Ramalingam Sakthivel, 33, had pleaded guilty to taking part in a street rampage last December that left 39 people injured including policemen and 25 vehicles destroyed.

In the incident, an estimated 400 migrant labourers from South Asia enjoying a Sunday off work erupted in anger after an Indian worker was crushed to death under a bus in Singapore's congested Little India district.

It was one of Singapore's worst outbreaks of violence since the 1960s, and brought into sharp focus the way the wealthy city-state manages its nearly one million low-paid foreign workers.

"The accused was no meek follower -- he rallied others to join him and pursued a course of conduct that showed him to be unfazed of the risk to his own life and limb," Deputy Presiding Judge Jennifer Marie said in a written judgement.

According to court documents, Ramalingam attacked police officers on the scene by throwing pieces of concrete and beer bottles.

He then rallied a group of rioters to assist him in flipping over a police vehicle.

Ramalingam also used a pole to repeatedly strike an ambulance in which several officers and paramedics were taking cover.

He was also sentenced to 27 months in jail for setting fire to the bus that knocked down and killed the worker. The sentences are to be served concurrently.

Singapore imposes caning with a rattan pole for serious crimes. The punishment entails being struck on the back of the thigh below the buttocks, which can split the skin and leave lasting scars.

Courts are allowed to order up to 24 strokes of the cane for the worst offences such as rape.

More than 50 workers were quickly deported after the riot while 25 Indian nationals are either serving jail sentences or awaiting trial in connection with the violence.

Foreigners who are convicted of criminal offences are typically deported once they complete their sentences.

Singapore has a total population of 5.4 million, but only 3.84 million are citizens and permanent residents.