Little India Riot COI: Highly improper of media to interfere with proceedings

The overturned police cars at the aftermath of the Little India riot on Dec 9, 2013. The chairman of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) on Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014, morning reiterated that the media should not interfere in proceedings by interviewing
The overturned police cars at the aftermath of the Little India riot on Dec 9, 2013. The chairman of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) on Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014, morning reiterated that the media should not interfere in proceedings by interviewing witnesses before they come to the tribunal. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The chairman of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) on Wednesday morning reiterated that the media should not interfere in proceedings by interviewing witnesses before they come to the tribunal.

Former Supreme Court judge G. Pannir Selvam also told the court that many media have asked members of the four-man COI to meet and seek their views on their eventual decision. Some members of the media have also asked for video footage evidence.

He said: "All these are first unnecessary and highly improper. Our duty is to enquire, find out and report to the minister. But these reporters think that we have got to report to them first and then the minister. No, we don't do that."

Holding up a copy of The Straits Times as he spoke, Senior State Counsel David Khoo had earlier sought Mr Selvam's direction on a news article published in the newspaper on Wednesday which came to his attention.

The article featured a face-to-face interview with the driver of the bus involved in the fatal road accident on Dec 8 last year, just before the riot broke out.

Mr Selvam called it a "plain and simple interference with witnesses" and "plain contempt of court." He said: "While we may just overlook this case, this should not be repeated and if it is then we will take severe action against them."

Commenting on the Straits Times report, its editor Warren Fernandez said on Wednesday night: "It was not our intention to interfere with the work of the Committee of Inquiry as it goes about its crucial task of getting to the bottom of what happened on the night of Dec 8, and why. We apologise that our report crossed that line."

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