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    Jan 21, 2014

    New temporary law for Little India

    A NEW temporary law just for post-riot Little India was proposed yesterday in the first Parliament sitting of the year.

    Under the one-year law tabled by Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean, enforcement officers in the 1.1 sq km boundary in Little India will have more specific powers.

    The police will have powers to exclude or ban people from entering the area, termed the special zone, if their presence or actions are likely to threaten public order. People in the zone also cannot bring in prohibited items, such as weapons.

    The alcohol ban would continue under the law, with a general prohibition on the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol. But a permit regime will be introduced to allow such activities to be carried out under specific conditions, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement yesterday.

    The authorities already possess these powers under the wide-ranging Public Order (Preservation) Act, which is used to enforce the alcohol ban in Little India. But this new law is "scoped more tightly", said Mr Teo in Parliament yesterday.

    One significant change with the new law, called the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill, is that cancelling or suspending the business licence of a licensee who breaks the law will be quicker.

    Under current laws, the authorities have the power to suspend only the sale of liquor, but not the business, of a liquor licensee found flouting the alcohol ban.

    Mr Teo added that the one-year duration will provide sufficient time for his ministry to enact longer-term legislation to take into account the findings and recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) and recommendations arising from public consultations on the review of the liquor-licensing regime.

    In addressing the riot on Dec 8 involving about 400 Indian and Bangladeshi foreign workers, sparked by a fatal accident, he also drew attention to what did not happen, and described the riot as one that "did not spread in time or space; and was contained".

    "It did not spread to the surrounding neighbourhoods, or other parts of Singapore. It was contained within a particular area in Little India, in the immediate vicinity where the traffic accident took place," he said.

    Measures in securing the area include more camera coverage, and plans to provide waiting areas in Hampshire Road and Tekka Lane for the Little India bus services, he said.

    The questions raised by MPs in Parliament included the transparency of the COI, the alcohol restrictions, morale of the officers and the speed of response.

    In answering Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Alex Yam's question on whether laws on public alcohol consumption in other countries will be considered here, Mr Teo said that one of his concerns in implementing alcohol laws is that "they have to be practical and enforceable".

    He drew an analogy to a tennis game, in which linesmen are needed to watch which side of the line one is on, and said that such detailed enforcement will be "very intrusive".

    More information on the proposed law will be provided during the next reading of the Bill.