Have we moved on?
One man's death, an angry mob and a nation in shock. The fiery scenes of rioting in Little India on Dec 8, 2013, have led to much soul searching on Singapore's relationship with its foreign workers.
We talk to eight people whose lives have been altered by the events of the night, and get their take on how life has changed one year on.
52, a resident of Buffalo Road
26, a construction worker with TTJ Design
LEE KIM HUAT,
55, bus driver of BT & Tan Transport company
GRACE WONG GECK WOON,
38, former bus timekeeper with the Singapore School Transport Association
T RICHERD LEO,
41, manager of Komala Vilas Vegetarian Restaurant at Race Course Road
43, who owns a shop selling phonecards and mobile phone accessories along Chander Road
34, a construction worker with TTJ Design.
45, a former Tekka Residents’ Committee chairman
THEN: Mr Jumani said immediately after the riot, steps like the complete alcohol ban led to a lull in activity and a quiet period – something he never experienced in the 15 years he has lived in Little India.
NOW: Crowds have largely returned to the pre-riot days. But shorter bus operating hours and a greater police presence mean there is more order in Little India and slightly lower noise levels on Sundays.
THEN: Some workers would eat and drink on the field across from Race Course Road, leaving their rubbish behind. He recalls there were occasional fights and drunk workers sleeping in public.
NOW: Little India is cleaner with the public consumption of alcohol law in place. He still goes there on one Sunday a month to remit money and to meet friends. But he limits his time there, preferring to head back to his dormitory earlier so he can avoid the crowds, and the rush for transport now that bus services for foreign workers end earlier at 9pm.
THEN: Mr Lee drove the private bus in the fatal accident that sparked the riot. Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu, 33, died after he fell and was run over by the bus at Race Course Road. Arrested and released on bail, Mr Lee resumed driving in February after he was cleared of any criminal charges.
NOW: He stopped ferrying foreign workers from Little India, has downsized to driving smaller buses and ferries students from international schools most times.
THEN: Madam Wong was attacked on the night of Dec 8 by rioters who threw concrete slabs and glass bottles at her, and hit her with a stick. She was left with cuts and bruises on her face and limbs, and a minor fracture on her right hand.
NOW: She sells children’s clothes at flea markets and takes care of her five-year-old daughter. She has vowed never to go back to her old job.
THEN: A liquor bottle was thrown at the restaurant’s glass door on Dec 8 last year. But it did not shatter the door. Mr Richerd instructed his staff to pull down the shutters. He told customers to finish eating as soon as possible and to leave by the back door. He also instructed staff to quickly pack up and also leave by the back door.
NOW: Although the area is safer because there are tighter controls on alcohol sales and drinking in public, his business is down by 20 to 30 per cent. This stems from changes, including the shorter operating hours of the bus services for foreign workers. He hopes the bus operating hours can be extended.
THEN: Mr Athan was at the shop with his wife when the riot broke out. Worried for their safety, they immediately closed the shop and headed home – a flat just 15m away from his Chander Road shop.
NOW: Compared to the lively atmosphere previously, the area is much quieter. Shops in dormitories now also sell phonecards. Because of the poorer sales, Mr Athan closes his shop by 10.30pm when he previously did so at around midnight.
THEN: On Dec 8, he was in Little India to remit money and to meet a friend who was returning to India the following week. He headed towards Race Course Road but found many people walking in the opposite direction. “Inside got problem,” one told him. He detoured and headed back to his dorm by train. By midnight, police were at the dormitory, interviewing workers.
NOW: He says Little India is safer with the alcohol curbs, and now that bad behaviour, noise-making and littering are being dealt with more severely. In the past, police officers on patrol exercised a lighter touch and usually did not intervene unless they really had to. This has also changed.
THEN: Mr Pereira was unhappy with the proliferation of liquor businesses along Chander Road, half of which opened in 2013 alone.
NOW: The temporary public consumption laws have made the neighbourhood cleaner, he said, while stepped up patrols have made residents feel safer. A resident told him that, with less drinking, the neighbourhood smells better now.
A year after a part of Little India erupted in chaos and confusion, much has changed for the residents in the area and the workers who gather there every Sunday
Mr Lee Kim Huat, who drove the bus in the accident that sparked the riot, says although he was cleared of wrong-doing, his life will never be the same
One cracked tooth and a faint scar above her left eye are physical reminders for Madam Grace Wong Geck Woon of that terror-filled night
MP Denise Phua says residents want temporary measures, which were put in force in the area after the riot, to remain
Two foreign workers who were in Little India on Dec 8 talk about the night, the aftermath & why they just want a quiet life
ST Photojournalist Mark Cheong, who was on the scene to capture images of the riot, looks at how different the area is now
ST photojournalist Mark Cheong looks at how weekends for foreign workers in Little India have changed since the Dec 8 riot.