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Nirmala Ganapathy
Friday, Jul 4, 2014

Singapore

Riot 'not a political issue' between India and S'pore

The Straits Times | Nirmala Ganapathy | Friday, Jul 4, 2014

Singapore's Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said he did not see the Little India riot as "a political issue" between India and Singapore, and stressed that the incident was not a migrant or a foreign worker issue.

A day after the findings of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) were released, Mr Shanmugam, who is on a visit to India, said yesterday that the riot was "fuelled by alcohol and feeling of injustice".

"People see someone dying and they feel something wrong in the way the person died under the bus, which is why we had a full Committee of Inquiry to look into the causes of death," he told reporters from the Indian and Singaporean media.

"If a Singaporean is involved in a riot in India, I would expect him or her to be treated in accordance with the rule of law, and I would not make it a state-to-state issue because so far the rioters have been dealt with in accordance with the law. I don't see it as a political issue."

Mr Shanmugam also discussed the COI report in a meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, said Mr Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs. But he did not go into the details of what was discussed at the meeting.

The COI found in its report that a series of misunderstandings about a bus accident that killed an Indian national had led to the riot. Mr Shanmugam yesterday noted that "statistically, foreign workers in Singapore commit far less crimes than locals".

"I visited the workers' dormitories after the riot," he said. "One thing that is often overlooked is that workers coming to Singapore make a free choice. They have a choice of going to any country... When they chose Singapore, they chose with full knowledge of the working conditions and salary.

"And if you ask them, Singapore ranks at the top of the list of countries."

A recent survey showed that 95 per cent of workers had no complaints, Mr Shanmugam said.

"It is not a situation where everything is perfect under the sun," he acknowledged.

But he added: "Systemically is there a problem? No."

gnirmala@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 02, 2014.
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