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Fracas to be reconstructed in detail at public hearing

Published on Feb 19, 2014 8:18 AM
 
The overturned police cars at the aftermath of the Little India riot on Dec 9, 2013.  -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The riot in Little India on Dec 8 will be reconstructed in detail through eyewitness accounts and video footage from surveillance cameras at a public hearing beginning today into the cause of the unrest.

Expected to testify before the four-man Committee of Inquiry (COI) chaired by former Supreme Court judge G. Pannir Selvam are at least 70 witnesses, more than half of whom are believed to be police officers who responded to the incident.

Key commanders from the Home Team who were on the ground that night may also be called this week to explain the tactical decisions made during the operation to disperse the mob and take control of the situation.

Leading the evidence for the hearing, which will take place over four weeks or so at the Subordinate Courts, is the Attorney- General's Chambers.

Senior State Counsel David Khoo will, in his opening statement today, broadly explain the evidence to be presented in the course of the inquiry. This will cover the events surrounding the riot and the possible factors that may have led to it.

The fracas in the Indian ethnic enclave last year remains the worst case of violence seen on Singapore's streets in more than 40 years.

Some 49 police and Singapore Civil Defence Force officers were injured and 23 emergency vehicles damaged during the riot, which was apparently sparked by the death of 33-year-old Mr Sakthivel Kumaravelu.

The Indian national was killed in Race Course Road after he was run over by a private bus ferrying migrant workers back to their dormitories.

Two Indian nationals have since been sentenced to 15 weeks in jail for their part in the riot, while cases against 23 other suspects are still pending in court.

Other witnesses who may appear before the COI this week include an independent forensic expert who reconstructed the scene of the fatal accident, the private bus driver, a bus passenger who is also a worker from India, and a female timekeeper who was coordinating the buses that night.

Video and photo evidence taken from CCTV cameras on the bus and in the vicinity is also expected to be presented to the COI.

The inquiry, ordered by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the aftermath of the riot last year, has been tasked with establishing how the incident unfolded and was managed by response teams, and considering whether current measures are adequate where foreign workers gather.

It must submit its report to the Home Affairs Minister by June 13.

The committee's job, however, is not to determine the guilt of any individual and it will also not interfere with any ongoing criminal cases.

franchan@sph.com.sg

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