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More police powers to secure order in Little India

Published on Jan 20, 2014 3:33 PM
 
Police officers examining an ambulance and a police car that were burnt beyond recognition along Race Course Road at the aftermath of the Little India riot in Dec 8, 2013. A new bill introduced in Parliament on Monday, Jan 20, 2014, will give police fine-tuned powers in the Little India area, following the Dec 8 riot there that damaged 25 emergency vehicles and left 39 Home Team officers injured. -- ST FILE PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

A new bill introduced in Parliament on Monday will give police fine-tuned powers in the Little India area, following the December 8 riot there that damaged 25 emergency vehicles and left 39 Home Team officers injured.

The Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill seeks to give law enforcement officers the power to search and interview individuals entering the area for alcohol and prohibited items, and empower officers to ban individuals from being in the area during specified times if their presence is deemed to potentially threaten public order.

Powers will also be granted officers to swiftly cancel or suspend the business license of licensees who have been suspected to have flouted the law.

The legislation is proposed to last for up to one year, and refers specifically to the Little India area where an alcohol ban has been enacted following the riot.

"The Bill proposes that the law will be valid for one year. This will provide sufficient time for my Ministry to enact longer term legislation to take into account the findings and recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry (COI), and recommendations arising from public consultations on the review of the liquor licensing regime," said Deputy Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean, in a speech addressing the 20 questions directed at him that stemmed from the riot.

Mr Teo told Parliament that the COI, which was appointed last December, will begin hearings from 19 February, and is expected to complete its inquiry and submit its report by June.

Mr Teo said it was important, too, to consider what did not happen the night of the riot - that the disturbance did not spread to surrounding neighbourhoods, and that worker dormitories remained calm and peaceful.

"Not a single shot was fired that night, and there were no fatalities amongst the

rioters, innocent bystanders, or our Home Team officers," he said.

"In short, the riot did not spread in time or space; and was contained."

yanliang@sph.com.sg