SINGAPORE: Singapore police have questioned nearly 4,000 foreign workers in a widening crackdown following the city-state's first riot in more than 40 years, officials confirmed.
Three more Indian nationals were charged in court yesterday with rioting, in addition to 24 compatriots charged a day earlier with the same offence, which is punishable by up to seven years in jail and caning.
An estimated 400 south Asian workers went on the rampage on Sunday night after an Indian construction worker was struck and killed by a private bus in a district known as Little India, leaving 39 police officers and emergency responders injured.
A police spokesman said that so far 176 men including those placed under arrest had been taken to a police complex to have their statements recorded.
Around 3,700 foreign workers living in dormitories have been interviewed as well, she said.
The breakdown of their nationalities was not given.
A total of 25 vehicles – including 16 police cars – were left damaged or burnt after the fracas.
The 55-year-old Singaporean bus driver who knocked down and killed Indian construction worker Sakthivel Kumaravelu, 33, has been released on bail after being charged with causing death by a negligent act.
Activists have urged authorities to investigate whether the violence on Sunday was an indication of wider discontent among low-wage migrant workers.
Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean, who looks after internal security, said police had increased their presence in worker dormitories and places where foreign workers gather.
"Investigations will continue so that all those who have broken the law will be dealt with strictly, firmly and fairly in accordance with the law," Teo said in a statement on Tuesday.
Yesterday, workers were seen installing new surveillance cameras on lampposts along Race Course Road, where the riot broke out.
A makeshift memorial board in memory of Sakthivel had also been erected at the scene.
Local media reported substantially more police patrolling the area.
Singapore's foreign ministry said it was working closely with the Indian High Commissioner (ambassador) "to facilitate consular access and support for their nationals, including legal representation".
Sunday's riot was the second incident involving a large group of foreign workers in the past year. — AFP
Asia's prospects for economic growth remain positive, provided the region continues to be peaceful and stable, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Speaking in Seoul at a lunch with South Korean business leaders yesterday, Lee said Asian countries were pursuing closer economic integration regionally and globally, and were expected to outgrow the rest of the world again next year.
"So all in all, the outlook for Asia is bright, provided we have peace and stability in Asia," he said at the lunch, which was organised by the Korea International Trade Organisation.
Lee also expressed Singapore's admiration for South Korea's quick economic recovery after the global financial crisis.
"I remember during the global financial crisis, how vigorously your government... went about reinforcing your position and buttressing yourself against the waves and the storms that would come – working out swap arrangements, stabilising your economy domestically, cooperating with other countries in the region," he said.
Now, South Korea has established many economic strengths and Singapore, too, is "making steady progress", Lee said.
But the nation's society and economy are in transition, as it adapts to a more mature economic phase and new social needs, he added.
Still, Singapore "remains a good place for companies to do business", Lee said. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
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