AT dusk, like clockwork, streetwalkers in skimpy outfits emerge from alleyways. They flirt with men, both foreign and local. Off-corner massage parlours and hotels with hourly rates do a roaring trade.
Nearby, peddlers sell sex drugs with names such as Super Magic and Tiger’s Prestigious Life.
This is Geylang, Singapore’s notorious red-light district and another foreign worker hot spot now in the spotlight after police commissioner Ng Joo Hee said last week that the area was a bigger concern than Little India, where last December’s riot took place.
“If Singaporeans are irked by the littering, the noise and the jaywalking in Little India, they’ll certainly sense that there exists a hint of lawlessness in Geylang,” he told the Committee of Inquiry into the riot.
Last year, Special Operations Command forces were deployed to Geylang on 41 occasions, compared with 16 in Little India.
Hooligans, Ng said, are not afraid of standing in the way of police work. He recalled how an officer was once beaten up when he tried to detain an illegal gambling stall operator.
Residents say some shops in Geylang are just fronts for criminal activities. Yet Geylang is also home to many migrant workers.
Electrician Chai Zhi Yuan, 41, from Jiangsu, China, admits it could get “chaotic” at night and on weekends.
Bangladeshi construction worker Tarikul Islam, 20, prefers to stay in at night.
“When I go out to buy food at night, the police often stop me and ask for my permit,” said Tarikul.
“Maybe I am somewhere, not doing anything bad or causing trouble, but because they see me there, they think I’m also trouble.”
Although MPs, grassroots activists and most residents are calling for Geylang to be cleaned up, the businesses have a different perspective.
One provision shop owner said: “I really think no shop in Geylang will tell you, I want all this crime to stop. All these activities attract people, attract money.”
Added a liquor wholesaler: “Yes, police patrols will be good to bolster security, but it won’t do us any good if the vice is completely stamped out either.” — The Straits Times / Asia News Network