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Little India Riot: Sunday's violence may affect plans to tighten liquor licence rules

Plans to tighten alcohol rules in Little India might be affected by the riot that took place there on Sunday night. Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew told reporters on Monday morning that he and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean had discussed the ong
Plans to tighten alcohol rules in Little India might be affected by the riot that took place there on Sunday night. Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew told reporters on Monday morning that he and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean had discussed the ongoing consultation on what changes should be made to liquor licences. -- TNP PHOTO:  JONATHAN CHOO

Plans to tighten alcohol rules in Little India might be affected by the riot that took place there on Sunday night. Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew told reporters on Monday morning that he and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean had discussed the ongoing consultation on what changes should be made to liquor licences.

Mr Lui is an MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, under which Little India falls. He and fellow MP for the constituency Denise Phua have wanted to limit the number of liquor licences in the area, among other rules to tighten liquor access there.

"Our feel is that in Little India, the number of licences that have been given... has increased too significantly and too much for our comfort," he told reporters in Little India yesterday, while he was there to speak to residents.

There is also the question of "whether and how we should more properly demarcate areas where drinking is allowed and the time periods where such drinking is allowed," he added. Even if incidents such as the riot are not directly caused by people who are alcohol-fuelled, alcohol can add to their severity, he said.

Asked if there was any indication that Sunday night's mob was "alcohol-fuelled", Mr Lui said it was "hard to say definitively." But from what he observed himself, when he went down last night and saw some of the people who were taken into custody, "I think in my mind it was quite evident... alcohol could have been a contributory factor."

He noted also that beer bottles and beer cans were among the objects used to damage vehicles in the riot.

The issue of liquor licences is not new, but MPs have been more successful in getting support for changes in other areas of the constituency, said Mr Lui. On Balestier Road, for instance, there are now strict limits on establishments such as pubs, karaokes and budget hotels.

Mr Lui also told reporters that the police presence would be stepped up in areas where foreign workers congregate, and during holidays or festive periods when larger crowds are expected. But he stressed that he did not want the incident to be cast as a case of "foreign workers versus 'us'", or to "overlay a racial tone to it."