I was only a few months old during Singapore’s racial riots in 1964. The closest I got to a riot was during one visit to Nepal. I think it was 10 years ago. Nepalese students staged a demonstration against the government. The police accidentally shot and killed one student. On the day I arrived in Kathmandu and was on my way to the hotel, there was a massive traffic jam in the city. Students had gathered in the heart of the city, ready to avenge their compatriot. The mini bus I was in was stuck like a stick in the mud.
I was worried. Would we be stuck here till nightfall? Would we have to spend the night on the bus? Worse, would we be attacked? My guide Ravi assured me that everything would be all right. I didn’t trust him.
Within minutes of the traffic jam, the shutters at the shops came down noisily and this part of the city looked like it was on strike. The students formed a human wall at one end. The police, in their mismatched outfits, formed the other wall facing them. An “Indian (Nepalese) chief” shouted an order and the students started pelting the police with rocks, bricks and sticks. Not every policeman had a shield. Some were probably injured, but they suddenly charged at the students, raising their sticks and batons. There were shouts and screams. The two sides collided into one tangled mess. Fortunately, the police didn’t come in sleek vehicles. Otherwise, these would have certainly been overturned and set on fire. All this went on for about 20 minutes. Then, amid more shouts and screams, the crowd dispersed. The traffic jam started to ease, shutters came up and quite amazing, Kathmandu returned to normal – as if nothing had happened.
For this particular riot, the rioters came prepared for revenge. Someone died during a demonstration and the authorities acted like only some stray dog had been run over. The students clearly had no intention to go eye for eye. They just wanted to inflict some injury on people they were not terribly fond of. Can we say that there is no evidence that the rioting students were unhappy with the police or the Nepalese government? Wait a minute. Who are we to blame the police or the government? Beyond anecdotes and experience working with NGOs, what evidence do we have to show that tensions have been brewing?
So who or what were the students angry with? Perhaps they weren’t angry with anybody. Perhaps they were just high on Khukri Rum or Everest Whisky. Really? Don’t ask me. I’m no expert on riots.
Now let’s say the police arrested 27 students and charge them in court. Let’s say we send a minister to the students’ dormitory and ask them whether they have any grievances. Would any student be keen on showing his displeasure with the Nepalese government and risk being marked as a potential troublemaker? You don’t need to be an expert in riots to answer that one. If you were a smart student, you would tell the minister that it must be the alcohol.
The Liquor Licensing Board (LLB) has updated the timings for the ban of the sale of alcohol in the Little India area.
It had earlier sent a circular to some establishments in the area banning the sale of alcohol on Dec 14, 15 and 16. In an updated circular, it said that the ban would now be in place from 6am on Dec 14 to 5.59am on Dec 16.
The board also reminded licensees in the earlier letter that enforcement actions would be taken against any infringement of the suspension order, which may lead to revocation of the liquor licences.
This latest move comes after Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran said on Monday that the ban will apply this weekend, following a riot that broke out along Race Course Road on Sunday, as a “first step to stabilise the situation”. The details of the ban, such as the geographical area it will cover and boundaries, were not made available by the police or the LLB.
– See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/the-big-story/little-india-riot/story/little-india-riot-updated-timings-ban-alcohol-area-20131211#sthash.sbMpBDo2.dpuf
No alcohol, no problem? Yao mo gao chor ah? Have they seen this? There are people who protest because they are not allowed to drink. There are people who resign from public office because they can’t have alcohol. Certainly there would be people whose threat reads: “No Alcohol I Riot” too. Restrict their freedom further to make them behave? It may work with Singaporeans, but not with most others.
© Chan Joon Yee
© Chan Joon Yee