Singapore, an affluent city-state, is known for being orderly and conformist. So the riots that took place on the night of the 8 December in the Little India district came as a shock to authorities and residents alike. This was not, as prime minister Lee Hsieng Loong, has suggested an “isolated incident”. Rather, it reveals underlying tensions that may have implications for the nation’s future social cohesion and economic growth.
The disturbance took place after a 33 year-old migrant worker from India, Sakthivel Kumaravelu, was knocked down by a bus and tragically died at the scene. A crowd of 400 responded by attacking the bus and caused considerable damage, particularly to emergency service vehicles. At least 18 people were injured. Anti-riot and police officers quickly calmed the situation and made 27 arrests, mostly of Indian nationals.
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Caryl Thompson is a Doctoral Researcher in the Institute of Asia Pacific Studies in the School of Politics & International Relations at the University of Nottingham. She is currently located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where she is undertaking research at the University’s Malaysia campus.