28charged_53deportedTen days after the riot in Little India, the police and Home Affairs Ministry announced that 28 foreign nationals will be charged and 53 deported.

The 28 workers charged so far were “active participants” in the riot who committed violent acts, damaged property, defied police orders or incited others to do so.

Although the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) had earlier charged 35 people, it withdrew charges against seven for lack of evidence. Four of the seven will receive stern warnings and further action could be taken against them. The remaining three are free to work and live here.

The rounding up of the 53 workers for deportation began at 3.30am yesterday and ended by 5.16am, sources told The Straits Times, with no incident reported at the various dormitories they were picked up from. The workers, employed by 48 companies, are now at the Admiralty West Prison, an immigration depot.

Their actions on Sunday last week ranged from obstructing the police to failing to obey police orders to disperse.

— Straits Times, 18 Dec 2013, Riot: 28 face charges, 53 to be deported

Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee told the press that more than 500 police officers were deployed in the “wide-ranging and fast-moving investigation” and almost 4,000 people were interviewed, out of whom 420 were called up to assist in the probes, according to the Straits Times.

“Another 200 foreign workers were issued a formal police advisory but were allowed to continue working in Singapore as long as they abide by the law,” reported Today newspaper, (18 Dec 2013, 28 charged as police complete riot probe). Their involvement in the incident was “relatively passive based on the available evidence,” the authorities said.

The group behind the blog Workfairsingapore.wordpress.com raised concerns:

The arbitrary deportation of these 53 persons raises grave concerns about the Rule of Law. The Controller of Work Passes should not have arbitrary powers to revoke work passes without the right of appeal, or the Police Commissioner to determine culpability. Criminal charges should be tried in court which is the constitutionally appropriate forum for their adjudication. In the SMRT industrial action last year, 29 persons were deported without benefit of trial. By deporting these 53 without benefit of trial, the Controller has again denied low-waged migrant workers access to justice.

We call on the Minister for Home Affairs to stop the deportation and either submit these accused to trial or issue them with warnings as has been done with 200 others whose involvement was deemed to be “relatively passive”.