Top Stories

The aftermath: Online sense and insensitivity

PEACEMAKER: In this video of the riot that broke out in Little India on Sunday, two men are shown being stopped from striking the windshield of a bus that ran over Mr Kumaravelu by an unknown man (centre), who was praised as a "hero" online.


    Dec 10, 2013

    The aftermath: Online sense and insensitivity

    AS VIOLENCE raged in Little India on Sunday night, the online world too was ablaze as the story unfolded over social media.

    Various photos and videos of the incident spread like wildfire over Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, including one video showing two men striking the windshield of a bus that ran over migrant worker Sakthivel Kumaravelu.

    An unknown third man in a light-coloured checked shirt is seen attempting to stop them, and was yesterday almost universally lauded as a "hero" and "a man of conscience" by netizens.

    But there were also unfounded rumours of the deaths of several policemen and rescue personnel. Many netizens made racist jokes, including 98.7FM DJ Dee Kosh who was swiftly criticised.

    However, just as many Singaporeans went online urging others not to speculate on the incident, and to avoid passing racist or xenophobic remarks.

    They joined political officeholders such as Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who made Facebook posts urging calm.

    PM Lee reiterated that the riot was "an isolated incident caused by an unruly mob", adding: "We must not let this bad incident tarnish our views of foreign workers here. Nor should we condone hateful or xenophobic comments, especially online."

    Some even mobilised themselves to soothe the situation, though this was not looked upon favourably by the authorities.

    Entrepreneur Wally Tham, 36, yesterday attempted to organise a gathering at Little India to give out flowers to shopkeepers and residents in the area, as well as to lay a wreath at the accident site.

    Though he wanted to do it with "just a few friends", his Facebook post inviting others to join him went viral, receiving more than 200 "likes" and was shared more than 85 times.

    He later received a call from the police informing him to not proceed as he did not have a permit.

    Mr Tham showed up at Little India MRT station yesterday with his wife and five others to tell others that the event had been cancelled.

    He said: "We are disappointed, but we understand that this is a sensitive time."

    Separately, a fund-raising campaign on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, dubbed Save Singapore, has been set up to raise US$50,000 (S$62,570) for the victims of the riot and the families of those involved, as well as raise awareness of migrant workers' living conditions.

    It was set up at about 2am yesterday by two Singaporean students in Liverpool, Britain, Mr Tai Wang and Mr Kyle Sim, both 24. As of press time, it had raised US$200.

    Mr Wang said the campaign is not about taking sides in the incident, but about showing that Singapore should not marginalise its migrant workers.

    He said: "The incident aside, they're still human beings."

    The campaign ends on Dec 31, and money raised will be given to non-governmental organisations that help migrant workers.