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Sylvia Lim, Law

Workers' Party opposes temporary public order law in Little India

Published on Feb 18, 2014 5:51 PM
 
The Workers' Party (WP) opposes a new law meant to give law enforcement officers powers to maintain public order in Little India, said party chairman Sylvia Lim in Parliament on Monday calling it "unnecessary" and a "kneejerk reaction" to the riot that happened on Dec 8, 2013. -- ST FILE PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

THE Workers' Party (WP) opposes a new law meant to give law enforcement officers powers to maintain public order in Little India, said party chairman Sylvia Lim in Parliament on Monday calling it "unnecessary" and a "kneejerk reaction" to the riot that happened on Dec 8.

Speaking during the second reading of the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill, Ms Lim said her party had "grave reservations about the need and wisdom of the Bill". Aljunied GRC MPs Pritam Singh and Chen Show Mao also spoke against it.

The Bill, to maintain security in Little India after Singapore's first riot in decades, seeks to give law enforcement officers the power to interview and search people in the area for alcohol and prohibited items. It also limits the sale and consumption of alcohol in the area, and is valid for a year.

Ms Lim questioned the need for it, saying it would pre-empt the findings of a committee of inquiry set up to investigate the causes of the riot.

The COI will start on Wednesday, and will have to complete its report by June 13. But if Parliament passes the Bill on Tuesday, it would come into force by March, Ms Lim said. It would also continue to be in force for nine months after the COI findings are released, no matter what they may be, she added.

"What if the COI findings show these measures are barking up the wrong tree?" she said.

Another concern was how the police and auxiliary police officers (APOs) assigned to the area would use its powers under the new law, Mr Singh said.

Without the adequate cultural training, they may end up discriminating against the foreign workers and Singaporeans of South Indian descent who congregate in the area, potentially worsening the situation, he added.

Current laws and administrative measures have also been adequate in maintaining order in the area, said Ms Lim.

In the immediate aftermath of the riot, for example, the Government had turned to existing laws such as the Public Order (Preservation) Act.

Besides these legal measures, said Ms Lim, administrative measures were also available to help alleviate the situation in Little India such as the Land Transport Authority relooking road access.

These measures have been "very useful in the interim", she added.