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S. Iswaran, Security

Temporary public order bill scopes police powers in Little India tightly: Iswaran

Published on Feb 18, 2014 4:07 PM
 
The proposed public order law  will allow the Police to continue to take calibrated measures to maintain public order and calm in Little India, Second Minister for Home Affairs S Iswaran told Parliament yesterday, at the bill's second reading.  -- ST FILE PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The proposed public order law will allow the Police to continue to take calibrated measures to maintain public order and calm in Little India, Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran told Parliament on Tuesday, at the bill's second reading.

He also stressed that under this bill, the police will have less power than they do under the Public Order (Preservation) Act or PO(P)A, which MHA has had to invoke since the riot on Dec 8 to maintain order.

It invoked a provision in PO(P)A to impose restrictions on the public consumption of alcohol in the Little India area, as Singapore currently has no laws to impose such restrictions.

"But POPA was conceived to deal with far graver situations," Mr Iswaran told the House on Tuesday. "Consequently, it is an Act with broad and extensive police powers, and it requires the Minister for Home Affairs to proclaim the existence of a state of danger to public order in a designated area - in this case, Little India."

Many of the powers available to the police under POPA - such as powers to impose curfews, take control of property or authorise lethal force for those who resist arrest - are "excessive and unnecessary", said Mr Iswaran, while powers made available under the proposed temporary legislation are "scoped tightly... to maintain public peace".

The Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill, which will take effect for 12 months after it is gazetted and give police powers, such as to exclude or compel a person to leave the special zone for up to 24 hours, also has precedents in Singapore's existing laws, Ms Iswaran said.

"In short, this legislation is limited in duration, location, and scope of powers," he added.

Joining the debate, Mr Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) said that the bill, which Parliament is expected to pass today, should be reviewed after the Committee of Inquiry into the causes of the Dec 8 riot issues its recommendations. The legislation should then be amended, if necessary, he added.

yanliang@sph.com.sg