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Riot police cordon off areas at Singapore's Race Course Road on Sunday to maintain order following a riot Sunday in the Little India neighborhood. Eighteen people were injured. (Xinhua /Landov)

Singapore's Leader Urges Calm After Rare Riot

by Krishnadev Calamur
Dec 9, 2013

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Krishnadev Calamur

Singapore isn't usually known as a place simmering with tensions, but the city-state's first riot in more than 40 years has prompted the prime minister to urge calm.

Sunday's riot was sparked by the death of a 33-year-old Indian national who was struck and killed by a bus. Hundreds rioted in the Little India neighborhood following the death. Rioters attacked police, and set police cars and an ambulance on fire, the BBC reported. Eighteen people were hurt. Police arrested 27 people, mostly Indians. They face up to seven years in prison along with caning.

In a post on Facebook, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged restraint. He said he'd ordered an inquiry into the events that led to the incident, "how the incident was handled, and how we manage areas where foreign workers congregate."

He added:

"This was an isolated incident caused by an unruly mob. The vast majority of foreign workers here obey our laws. We must not let this bad incident tarnish our views of foreigner workers here. Nor should we condone hateful or xenophobic comments, especially online."

About a quarter of Singapore's 5.4 million people are transient workers. The Associated Press reports that the riot "followed recent signs of tensions between the country's citizens and the growing numbers of migrant workers, who have largely built the country's impressive skyline, transport infrastructure and other facilities."

The Singapore Straits Times newspaper reported that as a result of the incident, there will be a ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol in the area where the riot erupted.

Singapore's deadliest riot occurred in 1963 — 36 people died — and involved the ethnic Chinese majority and Malays.

Indians make up nearly 8 percent of Singapore's 5.4 million people, according to the CIA World Factbook. More than three-quarters of Singaporeans are ethnic Chinese, while Malays make up nearly 14 percent.

The country has among the highest living standards in the world.

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