Channel NewsAsia
Updated: 02/19/2014 10:36 | By Channel NewsAsia

Committee of Inquiry into Little India riot begins

Committee of Inquiry into Little India riot begins


Committee of Inquiry into Little India riot begins

SINGAPORE: The Committee of Inquiry hearing into the Little India riot started on Wednesday morning with Senior State Counsel David Khoo giving a rundown of the evidence that will be presented in the coming weeks.

Twitter - Little India Riot

In his opening statement, Mr Khoo said that evidence that establishes how the riot unfolded and how the authorities managed the incident will be shown in the first three weeks.

Witnesses will include those who were at the fatal traffic accident involving 33-year-old Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu, as well as first responders from the Police and Singapore Civil Defence Force.

The fourth to sixth week of the inquiry will see evidence establishing the facts and circumstances that led to the riot.

"Many have attributed the incident to the ill-effects of alcohol and others to the mistreatment of workers, such as salary and employment issues.

"I would add it is entirely possible that the incident could be attributable of a combination of factors rather than a single factor," Mr Khoo said, noting that the focus must be on "fact-finding".

"This remains an issue for the Committee's deliberation and determination," he added.

The evidence of shopkeepers, foreign workers, and residents in Little India will assist in determining if alcohol was a factor that contributed to the incident, while the Land Transport Authority and representatives of various transport companies will give evidence to explore the issue of overcrowding in Little India and problems that arose from it.

Others who will give evidence include an expert in the field of behavioral science, non-governmental organisations such as Maruah and Transient Workers Count Too, as well as foreign workers.

"In addressing the many theories propagated by foreign media alleging that the deceased had been manhandled or thrust off the bus, I would only say, that we shall, in the course of this inquiry, adduce evidence showing these allegations to be unfounded," said Mr Khoo.

Video footage from a camera in the bus was played during the reading of the opening statement, and it showed an intoxicated Sakthivel being asked to alight from the bus and him doing so voluntarily.

Video footage from a camera located on the left wing mirror of the bus was also shown, which captured Sakthivel walking and running alongside the bus as it departs and moves along Tekka Lane.

He was then run over by the bus after falling in front of the left wheel of the bus.

Other footage which captured the situation escalating -- when the bus’s door and windows were smashed and projectiles were hurled -- was also shown.

Witnesses expected to give evidence later on Wednesday include the bus's timekeeper, a forensic scientist and a pathologist.

The members of the COI are former Supreme Court judge G Pannir Selvam, former Police Commissioner Tee Tua Ba, former National Trades Union Congress President John De Payva, and West Coast Citizens' Consultative Committee Chairman Andrew Chua Thiam Chwee.

The COI's terms of reference are to establish the circumstances that led to the riot and consider whether current measures to manage such incidents -- where foreign workers congregate -- are adequate.

The committee said its job is not to determine civil or criminal liability, but it can submit a report of the proceedings, its findings and recommendations, to the Minister for Home Affairs.  - CNA/nd

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