A 33-year-old Indian national on Wednesday pleaded guilty of rioting and committing mischief during Singapore’s worst street violence in 40 years. Ramalingam Sakthivel, a construction worker, pleaded guilty to throwing various projectiles at police officers and police vehicles, and into a bus involved in a fatal accident that sparked the violence on Race Course Road on December 8 last year.
He will be sentenced on May 8 and if found guilty will face a maximum jail term of seven years and caning for each of the two charges.
The riot in Little India -- a precinct of Indian businesses, eateries and pubs popular among migrant workers from South Asia -- had left 49 officers injured and 23 emergency vehicles damaged. Some 400 migrant workers were involved in the violence following the accident. Court documents showed Ramalingam had tried to overturn a police car and hit an ambulance with a pole during the chaos. The prosecution has urged the court to impose a sentence of between 30 and 36 months’ jail and three to six strokes of the cane.
The prosecution made the point that the accused was ‘acutely aware that a serious situation had developed in Little India’, and added, he had made the ‘conscious choice’ to join the other rioters.
But the defence argued that in the five years Ramalingam has been in Singapore, he has never violated law. The defence said it was out of character for the accused to be involved in the riot and that he was remorseful.
Six of the 25 Indian nationals arrested after the riot have been sentenced to jail terms ranging from 15 to 18 weeks for failing to disperse. The trial of the remaining 17 is still underway in court.
Image: The December 8 street violence left 49 police and home team officers injured and 23 emergency vehicles damaged.