The process of deporting 53 men - 52 Indians and one Bangladeshi - began yesterday even as authorities were pressing criminal charges against 28 Indians for their role in the December 8 rampage in Little India, a precinct of Indian-origin businesses, eateries and pubs where most South Asian workers take their Sunday break.
The four Indians to be repatriated tonight were among seven persons charged earlier in court but they had their charges withdrawn subsequently, police commissioner Ng Joo Hee told reporters. "When the last of these four are removed, bringing the total number of repatriated to 57, the repatriation operation arising from police investigations into the Little India riots will, more or less, come to an end," Ng said.
The 53 deported men received stern police warnings and will not be allowed to re-enter Singapore, police said. Another 200 workers, involved in the rioting but in a "passive and incidental role", would be issued formal police advisories on Sunday at the Police Cantonment Complex.
The trouble started after a private bus fatally knocked down an Indian pedestrian, 33-year-old Sakthivel Kuaravelu, in Little India. Some 400 migrant workers were involved in the rampage that left 39 police and civil defence staff injured and 25 vehicles - including 16 police cars - damaged. Singapore previously witnessed violence on such a scale during race riots in 1969.
The other three men discharged from rioting charges would be issued police advisories but can remain in Singapore. Earlier this week, a civil group questioned the "arbitrary deportation" of the men, citing the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants.
A Committee of Inquiry was set up by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's order to probe the riot. He had warned that "full force of the law" would be used against trouble-makers. At the same time, the premier said his government would treat foreign workers fairly and properly. "We do not stand for ill treatment or unfair treatment of foreign workers," Lee had said.