Jan 28, 2014

    New Little India Bill a necessary compromise

    MR SIEW Kum Hong made four observations regarding the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill ("New Little India law may hinder healing"; MyPaper, Jan 23).

    First, he thinks that the new powers given to police to strip-search someone randomly on a "reasonable suspicion" are too extensive and illogical.

    What amounts to reasonable suspicion is impossible to legislate. The men in uniform are left to exercise their judgment, as has always been the case.

    If this is unacceptable, then under what circumstances would Mr Siew deem it appropriate for the police to exercise such powers?

    Second, he says that the Bill's extensive focus on alcohol confirms the perception that the Government has already decided that alcohol was the main cause of the riot.

    Indeed, this is the perception.

    And even if this perception is correct, does it mean the Government's reminder that the Committee of Inquiry (COI) must not be pre-empted is hollow?

    Mr Siew seems to doubt that the COI would be able to do its work independently.

    Third, there is fear that the extensive powers would be used mainly against people of South Indian descent.

    This fear is understandable.

    The situation is uncomfortable because some of our fellow Singaporeans are of South Indian descent.

    We cannot discount the possibility of our fellow Singaporeans being subjected to some unpleasant incidents as a result of the police performing their duties. But it is hoped that our fellow citizens would feel that this compromise is necessary for everyone's security.

    It is important for the Government to assure us - which it has - that all will be treated fairly.

    Finally, it is thought that a year of enhanced security would hinder the recovery of the community and inhibit healing. The word "healing" suggests someone was dealt a blow that had caused pain and suffering.

    Whether the pain and suffering are the results of the riot or the cause of it, is not clear from Mr Siew's article.

    Which community was Mr Siew referring to, and what is the suffering that must be healed?