Little India Riot: Government accepts all 8 recommendations from the COI

SINGAPORE - The eight recommendations set out by the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Little India riot in its report last week have been accepted by the Government.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is also the Minister for Home Affairs, announced this in a ministerial statement in Parliament on Monday, as he laid out the steps the Government would take to meet these recommendations.

"A riot on the streets of Singapore is unacceptable. We have to take preventive action to minimise the likelihood of such a riot occurring, and improve our capability to deal effectively with a riot if one does occur," he said. "Anyone who takes part in a riot must know that he will be dealt with firmly in accordance with our laws."

The COI's eight recommendations focused on ways to strengthen the Home Team and to better manage congregation areas. The Ministry of Home Affairs will look after seven of them, while the Ministry of Manpower will take charge of one - making more services and amenities available to foreign workers outside of congregation areas, and working with community stakeholders to thin the crowds at these areas out.

Measures to enhance security in Little India. -- SOURCE: MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS

These recommendations, said Mr Teo, address weaknesses and areas the Government has to work on, validates several ongoing efforts, and provides an impetus to ramp up and speed up efforts as well.

And the Government has not waited for the COI's report to act, said Mr Teo. It has already taken taken steps to improve certain areas since the riot on 8 Dec - some in the days immediately following the incident, such as a ban on the public consumption of alcohol in Little India on weekends and public holidays.

The COI's first recommendation was to improve command, control and communications, or C3, capabilities to help ground officers get a better grasp of the situation on the ground, especially when faced with rapidly-changing scenarios.

Police, said Mr Teo, have been working on a major upgrade of its C3 systems for the past few years, and two key aspects are almost ready: a new Combined Operations Room and C3 system due to make their debut at the end of the year. Body and vehicle-mounted cameras are also in the trial stages.

Other recommendations from the COI are to train and equip frontline officers to deal with public order incidents, and to increase the Singapore Police Force's (SPF) manpower resources - including the its Special Operations Command numbers - so they can better manage congregation areas like Little India and handle large-scale public order incidents.

The COI also suggested that the SPF and the SCDF continue to work together so they can respond in a concerted and co-ordinated manner to public order situations, and that the SPF look at cutting red tape so essential resources can be activated more quickly.

Police have already been on track to step up surveillance in Little India, in line with another of the COI's recommendation to install more lights and cameras in areas where large crowds of foreign workers gather.

Before the riot, there were 113 police cameras in public areas and HDB blocks in Little India. Since then, the number of police cameras has more than doubled to 250, with all 41 HDB blocks equipped with police cameras.

Police, said Mr Teo, will be installing another 88 cameras in public areas between now and next December(2015) - trebling the overall number of cameras "beyond what was initially planned within this time frame".

The COI's final recommendation was to more strictly enforce against public drunkenness, and to set in place alcohol restrictions in hotspots where large crowds typical gather for drinks - "where a triggering incident could spark a breakdown of public order".

The Government will introduce the necessary legislation within the next six months, said Mr Teo, before the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Act expires next March.

"While the COI found that the Home Team had generally performed well in quelling the riot, it has also identified areas for improvement, and put forth recommendations which the Government accepts," said Mr Teo. "We will implement all the recommendations. Since the riot, we have already started to strengthen our capabilities, and enhance our operational effectiveness."