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'Bridge cultural divide' to avoid friction seen in Littel India riot

Foreign workers should trust police, who must also respect them: Experts

Published on Jul 2, 2014 8:57 AM

The cultural divide between foreign workers and local service providers and law enforcement should be bridged in order to avoid the kind of friction that contributed to the riot in Little India last Dec 8, said academics.

Trust should be developed among workers that most officers' genuine intention is to mete out justice and, on the other hand, those who interact with migrant workers must be trained to be sensitive to cultural differences and to treat workers with respect.

The academics were responding to the Committee of Inquiry's findings, submitted on Monday, that the crowd's misreading of a bus accident as well as specific cultural attitudes towards street justice for perceived neglect or wrongdoing contributed to the escalation of violence that night.

Dr Smita Singh, a social psychology lecturer at James Cook University in Singapore, who has done research in social and cultural indicators surfacing in mass media, said such a sub-culture of heroism against authority is "quite prevalent in southern India especially". She suggested that foreign workers be made more aware of the roles of law enforcement here, and that they should develop trust in the officers' ability to do their jobs. That would go towards dissuading them from trying to take the law into their own hands, she added.

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