Business as usual: Foreign workers drinking alcohol at stalls along Kerbau Road. Crowds seemed to have returned to Little India three weeks after the riot. -The Straits Times / Asia News Network
MEMBERS of Parliament were divided over the role of alcohol in the Little India riot and the restrictions put in place since the incident.
There was Nominated MP Janice Koh, who asked why alcohol was deemed an underlying cause, and fellow NMP Nicholas Fang, who asked whether breathalyser tests were carried out on foreign workers involved in the riot.
Then there were those like NMP Eugene Tan, who said that 374 liquor licences in the area – including 43 inactive ones – was excessive. He wanted to know how the liquor licensing board issues them.
Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said licence numbers have been stable in the last five years: Between 2009 and 2012, they ranged from 347 to 357.
Meanwhile, a new Bill introduced in Parliament on Monday will give police fine-tuned powers in the Little India area, following the Dec 8 riot there that damaged 25 emergency vehicles and left 39 Home Team officers injured.
The Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) 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 officers to swiftly cancel or suspend the business licence of licensees suspected to have flouted the law.
The legislation is proposed to last for up to one year, and refers specifically to the Little India area where an alcohol ban has been enacted following the riot.
“The Bill proposes that the law will be valid for one year. This will provide sufficient time for my 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,” said Teo. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network