SINGAPORE - An anti-rioting exercise involving foreign workers re-enacting a riot had aimed to "promote mutual understanding with the local community", said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Wednesday night.
The exercise, conducted two weeks ago in a dormitory in Sembawang, had drawn flak from netizens and migrant worker groups after Mr Khaw posted photos of it on his Facebook page on Tuesday night.
In the pictures, South Asian workers were shown raising their fists in the air and throwing plastic bottles at police officers carrying shields. Hundred of netizens commented that it was insensitive to get Indian national workers to stage the re-enactment. Last December's Little India riot also involved Indian national workers.
Mr Khaw, in response, posted a comment in the Facebook thread and said the people involved, including grassroots members and ambassadors of foreign workers "found it to be a meaningful collaboration which bonded the residents and foreign workers".
Mr Khaw, also a MP for Sembawang GRC, was not in Singapore when the exercise was conducted. He said grassroots leaders who helped organise the exercise told him the exercise "went well and was well received by the various stakeholders", be they grassroots, foreign worker ambassadors, or officers from the police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force. (SCDF) A buffet lunch was held at the end of the exercise, he added.
"This is one of the many engagement and education sessions conducted by our grassroots and government agencies with foreign workers, regardless of nationality or race," he said. Past ones covered areas such as first aid, dengue prevention and local culture, he added.
In a joint statement by Police and the SCDF on Wednesday night, they stressed that the exercise was one of several regular exercises they conduct together with dormitory operators and stakeholders. These ensure that the authorities and dormitory operators have the necessary protocols and processes to deal with incidents that could take place in these premises.
Such exercises also give officers a chance to fine-tune emergency response measures and to reach out to their stakeholders to explain emergency procedures and share crime prevention messages, they added.
They said: "In this case, the exercise...was meant to review agencies' responses to a public order incident that had occurred within the dormitory premise. Participants of the exercise include Singapore Police Force, SCDF, grassroots leaders, dormitory operator, foreign worker ambassadors, as well as residents of the dormitories who volunteered to participate so that the exercise could be carried out smoothly."