Unrest in Little India

This article is concurrently posted on The Kent Ridge Common.

Last night, a fatal accident involving a 33 year-old Indian national occurred in Little India, a place frequented by foreign workers. This sparked off a riot concerning some 400 people, with a total of 18 casualties. A few vehicles - including police cars and an ambulance - were overturned or set afire.

It has been more than four decades since Singapore experienced an unrest of such magnitude. Police have classified this incident as "rioting with dangerous weapons".

Some vehicles were set on fire. Source credit: Channel News Asia

In this grave period, it is important to stay composed and not spout inflammatory comments in the cyber world. There are people making comments based on the skin colours, places of origins and wage-classes of these foreigners. These comments are uncalled for and the commentators are tacit in stirring up unrest, which others have been actively trying to restore. 

This issue has the potential to be extremely divisive. It involves controversial factors and people, including deaths, entropy, foreigners, drunkards, low-wage workers, repercussions of globalisation and hateful online comments.

The many parties involved will seek to stake their narratives and counter-narratives. The dominant political force may see the online outrage - some decidedly racist and xenophobic - as potential evidence for a greater need to curtail internet freedoms.

Other parties may view this as the inevitable result of poor infrastructure planning, inapt immigration policies and suppression of low-wage workers in Singapore - issues that have been tinder waiting to catch fire.

In the coming days and weeks, the various perspectives need to be rationally examined, without resorting to name-calling, game-blaming and stereotyping. It is critical to discuss these issues; it is just as critical to discuss them in a sensible manner.

As the damage from this unrest is tallied and various parties seek to establish a dominant discourse, we should remain calm, think carefully and pause responsibly for a minute or two before sharing our comments online. It is how we react to this unexpected incident that will reveal the strength - or lack thereof - in our society.