30 December 2013 07:30 | By Ilsa Chan
Singapore’s top newsmakers of 2013

Little India rioters



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Little India rioters

Let’s begin with the most recent storm on the island, and one that will go down in our history books - the Little India riot on December 8, Singapore’s first riot in more than 40 years.

Just like any other Sunday, tens of thousands of foreign workers congregated at the enclave where they socialised, dined and shopped. But all hell broke loose when 33-year-old Indian construction worker, Sakthivel Kumaravelu, was run over by a private bus.

An angry mob gathered as paramedics tried to extricate the victim’s body and started hurling items like beer bottles and concrete blocks at them. Shortly after, a riot broke out involving around 400 people, mostly foreign workers. They attacked the bus driver, police and paramedics, as well as overturned and set ablaze several damaged police vehicles and ambulances.

Special Operations Command (SOC) and Gurkhas were called in and order was restored in an hour. 28 men, all South Asians, were arrested that night.

Twenty-five rioters, between the ages of 22 to 45, have been charged and 57 people repatriated. If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of seven years' jail and caning.

The heroes

However, not all workers at the scene were involved in the riot. Some, like this Good Samaritan (pictured, bottom left) was filmed trying to stop the rioters, while others helped officers, who were taking cover in an ambulance, flee.

And who can forget our men in uniform, the officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the Singapore Police Force, as well as the SOCs and Gurkhas, who in the face of danger, exercised restraint and did not fire a single shot throughout the incident.

But there was also one man (pictured, bottom centre) who wanted to be a hero so badly that he faked it. Thangaval Govindarasu, 38, came forward claiming to be the highly sought after Good Samaritan in the checked shirt. But his cover was blown when the media pointed out that his shirt was different from the one in the video. Govindarasu’s story began to change as he was probed further and finally he came clean that he had mistaken the photo of the hero for himself.

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