Home and away
THEIR impeccable city is supposed to be so law-abiding that policemen are rarely seen on patrol. Imagine the shock, then, when Singaporeans woke up on December 9th to learn of running street battles in the city centre the night before. Singapore had not seen a riot since 1969.
The trouble started when an apparently drunk construction worker from south India, Sakthivel Kumaravelu, was turfed off a crowded bus after making a scene. Next, the bus driver turned a corner and heard a loud thud. Mr Kumaravelu was under the wheel of his bus. He died instantly.Riot police and a contingent of Gurkha soldiers put an end to things. Some 27 migrant workers have so far been arrested and charged over the riot, with thousands more interviewed. Those convicted could face as long as seven years in jail, as well as a caning.It happened in Little India, a city quarter where thousands of South Asian migrant workers gather every Sunday, often their only day off, before being bused back to dormitories on the fringes of the island. Very soon after the accident as many as 400 workers had massed and proceeded through the streets as a rampaging mob for about two hours. In clashes with police, 27 officers were injured, along with firefighters and paramedics. Police cars were overturned, and an ambulance was set ablaze.