Poor communication hindered police response in Singapore riots


Singapore : The Committee of Inquiry (COI) on last year’s Dec 8 riots in this city-state Tuesday heard that there were less than 90 police officers left to face some 150 to 200 active rioters at the height of the riots.

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Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Jonathan Tang, who was the first senior police officer at the scene, said poor communications that night posed a serious problem because both the radio airwaves used by the police and the mobile phone network were jammed, the Straits Times reported.

He said that was the reason why he could not contact or receive any instructions from Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Lu Yeow Lim, who was in the charge of the situation after the incident.

When state counsel Sharmila Sripathy asked Tang if he was aware that there were 90 officers on the ground to deal with the violent mob, he said: “It definitely didn’t feel like there were 90 officers.”

“I think the communications breakdown was the key problem,” Tang was quoted as saying.

“If we had the communications, it would have been much easier for us to communicate,” he added.

The riots started at the junction of Race Course Road and Hampshire Road in Little India area here around 9.20 p.m. Dec 8 when a private bus knocked down and killed an Indian construction worker, Sakthivel Kumaravelu, 33.

About 400 people attacked the bus and police and rescue vehicles for two hours before riot police brought the situation under control.

A total of 25 emergency vehicles were damaged, along with five that were set on fire, while 39 police officers and four civil defence and auxiliary officers were injured.

Some 25 foreign nationals have so far been charged in court for rioting and at least 52 people deported.