Last man to be dealt with in Little India riot found guilty of failing to disperse

Arun Kaliamurthy, an Indian national who has a master's degree in information systems and was looking for a job here, had claimed trial to a single charge of failing to disperse from the scene despite police orders to do so. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CH
Arun Kaliamurthy, an Indian national who has a master's degree in information systems and was looking for a job here, had claimed trial to a single charge of failing to disperse from the scene despite police orders to do so. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - The last of 25 men to be dealt with for their roles in a riot in Little India more than a year ago was found guilty in court on Thursday.

Arun Kaliamurthy, an Indian national who has a master's degree in information systems and was looking for a job here, had claimed trial to a single charge of failing to disperse from the scene despite police orders to do so.

The 29-year-old will be sentenced by District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan on June 2.

Twenty-five Indian nationals were initially charged with rioting. Some, including Arun, had their charges amended to failure to disperse and obstruction. All the others have been convicted and sentenced to jail, some with caning.

Arun is one of only two men to claim trial.

The fracas on the night of Dec 8, 2013, had erupted after a bus accident along Race Course Road killed 33-year-old construction worker Sakthivel Kumaravelu. By the end of the night, 24 emergency vehicles had been damaged or set on fire and 43 enforcement officers injured. It was the first large-scale riot here in over four decades.

In its closing submissions to the court, the prosecution noted that while Arun initially claimed he did not hear police commands clearly, he admitted during the three-day trial that he heard the words "Disperse immediately!" from a Police Tactical Vehicle at Race Course Road.

He also had "ample opportunity to leave the scene" between 10.42pm and 11.10pm, but chose not to do so, Deputy Public Prosecutor Sellakumaran and Assistant Public Prosecutor (APP) Dillon Kok told the court.

In his mitigation, Arun's lawyer Shashi Nathan said his client was "merely an innocent bystander" in the riot.

The harm caused by Arun's conduct was "slight", and he has also been unable to work since his arrest, Mr Nathan added.

The defence lawyer urged the court to impose a fine, or a one-day jail term.

But APP Kok noted the "immense public disquiet" caused by the scale of the riot, and called for a deterrent sentence of at least 16 to 18 weeks' jail.

Arun faces up to two years in jail and/or a fine for continuing in an assembly of five or more people likely to cause a disturbance of public peace, after the assembly has been lawfully commanded to disperse.