Little India riots: PM Lee vows to ensure safety of foreign workers in Singapore

Last Updated: Sunday, December 15, 2013 - 15:39

Singapore: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has vowed to ensure the safety of nearly a million low-paid foreign workers in Singapore, saying they should be treated fairly and paid properly on time, days after outbreak of worst riots in over 40 years for which 33 Indians have been charged.
"We believe that foreign workers in Singapore ought to be treated fairly and properly. We do not stand for ill treatment or unfair treatment of foreign workers," Lee said.

"We have to make sure they (foreign workers) are well treated, they are paid properly on time, their safety is taken care of, their living conditions are up to standard, and they are given full protection of the law," he said in Tokyo, where he is on a visit.

His comments came in the backdrop of the worst ever riots in Singapore since 1969. The trouble began after a bus fatally knocked down 33-year-old Indian Sakthivel Kuaravelu in `Little India, a precinct of Indian-origin businesses, eateries and pubs frequented by most South Asian workers on Sunday.

Around 400 South Asian migrant workers were involved in the rampage that left 39 police and civil defence staff injured and 25 vehicles damaged. Thirty-three Indian nationals have been arrested and charged in court for alleged rioting.

Lee has ordered the formation of a special committee to probe the riots and warned to use "full force of the law" against trouble-makers.

Even as authorities tighten the inflow of foreign workers over the years, Lee said their population needs to be managed, and there was an on-going inter-ministerial committee that looks into their welfare.

"One of the focuses was to try our best to see how we could speed up the construction of more dorms, so that the workers who are now housed in HDB estate or private properties, which have been rented out, they can be put in proper dorms. Then I think they can be better taken care of and there can be less impact on the community," Lee said.

Meanwhile, it was a quiet day today at most parts of Little India, the scene of a riot just a week ago.

The police said that no incidents have been reported in the area, which is observing a weekend ban on the sale and public consumption of alcohol.

"There were no incidents reported in Little India," said a police spokesman. "There were also no breaches of the alcohol ban detected and no one was caught for consuming alcohol in the public places in Little India."

Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam visited several dormitories and interacted with foreign workers, mostly South Asians.

PTI

First Published: Sunday, December 15, 2013 - 15:39

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