Worker buried in hometown, groups raising funds for family

Construction worker Sakthivel Kumaravelu rarely hung out in Little India during his days off.

In fact, the Sunday he was killed after being run over by a bus at the junction of Tekka Lane and Race Course Road was his first visit there in more than two months, said a co-worker.

The Indian national, who gave his name only as Mr Kumar, was also Mr Sakthivel's roommate at the Terusan Lodge, in Jalan Papan in Jurong.

"Sakthivel was a very good man," said Mr Kumar, 30. "He didn't talk a lot but we would drink outside the dorm and makan (eat, in Malay) together on Saturdays."

His friend's death is widely believed to have sparked Sunday's riot in Little India that saw police and paramedics attacked by a mob.

Yesterday, Mr Sakthivel was buried in Chattiram, the village he grew up in. It is located some 400km from Chennai in India.

His mother, who has been ill, broke down when she saw her son's broken body, said family friend Kaliyappan Karthick, 28, who was at the burial.

Mr Sakthivel was the eldest of three siblings and his family's sole breadwinner.

He is survived by his mother Rajalakshmi, 53, and younger brother Ramesh, 25, who has a brain injury.

His father died five years ago, and he lost his younger sister just three months ago. It was at her funeral that family and friends had last seen him.

Some 300 people turned up to pay their last respects to the 33-year-old man, said Mr Karthick. Many in his hometown had felt that he had done well by going abroad to earn a living and support his family.

He had been working at Heng Hup Soon, a scaffolding company in Singapore, for about two years, before he apparently stumbled and fell into the path of the bus and was killed. Police said he was drunk at the time of his death.

Mr Sakthivel's demise may have led to the riot, resulting in the worst violence and damage Singapore's streets have seen in decades, but it has also prompted Singaporeans to come forward with offers to help his family.

Several groups have been rallying together to offer their condolences and raise funds for Mr Sakthivel's next of kin, including one led by opposition figure Nicole Seah, who is doing so in her personal capacity.

Ms Seah said she is working with "key players from civil society" to collect funds for his family because Mr Sakthivel "came all the way to Singapore to raise money for his family, and now they have lost their breadwinner".

All cash collected would be channelled through non-governmental organisation Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC), which is in touch with Mr Sakthivel's family in India.

MWC has already received some half a dozen similar offers of donations, said executive director Bernard Menon.

Another Singaporean, freelance media artist Suresh Vanaz, has raised $1,800 since Monday through social media appeals. The 34-year-old plans to chip in another $1,200 from his own pocket for the family.

In Britain, two Singaporean students from the University of Liverpool have set up a 24-day crowdfunding campaign on online platform Indiegogo.

Three days in, Mr Tai Wong and Mr Kyle Sim, both 24, have raised US$305 (S$380) of the targeted US$50,000 that would go towards meeting the needs of Mr Sakthivel's family as well as to NGOs that work with migrant workers, said Mr Wong.

"We're hoping that it conveys the message that we're here to help and we're all people of the same world, there is no them and us," he said.

"Our first reaction to news of the riot was disbelief, then outrage, but we took a step back and asked ourselves why it had happened, and we stopped looking for who to blame, and tried to see how we could help."

The Indian High Commission in Singapore told The Straits Times that it has been approached by MWC and other individuals regarding donations to Mr Sakthivel's family.

"We deeply appreciate these gestures," said a representative from the High Commission. "We are working on the modalities in this regard."

rachelay@sph.com.sg

gnirmala@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Hoe Pei Shan and Joanna Seow