Posted in Evangelista Bintang Tiga

S’pore Little India riot: Tensions between migrant workers, bus drivers

A France 24 report (9 Dec 2013) on Singapore’s recent riot quoted a university lecturer specialising in ‘migrant labour politics’ as saying that tensions had been brewing for quite a while already in Little India.

The international news portal quoted Charan Bal – whose PhD was on Bangladeshi construction workers – as saying that he had, on a few occasions, taken the same bus route during his research fieldwork.

The buses ferry South Indian migrant workers from the industrial areas in the north and west of Singapore to Little India where they hang out on their day off.


On Dec 8, a bus ran over an Indian national and the incident sparked a riot by his countrymen who are immigrant labour in Singapore.

charanBaiDr Charan said he had previously discovered the bus drivers plying the route “tend to be very rude” to the migrant workers.

Charan (pix, right) said:

“The drivers – some are Singaporeans while others are Malaysian or Chinese – tend to be overworked and underpaid. They have trouble collecting fares from workers and stopping those who try to board buses that are full. They sometimes push workers off buses and verbally abuse them.”

He added that the negative impression that the Bangladeshi and Indian nationals have towards the Singapore authorities, who are aggressive in their policing of the Indian guest worker community, could have contributed to the behaviour on the night when the violence broke out.

***   ***   ***


  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Rudeness by one ethnicity to another, and vice versa
  • Verbal abuse
  • Pent-up animosity

Urm, anyone see any similarity to what’s happening in our own backyard?

Recommended read:

“May 13 NOT a racial riot” — and so the Dapster denial begins


I have no Faceook or Twitter.

48 thoughts on “S’pore Little India riot: Tensions between migrant workers, bus drivers

  1. “Rudeness by one ethnicity to another” Is the rudeness due to race or just communication difficulty due to language? You are back to your usual trick. Trying to imply that Malaysian Chinese rude to Malay so Malay is verbally abused and Malay may act aggressively to have another May 13th incident. That particular bus involved in that accident was driven by a SINGAPOREAN bus driver.

    1. The drivers are Singaporean, Malaysian and Chinese nationals. Read the report.

      You’re so predictable with your deny, deny, deny.

      1. You are so predictable with you conclusion by association. I mentioned the particular bus driver involved in that accident which triggered the riot is a Singaporean.

        1. That one particular driver on that fateful night was not solely responsible for the riot by hundreds of foreign labour.

          He (Singaporean driver) may have triggered it, yes, but the entire backdrop as related by Dr Charan, is that the build-up had been for a while already (Dr Charan’s words — “tensions had long been brewing”).

          Similar to May 13.

          The Malays were not just angry on that single day in May alone. “Tensions had long been brewing” and they erupted on May 13. If the pot had not been boiling (if the water had been cool), the lid would not have blown off.

          Ini pun lu tak boleh faham, ke?

          1. i think malaysian argument is rational. both singaporean and malaysian not necessary have to be chinese, thus “Rudeness by one ethnicity to another” doesn’t apply in this particular incident.

            1. There was a lot of chatter by Singaporeans over the social media in the aftermath of the riot. Some of their comments were deemed “racist” and xenophobic.

              The target of the comments were of course the Bangladeshis and Indian nationals (dark skin colour). As to who made some of the most derogatory comments against them, I leave it to your imagination.

              1. Not long before the riot case, I think I have commented in this blog that Kumar the transgender Comedian from Singapore commented in an interview that the Indian Community in Singapore @ Singaporean Indian has long been associated with the social ills in Singapore. I tried to locate the youtube interview but to no avail. Plus Serangoon aka Little Indian has always been dubbed the less Glamorous (“UNGLAM” according to the local) part of the City State.

                I guess just like what SENTUL used to be or still is now?

                Re. The target of the comments were of course the Bangladeshis and Indian nationals (dark skin colour).

                Even the Pinoy in Singapore did the same to the South Indian nationals.

                But now the Singaporean Chinese also the same reservation over the pinoy community in Singapore.

                Financial Times
                Riot tarnishes Singapore’s image as place of ethnic harmony

                “would suspect the next big riot would be against the Pinoys.”


                1. Here is ab excerpt from one of Kumar’s interview:

                  Q: As an Indian, I am sure you’ve faced many racist moments in Singapore, from fellow Singaporeans. Has the situation gotten better or worse in your opinion?

                  A: Till today, they still call Indians “Appu Neh Neh”. Please explain. Parents still tell their kids, ‘If you don’t behave, I’ll ask the Appu Neh Neh to catch you’ to scare the little kids.


            2. read the social media when mainland driver went on strike, is it because we know mainlander is chinese while singaporean could be any ethnicity, hence we dun deemed it as “racist”?

              1. Mainlander = Mainland Chinese
                Singaporean = While it could be any ethnicity, the general perception is that they are Chinese.

                hence we dun deemed it as “racist”. This is akin to the Indon among the Malay majority in Malaysia, unless they don’t open their mouth and speak.

                1. orang sabah pun byk yg kene panggil indon hanya kerana bahasa baku kami..lepas tu sibuklah tye ic lu palsu ke tulin… mcm bangsat je

    2. Not all Malaysian Chinese are rude to the Malays, you know, just the usual suspects. You know, the ones who apologised for calling the Malay penguatkuasa kucing kurap, calling people in some public sector depsrtment anjing Umno, calling some old lady racist grandma dan sebagainya.

      I don’t think that rudeness will trigger May 13th. I believe the trigger for next May 13th would be religion, because let’s face it the name-calling and playing the one-up-man-ship in the racist game has started to encroach into the “my knowledge of your religion is better than your knowledge of your own religion” territory.

      Blaming Helen for highlighting it does not make it any less true.

      1. UMNO is willing to start anything to get support. They are even willing to start war among Muslim by creating the sunni and shiite war.

        1. Do you even know what a sunni and a shia is? Are you a non muslim elected by the Pakatan to be the official Muslim Scholar or mufti?

          Do you even know what a Muslim is?
          Do you know how to become a Muslim?
          Do you know what muslim believe in?
          Do you know about the five pillars of faith?
          The list goes on
          .My guess would be your knowledge on Islam and Muslim is zero.

          Please exit the room.

          1. Haha as usual, non Muslim have no right to comment on Islam so why you all have so much criticism against the Christian. Are you the offical representative from Pope or Christians? UMNO supporter are behaving like Taliban, for those who oppose them, no need to reason with them, just eliminate them.

            1. Re. Haha as usual, non Muslim have no right to comment on Islam

              Please comment if you must but please substantiate your argument with data/details/info. e.g. What do you know about Sunni and Shite based on their principles, historical background and the current clashes/crisis in Syria, Iraq, etc.

              Re. why you all have so much criticism against the Christian.

              Please give us some examples so that we can verify, justify etc.

              Re. UMNO supporter are behaving like Taliban, for those who oppose them, no need to reason with them, just eliminate them.

              With your kind of mentality the time will come soon….Indonesia has experienced it before.

              1. Add.

                Re. why you all have so much criticism against the Christian.

                Even when we do, we are not talking about the Christian which is the religion itself but rather the people behind it i.e. the Evangelista who have manipulated it to their political advantage, much the same like when we criticize PAS and its version of Islam pertaining to certain issues.

          2. Well, that about validates my point about “encroach into the “my knowledge of your religion is better than your knowledge of your own religion” territory.”

            Blaming Umno, blaming Helen … I see a trend here. Not cool malaysian. You can’t find a solution if you are looking for someone or something to blame. That’s also the main problem I find with politicians and the opposition-friendly media – when faced with a situation, first find someone to blame preferably from Umno.

    3. Actually what did I deny in my comment? I didn’t deny the report that mention those drivers are from different nations. I just stated the fact that that particular driver is a Singaporean.

        1. It is your delusion that Chinese causing all the problem rather than blaming the incompetence of UMNO running this country to her full potential.

          1. Fine, if you insist in believing that the Chinese do not cause any problems at all.

            Everything is Umno’s fault. EBU! EBU! EBU!

            1. Can you please print the image. I think it best describes the Cina DAP’s attitude and scenario in Malaysia.


          2. Re. It is your delusion that Chinese causing all the problem

            It takes two to tango, but looking at the recent scenario the CHINESE are more prominent in most of the issues

            1. Rasuah – They blame the GOMEN and Police yet they are the biggest giver

            2. Social ills – Ah Long, Illegal Gambling, Prostitution Rings , Money Laundering, Drugs Trafficking etc. the Chinese are the biggest contributors day in and day out….

            3. BIADAP pada Raja dan Negara… siapa lagi kalsu bukan orang cina dan anak cucu mereka e.g. memburukkan nama negara di peringkat antarabangsa (termasuklah pemimpin DAP), menghina Raja-Raja Melayu, Menghina Polis, etc.

            4. They are talking about black money now, and GUESS who are this people mostly?

            Re. rather than blaming the incompetence of UMNO running this country to her full potential.

            Yes you are absolutely right there, Pulau Pinang under DAP since 2008 has reached her full potential RIGHT?

            1. Let me give you a run through for the umpteenth time regarding Cina DAP’s performance in Penang since 2008.

              1. Penang’s Deficit


              2. Penang’s FDI Drop


              Helen can you published the pix for easy reference instead of the link….

              1. i think the proper term is penang deficit ‘budget’. and register the highest fdi for last four years among all the state. i believe federal govt too have a role for this outstanding achievement.

                1. Re. register the highest fdi for last four years among all the state.

                  No they are not. They are second after Serawak in 2012. After DAP took over in 2008, the FDI drops abruptly from 2010 onwards.

                  Re. i believe federal govt too have a role for this outstanding achievement.

                  DAP just took over Penang in 2008. It doesn’t happen over nite it has been consistently supported by the Federal Government for the last 30 years. The infrastructure has been there since.


                2. 1. This is Najib when he is abroad

                  TOKYO – Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak hari ini menggariskan enam bidang yang perlu diberi tumpuan dalam gelombang kedua Dasar Pandang Ke Timur (LEP 2.0) iaitu daripada teknologi canggih hingga bidang berkaitan warga emas.

                  Mengenai teknologi canggih, Perdana Menteri berkata ia adalah mengenai kerjasama ekonomi bagi meningkatkan aliran penyelidikan dan inovasi dari institusi Jepun, dalam pelbagai perkara daripada nanoteknologi kepada biologi dan teknologi alam sekitar.


                  2. and This is Iguana Eng when he is abroad i.e. memburukkan negara


                  1. Re. i dun see how malaysian deny anything, and how this thread could lead to deficit budget n fdi, cause by chinese?

                    “Malaysian” commented that the UMNO/Malay has robbed Malaysia from the country’s full potential and in response I gave him/her the example of progress and development under Cina DAP i.e. Penang

                    FOLLOW THE PROGRAM will you….

                  2. Re. ultimately we shd hold both federal and state govt accountable for good, n bad.

                    How convenient right? Blame the Federal GOMEN when you fail….

  2. Hahaha… malaysian dah senyap. Shouldn’t use “malaysian” as the nick….. his incompetence in debating a point is an embarassment for us true-blue malaysians. But wait… just blame UMNO for it!

      1. ‘Hahaha… malaysian dah senyap. Shouldn’t use “malaysian” as the nick….. his incompetence in debating a point is an embarassment for us true-blue malaysians. But wait… just blame UMNO for it!’

        Lu tatau baca ke? Itu bukan dia punya point ke? Apa kejadahnye itu statement kat atas? Lu tak faham bahasa ke HY?

  3. I still keep in touch with my Indian friends in Singapore – some local and some India-mali types.

    In the aftermath of the riots, like many I was curious and wanted to find out what really happened. Knowing that the Singaporean media is basically the modern day Pravda, I wanted to know the truth from the people on the ground.

    To me the whole incident was a little strange and didn’t make much sense especially on the buring of police cars and ambulances, having lived and worked in Singapore for a number of years. While attacking the bus was not abnormal but buring the cop cars doesn’t make much sense. why would they burn these vehicles when the cause of the death was a bus.

    Many foreign commentators are incorrect in their assessments about pent-up frustrations and deep-seated anger. Though may Indian workers in Singapore are being exploited and live in a very bad conditions. They have zero rights and given no respect whatsoever.

    Anyway this is what had actually happened, according to my friends in Singapore including some of them who happened to live and work in the area.

    It is true that there tens of thousands of Indian workers gather there every weekend to lepak – listen to music, chit chat with friends, shop or drink. No different from the average Singaporean Ah Beng on his off day – only our Ah Beng patronizes trendy pubs or karaoke bars.

    There are hundreds of buses ferry these workers to and fro Little India on Sundays. On that particular day, the Indian guy in question was a little tipsy but he was never rowdy or indecent (unlike what was accused by the SG press or the police).

    The bus conductor (the Chinese lady) refused allow the man to board the bus and she physically pushed him out, causing him to fall down on the road and injure his head. To make matters worse the bus took off when others started to get angry about the treatment meted out to the guy. In his haste the driver drove over the fallen man and his head was caught in the rear wheel.

    Seeing this the guy’s friends became enraged and stopped the bus from moving in order to save him. Some tried to save him while others banged on the bus door in anger. Things got ugly when a group of Chinese bus drivers who were waiting to pick up passengers jumped in to attack the Indian laborers., beating them severely.This caused other Indians in the area to attack the Chinese drivers and send them packing.

    When the police came, they refused to listen to pleas of the Indians and beat them up and handled them roughly. They sided with the Chinese bus drivers. This is when the Indians in the area lost their control and the riot started.

    Even after the incident the murderous bus driver was released while the Indian workers were locked up. There was no action on the violent assistent either. This is what the Indians are mad about – the unfairness of it all. Singapore press went to town painting Indian workers as wild and dangerous while the actions of the bus driver, his assistent and the gang of drivers who beat up the Indian workers were covered up.

    1. So Calvin you’re saying the fights were between Chinese bus drivers and foreign Indian workers?

      Hence there is an ethnic dimension to it.

      1. Re. Hence there is an ethnic dimension to it.

        It has always been like that in every single issue that you don’t see on TV and read in papers. It is either the Malay, Indian or Foreign worker. But the Malays in Singapore are better off since they are tight knit community so the support system is there.

        I remember a couple of years back, when they complained about the MRT, it was the PRC foreign workers or New Citizens was the target of discontent. Even the Cina Malaysia with PR pun pandai complain pasal diorang…

        Anyway, the South Asia foreign workers are the easy target based on hierarchy since they are at the bottom of the pyramid.

        1. Not sure about the SG Malays. There is much anger these days due to the tudung ban by the SG govt. Some of the govt departments do not allow Malay staff to wear tudung. This has created a firestorm in the Malay community. The govt controlled press been downplaying or suppressing the issue. Mendaki the supposedly independent community organization is a meek ad weak body led by PAP leaders.

          1. Re. Not sure about the SG Malays.

            They face many issues but largely they are better off as they have escape gate i.e. Malaysia. Many have resettled in Malaysia quietly and apply for PR before applying for Citizenship. I know several of them, some went to local Universities.

            The trend of SG artists coming here and seeking PR is also emerging.

            One thing for sure, these SG MALAYs are BESAR KEPALA DAN TAK SEDAR DIUNTUNG, they like to complain about this country and compared it with SG, yet they are here… Funny Right?

            Re. Some of the govt departments do not allow Malay staff to wear tudung.

            I haven’t heard about this before.

            But I did read a comment from SG Malay that the Muslims don’t have space/praying room in the office, so some has to resort to pray by the staircase or any space they give them a little privacy.

      2. Helen – yes. In fact that’s exactly what the Sun TV (of India) reported after that incident. After Singapore govt threatened them, they withdrew it.

        The Indians did attack the bus but the riot started when the Chinese bus drivers attacked them and the mainly Chinese police brutalised the workers and sided with the bus driver and the assistent.

        1. re: “the Chinese bus drivers attacked them”

          This aspect appears to have been suppressed in the media coverage.

            1. Re. Malaysian @ 3rd pot

              “Though a “cousin” in political & cultural case with Singapore, Malaysian (especially Chinese) tend to be proud and feel that they are the emperor here.”

              Why is that surprise us?

          1. Not just media but the police too. The police keep blaming the deceased and the Indian workers. The govt promised a Commission of Inquiry but no one expects the truth to emerge.

            1. Re. Not just media but the police too.

              They have a ready MO in any situation.

              I just want to ask you Calvin, about a case of a young doctor who was found dead (according to the report) under Sydney Harbor in Australia in 2006 or 2007. He refused to serve in the ARMY as he was not given the opportunity to practice Medicine. Hence he escaped to OZ and was found dead later. The parents suspected “murder” but the case was closed. I tried to relocate the articles but there is no trace about it anymore…

              To show how good they are in covering their own people backside just look at this case:

              1. Ho Ching @ The SG PM’s wife heads Temasek;

              2. In 2008 economic Crisis Temasek reported massive losses then they appointed one Mat Salleh as CIO and Ho Ching resigned, but don’t what went wrong less than a year, and she took over. Then it all went quiet;

              read here:



              3. In 2011 she resigned cited Temasek was at its best performance (I think that what she said) and replaced by any guy;

              “Ho’s departure is expected a month after Temasek releases its annual review for the year ended March, when it’s expected to post investment gains, the newspaper said on Thursday. That would allow Ho to leave on a “high note” after eight years, it reported. Jeffrey Fang, a spokesman for Temasek, declined to comment on the report.


              4. In 2013 Temasek reported SGD4.6 billion losses. (read results of 2012 reported in 2013)


              The question is how could a company turn bad within a short span of time?

              and that is MERITOCRACY to you my friend (MY FOOT!)…..

    2. Sounds like KFC Classic.

      Frankly, cina mana nak mengaku salah diorang, it has always been like that…. they will unite at all cost walaupun itu salah diorang…

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