound, like the canteen or beer garden, he said.

There was, however, "no way" women - like the Apple Daily reporter who had claimed to have entered the rooms and taken pictures - are allowed into the workers' living quarters.

Mr Saffarullah also said because the dormitory is modelled after a one-room HDB flat, instead of army barracks, "people are very happy at our dormitory, because they have their own privacy".

He added that complaints received from residents were mainly about maintenance issues such as broken taps or showers.

Little India Riot COI: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day 11, Day 12, Day 13, Day 14, Day 15, Day 16, Day 17, Day 18

No comments:

Post a Comment