New bill to give Singapore police special powers in Little India

Singapore government introduced a new bill in parliament that will give police special powers to maintain public order in Little India, the scene of the worst riot in 40 years in the country that led to the deportation of 56 Indians.

The proposed law would allow police and other state agencies to enforce the alcohol restrictions and regulate movement of persons in Little India, deputy prime minister Teo Chee Hean said.

Little India is an enclave of migrant workers from South Asia in Singapore that was torn by the riot on December 8. The riot broke out after the death of an Indian worker in a road accident.

The Public Order (Additional Temporary Bill) seeks to give law enforcement officers the power to search and interview individuals entering the area for alcohol and prohibited items, and empower officers to ban individuals from being in the area during specified times if their presence is deemed to potentially threaten public order.

Powers will also be granted to officers to swiftly cancel or suspend the business license of licensees who have been suspected to have flouted the law.

Teo, who is also the Home Affairs Minister, said the new provision was scoped more tightly compared to the wide-ranging powers that come into effect when the Public Order (Preservation) Act is invoked.

“The Bill proposes that the law be valid for one year. This will provide sufficient time for the ministry to enact longer term legislation to take into account the findings and recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry (COI), and recommendations arising from public consultations on the review of the liquor licensing regime,” Teo said.

The deputy prime minister gave a detailed account of the riot on December 8 and the subsequent measures taken to deal with the incident in his ministerial statement.