LITTLE INDIA RIOT: ONE YEAR LATER

Little India Riot: One Year Later - MP: Residents want current alcohol curbs to stay

Ms Denise Phua wants the authorities to give more weightage to the needs of residents, who “live there, day in, day out, and are there after the visitors have left”. -- ST PHOTO: T. KUMAR
Ms Denise Phua wants the authorities to give more weightage to the needs of residents, who “live there, day in, day out, and are there after the visitors have left”. -- ST PHOTO: T. KUMAR
  • WHO: Ms Denise Phua, 55.
  • HER INVOLVEMENT: She is Mayor for Central Singapore District and an MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, whose Kampong Glam ward includes part of Little India.
  • HER STORY: Little India residents have been vocal in calling for the temporary measures implemented in the area after the riot to remain, Ms Phua tells Insight via e-mail.

Particularly welcome, she says, are the curbs on the sale and public consumption of alcohol. This has greatly reduced incidents of foreign workers getting drunk, littering, urinating and sleeping along corridors or staircase landings, which she says was a concern for her residents.

But the measures under the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Act (POATM) will expire on March 31 next year. Ms Phua says: "My residents are not unreasonable and not so naive to demand that no foreign workers should visit Little India. They are simply asking for their privacy and their communal spaces to be returned to them.

"They do not want the neighbourhood shops in their heartland to be primarily selling alcohol or merchandise that cater to, and attract, large congregations of foreign workers."

According to the police, there are 321 liquor licences in the 1.1 sq km zone proclaimed under the POATM as of June 16 - 10 fewer than last year. They declined to provide updated statistics.

As of Nov 30, some 300 people have been issued advisories for drinking in public outside permitted hours, that is, from 6am on Saturday to 6am on Monday, as well as from 6am on the eve of public holidays to 6am the day after.

Ms Phua acknowledges that the restrictions have affected some businesses, especially those depending largely on foreign workers.

 

She has worked with the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association to ask the authorities to give these merchants priority, if tendering for shop spaces at decentralised recreation centres or dormitories for migrant workers.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs, which had started a review on alcohol measures even before the riot, is expected to introduce new laws by April.

Calling on the authorities to "not disappoint the residents", Ms Phua says she hopes the current alcohol curbs in Little India will stay.

She says: "I urge the authorities to give more weightage to the needs of the residents affected in the congregation hot spots and especially in Little India where the riot happened. These residents live there, day in, day out, and are there after the visitors have left."