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My thoughts on the riot last night
Monday, December 9, 2013 @ 10:37 AM PERMALINK

Let me come straight off the bat and say this. In case you didn't know, I volunteer with Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2). This volunteer work means that I mingle with migrant workers and listen to their woes. I have seen how unfair some of their situations are and the prejudices they have to put up with.

However, this does not mean I can't see clearly but I can't stop you from thinking otherwise.

When the news of the riot at Little India started to break, I was just getting home from dinner with my friends. The images that started to come in via news-sites and social media were frightening.

Blazes on the street, government vehicles turned on their sides, a crowd of unhappy and violent people..It seemed like the kind of thing that you'd never expect in Singapore.

When I went to bed, the information available was limited. Boy, was I in for a rude surprise when I woke up.

The first thing I noticed were all those racist comments appearing on my social media newsfeeds. Some people were outrightly racist demanding that the government 'send those banglas back where they came from'. Others were a little more subdued and used the chance to take a jab at the Government for 'letting in all these foreigners'.

[For the record, I'm not sure how and if the assumption that the workers were Bangladeshi is accurate. There are certainly many men working here in Singapore and they do hang around Little India on their days off.

Yet, according to media reports, people were reportedly shouting in Tamil. Bangladeshis usually speak Bengali. I don't know where the inaccurate reporting starts but I'm just repeating the quotes as I've seen them. The origin of the men involved in the violence doesn't concern me and it shouldn't concern you either.] 

The second thing I noticed is that mainstream media reports are circulating that the mob was 400 people strong. This figure was not lost on the public of course. People seized onto this fact to cement their views. That one single traffic accident could result in 400 workers acting violently and disrespecting our country.

A riot mob of 400...Let's think about this. When a fight breaks out between two people, don't people quickly step in to try and stop it from escalating? I've seen some disagreements happen in Little India, people are usually quick to jump in and try to stop the situation from worsening.

Now let's magnify this number of two with a hypothetical but possibly realistic scenario that I think people need to consider.

An accident happened, a person is lying under a bus and a group who witnessed the accident starts to get antsy. Perhaps they think it's taking too long, or that no one cares because they are foreigners.. Who knows. They start acting violent and want to take matters into their own hands. Don't you reckon that bystanders would rightfully jump in and try to reason with them? Don't you think that friends who disagree will try to pull them away?

Next, imagine you were in the area when the fighting started. Have any of you been in Little India when it is crowded?I've been stuck numerous times in the human crush of Little India and even when people are peaceful and calm, it is near impossible to move quickly.

Now add that there are people fighting and becoming violent, how many people do you think were there wanted to get away but couldn't?

Rationally, do you think that all 400 people (as quoted by the police) were involved in perpetuating the violence?

Now, I know that perhaps riot numbers are reported like this. That everyone caught there is considered to be part of the mob. I don't assume to know exactly how the number was generated. My thoughts is that the count was estimated based on how many people were found to be in the vicinity.
I only focus on the number now because such a large one makes it so easy for people to assume that typecasting and stereotyping is okay. It isn't.

I implore that instead of jumping to the conclusion that 400 people were involved in this violence (which seems to be what people are doing) that you consider that while there were 400 people there, it is not such a clear cut case of 400 foreigners ( a large number by any count) forcefully disrespecting Singapore and putting our law enforcement officers at risk.

I've seen some people asking Singaporeans to be understanding and attribute the violence as sparked because of the ill-treatment many workers face from our society and law enforcement, I disagree. While this definitely creates unhappiness and it is disappointing that workers have to put up with it, it is NO excuse for the people involved to have resorted to such violence.

Violence is never warranted.

What I do ask is that Singaporeans realise that it is possible that it isn't 400 foreigners that took part in the violence.

I'm sorry for the law enforcement officers that had to be called in and whose safety was put on the line. I'm horrified at the violence that took place and I don't condone it. I hope that anyone hurt in the violence is receiving the medical attention they need and will heal quickly.

But I also worry about the workers today, workers that were not involved or even in the area who will bear the brunt of our judgmental stares. Workers who will have to put up with even more prejudice because of the actions of their fellow countrymen.

I know you are shocked and outraged Singapore but stereotyping and racism are traits of an uneducated and uncivilized society - is that what we are?

Blogger asingaporeanson said on December 9, 2013 at 11:43 AM  

We have a long way to go for a civil society. Our physical progress betrays the societal one, which is struggling to catch up. Unrest such as the unfortunate one last night do us no favour in this aspect.


Anonymous Anonymous said on December 10, 2013 at 12:04 AM  

I stayed up till 4am to read and watch videos sent on FB, Yahoo and Channelnews. I saw a video which showed policemen running for their lifes after two policars overturned and one burnt. I saw a series of videos. Had goose bumps to see how much violence there was. Till the Gurkha Contingent arrived..unfortunately could not see how the riot was controlled by them.Sigh...

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