Little India, Natural Spot for Foreign Workers to Meet: Singapore Min - The New Indian Express

Little India, Natural Spot for Foreign Workers to Meet: Singapore Min

Published: 21st January 2014 11:50 AM

Last Updated: 21st January 2014 01:03 PM

Little India, the place of Singapore's worst riot last month, has naturally evolved over time to cater to foreign workers' physical and emotional needs, providing a spot for meeting up and relaxation, parliament was told.

Acting Singapore Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said this in the parliament about the Indian origin set-ups where around 400 migrant workers from South Asia rioted on last December 8, following an accident in which an Indian national was killed.

"Foreign workers need a place to come together, to gather, to catch up with old friends, catch up on news from the village, have a taste of food from home, meet friends, relatives from across the island for the few precious hours that they have," Tan told the house yesterday.

Tan also pointed out that there was no basis on saying that there was a widespread and systematic abuse of foreign workers in Singapore, which was the reason for the riot.

Foreign workers here were, by and large, treated well by their employers and Singaporeans, he said in a ministerial statement in parliament in an assessment of the riot which left 39 police and civil defence staff injured and 25 vehicles including 16 police cars damaged.

Twenty-five Indian nationals are facing court charges for their involvement in the riot, while 56 Indian nationals and one Bangladesh national were deported after the street violence.

The police had also issued advisories to 213 workers from South Asia whose involvement in the riot was assessed to be passive and incidental.

"I believe that the situation [with foreign workers] is generally good, but it is not perfect. There is always room for improvement," The Straits Times quoted Tan as saying in his assessment of foreign workers conditions in Singapore.

Tan pointed out that his ministry has helped 7,000 foreign workers with difficulties last year, which was less than one per cent of the 700,000 foreigners in Singapore on work permits and working in the construction and shipyard industries.

Assuring good support for the foreign workers, he said "I therefore find it puzzling as to how some individuals can so quickly conclude or criticise that there is widespread and systemic abuse of the foreign workforce; or that these were the reasons for the riot."

Singapore authorities have been clarifying some international media reports that the December 8 riot was due to abuse of foreign workers.

Manpower-short Singapore has acknowledged in the past the role of foreign workers in building its infrastructure and properties.

Tan also assured that the government would continue to improve the management of foreign workers' well-being.

He said the government had already identified the need to speed up the construction of purpose-built dormitories over the next two to three years and ensure that the daily basic living needs of more foreign workers were taken care of.

He also announced that more recreational centres would be built for foreign workers. But these centres would never fully replaced shared spaces such as Little India, a precinct of Indian-origin businesses, eateries and pubs where workers from South Asia spend their day offs.

Also read:

Little India, Natural Spot for Foreign Workers to Meet: Singapore Min

Blame Alcohol for Little India Riots: Singapore Dy PM  

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