Singapore: The driver of a private bus, involved in a fatal accident that sparked Singapore`s worst riots in 40 years last year, said he was overcome with fear when he saw an Indian national under the wheel of his vehicle.
Responding to the state-appointed Committee of Inquiry (COI), 55-year-old Lee Kim Huat said his first thought was that Sakthivel Kumaravelu was already dead.
"To my mind, since a big vehicle went over him, he must have been dead," The Straits Times quoted Lee as telling the COI yesterday when asked whether moving the bus might have saved Sakthivel`s life.
Lee told the COI, chaired by former Supreme Court Judge G Pannir Selvam, that he was "not supposed to move anything" after a collision.
"At that point in time (following the accident), I was very scared and it did not occur to me (to move the vehicle)," said Lee, giving account of the accident that sparked riots in Little India, one of the most popular area for South Asian migrant workers to spent their day off.
Footage shot by the bus` closed-circuit television (CCTV) showed Lee was the third person to alight the bus and squatting down with several others to look at Sakthivel`s body pinned beneath the undercarriage on the night of December 8.
Lee was also asked why he had not turned on the monitors for his four bus camera feeds, which would have shown Sakthivel, 33, running alongside the bus while it was moving.
Lee replied that he had not turned on the monitor as it reflected on the windscreen.
"Even if it were on, I don`t think I could have seen him because of the poor lighting of the road lights and the lamp posts," said Lee.
The four-man COI chairman Selvam countered: "But we can see it very clearly on the screen, there`s no lighting problem."
Lee replied that his attention was focused on the people walking around. "Safety was the primary concern and the front was more important."
Lee was also shown a 30-second CCTV clip in which Sakthivel could be seen walking beside the bus, lagging behind as it sped up, before catching up and falling into its path as it turned.
He said he had earlier seen Sakthivel walk unsteadily towards the bus minutes before, and he had trouble boarding it. Lee said his last view of Sakthivel was after he had moved off, and he lost sight of him as the bus sped up.
Earlier, the Attorney General Chambers had cleared Lee of any responsibility in the fatal accident.
The COI public hearing continues today into the riot in which 49 police and Home team officers were injured and more than 650,000 dollars worth of government property was damaged.
A total of 117 witnesses are expected to be called to testify at the hearing expected to last over six weeks.
Three Indians have been jailed up to 18 weeks while 22 others are facing trial for rioting.