SINGAPORE: Activists on Wednesday urged Singapore to ensure due process and address migrant worker grievances after the government said it would deport 53 South Asian laborers for their alleged involvement in a rare riot.
Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean on Tuesday said the deportation of the men—52 Indians and one Bangladeshi—as well as criminal charges filed against 28 other Indians would “send a strong signal that we will not tolerate actions by anyone which threaten law
and order in Singapore.”
The riot on December 8, Singapore’s worst outbreak of violence in four decades, saw hundreds of South Asian workers go on a rampage that left 39 persons, including police officers, injured and 25 vehicles damaged or burnt.
It was triggered after an Indian construction worker was hit by a bus and killed at a district known as Little India, where tens of thousands of South Asian laborers converge on weekends. But the city’s moves to hand out swift punishments to those allegedly involved in the riot has caused some activists to accuse the government of arbitrarily deporting people without proper due process.
“Singapore’s shock at the deplorable violence that took place is understandable,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told Agence France-Presse.
But “the government should recognize transparency and ensuring the rights of defendants will strengthen, rather than weaken, the support of the international community for Singapore’s handling of this situation,” he said.
“In this vein, a question worth asking is why were so many migrant workers deported without a judicial proceeding?”
Isabelle Arradon, deputy Asia Pacific director for the London-based Amnesty International said Singapore authorities were “moving too quickly” in dealing with the alleged rioters.