Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Little India Riot - really little.

A week ago, an incident of "epic" proportion happened in our Little India District: A Riot!

A significant event considering that it is the first riot in over 40 years since the 1969 racial riots.

As usual, for any sort of "mishaps" or "gossip-worthy" piece of news coming out of the little red dot, the netizens rushed in to give their opinions and commentary on the event while it unfolds. Interestingly, this is one event that got people getting emotional and agitated, that evolved into a series verbal skirmishes across the cyber landscape.
  • There people berating the foreign workers
  • There are people blaming the government for bringing too many foreign workers in
  • There are people getting racist, with racist comments about a specific community's lack of "drinking grace"
  • There are people blaming Singapore for this instant for being too dependent of foreign workers
  • We have people blaming the police force for not acting fast enough (or violent enough)
  • We have people being amused (like me)
  • We have people defending our Indian and Bangladeshi brothers as they are the ones who tolled to build our nation (literally)
  • We have people blaming our government or the system for not providing better for the foreign workers
  • We have people deciding that it is because we are treating them like slaves, which is why it sparks off the riots
  • We have people blaming Chinese Nationals for whatever its worth
  • We have people blaming Little India for being Little India
  • We have people blaming alcohol as the cause of the violence
  • We have people asking people to stop blaming the world
  • We have people asking people to be calm
So what's the problem here?

The problem is that we are all debating at different frequencies and different magnitude of things. Its like the saying, "Ask the right questions and you will get the right answers."

People aren't asking the specific questions and start diving into the sharing their opinions to people who aren't at the same frequency or having the same perspective of things.

An Indian National who got drunk, try to board a bus. The bus can no longer accommodate him especially not when he is making a nuisance of himself. He got invited out of the bus, and the bus drives off without him. He, being drunk, chase after the bus (alongside the bus). And when the bus turns, he got drove over and trapped beneath the bus. 

So this is the first part of the drama. Nothing really special. Just another accident.

The police and SCDF are notified and arrived at the scene promptly. Police control the crowd (and requested for reinforcement as the crowd is swelling), the SCDF personnels and paramedics tries to extract the body from under the bus. The crowd then starts to get rowdy (perhaps due to misinformation spreading among themselves) and started attacking the police and SCDF personnels.

This is the 2nd part, where the accident escalates into senseless attack on the people who are trying to save a trapped "kin" of the crowd. 

The mob started to riot, overturning police cars and ambulance; setting them on fire. Riot Police (SOC) forms up and disperse the mob. It took an hour plus for the mob to be fully disperse and the area under police's control. They also arrested 27 people during this operation.

The 3rd part, basically the riot itself. On its own, it also aren't very special.

Suggested Fact:
The foreign workers are underpaid, treated badly and living in poor quarters. They are frustrated and it is a because of this underlying issue that resulted in the "explosion" into a riot.

This is where a lot of contention came. There are NGOs fighting for these foreign workers' rights; and many people arguing and linking this perception (may be true, may be not) to the riot itself. 

And if you break it down as above, you may see, it is like a free-for-all for people to make up their own conclusions and stories. 

I can even imagine: "Living like a slave in this prosperous country, the victim had little to smile about but to drown himself with the little money he earn in beer and hard liquor. He cant even be treated like a human being, being kicked out of the bus who he have the money to pay by some Chinese pigs despite there is plenty of space for him to squeeze in. Chasing the injustice, he fell to the rolling wheels of an uncaring society! Fellow kins saw his death, and their pent up frustration boils to the surface awakens the vendetta in them! Down with the Society!!! And they pelt the lackeys of their uncaring society with their fervent anger and fire. We shall make a statement, they cried. And all of Singapore shall be cursed upon these flames...."  

And seriously, the story above sounds really legit. 

But as pragmatic citizens of Singapore, please, look at the facts again. We have one drunk guy, being drunk, making a nuisance and got himself kill trying to run alongside a bus. A handful of people (probably drunk too) got pissed and takes the opportunity to vent and make trouble (which could explain why they attack the very people who are apparently saving their "kin"). 

What is a true riot? What is real boiling issue? A true boiling issue would have triggered a much bigger and objective-focused riot. Even if the accident is a trigger to some underlying problem, its apparently only big enough to trigger a handful of people (which in numbers would not even have been bigger than the gangs we have in our heartlands).


I have to clarify, I am not turning a blind eye as to the possible plight and definite hard life these people are living (they probably would live just as hard a life back in their home land); but are we looking at this in the correct perspective?

I am absolutely against linking foreign labour's living standard to this riot. This riot is not 400 people strong. Its probably 25-40 people with 300 over people having fun looking at the spectacle. 

If the issue is truly serious (to a boiling point), the riot would be way into the hundreds and thousands. And the riot will be better planned, with a specific objective they would like to achieve at the end of the riot after negotiation with whichever authority that is handling their issues.

The Riot IS significant (as its the first riots in decades); but it is NOT important. 

Fight for the rights of the foreign labours? Go ahead! 
Fight for the rights of the foreign labour and speaking for them because of this riot and the fear that it will spark more riots? Forget it, dun waste your pretentious and self-righteous time.

If you cared, you would have cared way before their riot, whenever you passed by a construction site or their accommodation. 

I personally always wondered how hard their life must be, living in those container-like dorms, working in the mud and the blazing sun; every single time I walked, jogged and passed by their accommodations on the bus. I reflect it upon my army days and decided that these guys are really having a hard life. But its definitely better than stories I have heard of the foreign labours being REALLY treated like slaves and have their wages owed by the rich Arabs whom refused to pay (many of them trapped in foreign lands).

The issue of whether the life provided to these foreign labours are really not good enough or humane enough, is one hell of a complicated and difficult issue to resolve. But this riot? Just forget about it, I doubt it will happen again that easily (if it does, then I will perhaps stand corrected and write another opinion post on it)

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