SINGAPORE: The government has a "clear duty" to do everything necessary to make sure the risks of another riot are reduced and the new Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill has been put in place for that purpose.
Law Minister K Shanmugam made the comment on Tuesday, adding that it would be "utterly irresponsible" for the government to wait till the Committee of Inquiry on the Little India riot presents its findings.
He said: "This is the government's own assessment of what's necessary. Of course after the commission's findings, the government may have to take extra steps, other steps, those we will wait.
"But no government can sit back after a riot and say we are not going to do anything until the commission comes up with the findings."
Mr Shanmugam spoke to reporters on Tuesday evening after meeting some 40 shopkeepers and business owners in Little India, who shared how the restrictions in the area -- such as those relating to alcohol consumption -- have adversely affected their businesses.
Mr Rajakumar Chandra, chairman of the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association, said: "Ninety-five percent of these businesses in Little India totally depend on foreign workers' business.
"And I would say ninety-five percent of them are really affected by these new plans."
The shopkeepers and business owners also gave suggestions on what they hope can be done to alleviate the problem -- such as setting up safe zones for drinking, a suggestion Mr Shanmugam said he would raise to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The minister called the hour-long discussion "constructive" and said that both sides understood where each was coming from.
Mr Rajakumar Chandra said: "From the merchants' side, of course big loss in business, but their rentals are still the same -- very high.
"There have been a couple of shops that had already closed. And... there are many shops that have not been able to pay their rentals for three, four months."
Mr Shanmugam said the government "is in the middle as a trustee, to do the best" for everyone -- not just taking care of the interests of one section.
He added: "If you look at the groups, of course the residents, they're the largest number -- you must take (that) into account and do the best for them. Then you have the shopkeepers, you must also try to be fair to them.
"And then the larger Singapore community -- they don't like to see riots anywhere in Singapore. It's also the reputation of Singapore, we have to take that into account." - CNA/al
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