Whatever their grievances, the rioters’ actions broke the law and the rule of law must be respected by all, Singaporeans or not.
The Party commends the manner in which the police, auxiliary and civil defence officers acted quickly and decisively to restore order on our streets. We wish speedy recovery for our 39 officers who were injured in the course of their duty.
We also extend our condolences to the family of the traffic accident victim, Mr Sakthivel Kumaravelu.
The Government has announced (on 9 December 2013) that it will be setting up a Committee of Inquiry (COI) to investigate the causes of the riot. According to the Prime Minister[i], “This riot was an isolated incident arising from the unlawful actions of an unruly mob reacting to a fatal traffic accident.”
Even before the COI has commenced its work, two Ministers [ii] have suggested that alcohol consumption was a contributing factor for the riot.
To blame the riot, the first in decades, on alcohol consumption is a narrative that is convenient to the ruling party. It is a narrative which ignores the flaws in the Government’s immigration and manpower policies and their impact on the social fabric of Singapore.
The recent riot brings to mind the 2012 illegal strike by foreign national SMRT bus drivers. The bus drivers’ strike and now the riot should serve as a wake-up call to our Government. Not only do we need to re-look the extent of our dependency on foreign labour, we also need to urgently examine how well (or not) we are treating our foreign workers who have come to Singapore to earn a living for themselves and their families back home.
Are the labour laws and regulations which apply to them fair or skewed against them? How are they assured of decent living conditions and of getting fair and timely wages? Are we giving enough consideration to their emotional and social needs?
Even as the authorities step up their efforts to ensure the safety of all who live and work in Singapore, we need to guard against unnecessarily stereotyping people according to their appearance or the colour of their skin. We should also refuse audience to those who seek to use this unfortunate incident to stoke racial disharmony and xenophobia.
It is important for the COI to investigate the riot in an independent and impartial manner, without regard to any embarrassment it may cause the ruling party because of its policies. Once completed, the COI must present its findings to Singaporeans openly and transparently.
If our Government fails to get to the root of the problem, the stressors and underlying factors which had caused the incident will only manifest itself in another, perhaps uglier way.
Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss, Secretary-General
On behalf of the 15th Central Executive Committee
of the NATIONAL SOLIDARITY PARTY